The other day SI readers boopalanj and guruprasad brought up the issue of different types of torture including the Chinese and Medieval flavors.
We were reminded of it today as we were reading an article in the Sunday edition of our favorite newspaper, the New York Times.
On P.12 of the print edition of the Week in Review section, the Times has an interesting story on the use of insects as a torture mechanism. We present below an excerpt from the piece:
The ancient Persians developed a gruesome practice called scaphism, which involved force-feeding a person milk and honey, lashing him to a boat or hollow tree trunk, and then allowing flies to infest the victimâ€™s anus and increasingly gangrenous flesh. Siberian tribes simply tied a naked prisoner to a tree and allowed mosquitoes and other biting flies to deliver as many as 9,000 bites per minute â€” a rate sufficient to drain a personâ€™s blood by half in about two hours. And the stories of Apaches staking captives on anthills to ensure lingering and painful deaths are not merely the stuff of Hollywood westerns.
The epitome of insectan torture was developed by a 19th-century emir of Bukhara, in present-day Uzbekistan. He threw political enemies into a bug pit, a deep hole covered with an iron grille and stocked with sheep ticks and assassin bugs. The bite of the latter has been compared to being pierced with a hot needle, and the injected saliva digested the victimsâ€™ tissues until, in the words of the emirâ€™s jailer, â€œmasses of their flesh had been gnawed off their bones.â€
Here’s the context of the story for the benefit of those who think keeping up with current affairs is a mortal sin. Apparently, one of the forms of torture considered by the CIAÂ was the use of insects (harmless, or so the spooks claim) on Al Qaeda prisoners like Abu Zubaydah to loosen their tongues.
Forget the notorious Indian prisons, we bet even a small police thana in India will rival the Chinese, Medieval and ancient Persians in devising novel and unheard of techniques of torturing those unfortunate enough to be in their custody.