Available to pre-order NOW...
British documentary filmmaker Asad Qureshi works in the world's most dangerous places. When he sets off to film secret interviews with Taliban commanders, the award-winning filmmaker finds himself on the wrong end of the camera lens, with a gun at his temple and a price of ten million US dollars on his head.
165 Days is Asad’s compelling first-hand account of captivity at the hands of single-minded warriors in this foremost troublespot, and a tense chronicle of the emotional turmoil endured by those on the outside battling against the odds to save his life: his ageing parents in failing health, a stoical brother facing down the terrorists, and a loving American wife pushed to the limit by her husband’s ordeal.
A haunting personal story of fear, loss, hope and the strength of the human spirit, 165 Days offers unique behind-the-scenes insights into the workings of a notorious paramilitary network intent on global media attention.
Above all, it provides a stark reminder of the privilege of freedom.
Pre-order now from your favourite Booksellers:
One of the men stepped forward with a cloth in his hand and proceeded to blindfold me, while another handcuffed my hands behind my back.
‘Something is happening. Please tell me what you are going to do!’
I was terrified of another beating. I knew these people were absolutely merciless. There was no limit to the physical pain and humiliation they were prepared to inflict on me.
I heard the door open and close. Then footsteps. A thud behind me, then I was pushed back and stumbled onto a chair placed behind me. I kept quiet. I marshalled the meagre remnants of my mental strength to prepare for whatever was coming my way.
I could hear someone fumbling through my bag.
‘Sit up straight,’ said Krishan Lal.
I sat up so my head was facing forwards. Someone adjusted my blindfold so it was just above my sideburns. I felt lukewarm water being applied to my beard, with my faithful Kent shaving brush, bought from Harrods over twenty years ago. An image of a Knightsbridge street flashed across my mind. Then another of the gleaming glass counter of the gentlemen’s grooming department. Right now that was a different planet. I couldn’t be further away from the civilization I was used to.
A bar of soap was plied to my beard, then lathered up with the shaving brush. Then the razor was dragged sharply down my cheek. This felt like a punishment. A violation. It often is, literally, in this part of the world. Half of a man’s moustache or beard is forcibly shaved off to punish and humiliate him.
I tried to stay as still as possible, out of fear of being cut. The person shaving me made quick strokes with the razor, occasionally cleaning it in a plastic mug of water.
A whispered exchange. I was too afraid to concentrate on what was being said.
Then I heard footsteps retreat. I was pulled up by my collar and made to stand. Krishan Lal holding me. More scuffled activity in my room, but I couldn’t work out what was going on. I stood patiently awaiting my next ordeal.
Then my blindfold was loosened and my eyes were uncovered. I saw a sheet hanging on the wall in front of me, with a kitsch scene painted on it. The kind of picture you’d see in a cheap restaurant.
Krishan Lal unlocked the handcuffs and pushed me towards the wall where the cloth was hanging.
The earthen wall felt cold against my back. Then the door to my room opened and a hooded man walked in. He was new – I’d definitely not seen him before. He was fairly tall and very well built. Not the kind of man you’d want to tangle with. He both frightened and repelled me. I would later learn he was Sabir Mehsud, the group’s leader.
I sat up as he walked closer. Krishan Lal appeared behind him, then another very big man, dressed in what seemed to be hessian cloth. His face was covered. He stood in the doorway, keeping watch. A very intimidating presence.
‘We are the Taliban. Our elders have found you guilty of spying and colluding with the enemy. We are holding you as our hostage. We want ten million US dollars for your release. If we do not get it, we will kill you. Do you understand?’
My mouth became instantly dry. A film of cold sweat formed over my whole body. I began to tremble.
No one would pay ten million dollars for me. Nobody I knew had anything like that amount of money. My death warrant had just been signed.
I was going to die in this God-forsaken place.
"The content of this vivid and horrific story was made more intense for me in the knowledge that Asad is a good friend. I was ignorant of his dilemma until after his release. His written account is formidable, full of devastating detail, well written, starkly evocative and cinematic in style. The suffering he and his fellow captives endured, unimaginable. My admiration for his bravery and faith during his terrible ordeal is immense. As it is for the relentless efforts of his loyal brother Farrukh."
"Harrowing, gripping, frightening, fair-minded, constantly surprising and ultimately redemptive. 165 Days is a true story. Asad Qureshi, a British film-maker, is abducted by a group calling themselves the Asian Tigers, a disorganised and angry proxy group of the Taliban determined to extract a huge ransom. 165 days later Qureshi is freed, but every day of his captivity tests his faith and sanity to the maximum level of human endurance.
This is a hero’s journey. And there is more than one hero – apart from the film-maker himself there is his spectacular brother, Farrukh, and his incredible family. I can’t begin to imagine the agony they endured. Qureshi takes us into the minds of his abductors and whilst it is a messy, misinformed and muddy interior world it is also at times startlingly poignant: Qureshi overhears one abductor confess he has a crush on a Bollywood actress, another has a game of Ludo with the prisoners and finally the most vicious abductor of all begs his prisoners for forgiveness.
This schizophrenic behaviour caught me completely unawares – having decided I hated these men I realised I also felt sorry for them and the hopeless situation they had placed themselves in. The only future for them is an early death and, in almost all cases, that fate has come to pass.
It is a complex and difficult situation and Qureshi takes us right into the heart of terrorism in the most dangerous place on earth. 165 Days is not a comfortable read but it is a triumph of spirit over prejudice and hatred. The fact the Qureshi offers to shake his abductor’s hand before he is released sums up the character of this extraordinary man. A must-read for anyone seeking a deeper and fairer understanding of a very complex situation."
"Asad Qureshi takes us on an incredibly emotional journey into the heart of evil. A mission to make a documentary on the peace process turns into a nightmare for him and his whole family. In 165 Days, he has the courage to lay bare his fears and weaknesses, describing in great detail the physical humiliations and the psychological torture he’s subjected and doing so with tremendous dignity, the very dignity the Taliban monsters tried and failed to strip away. He draws the strength to survive this excruciating ordeal from his deep religious faith and from the love and admiration he feels for his family, whose efforts to free Asad from captivity are spearheaded by the hugely impressive character of his brother, Farrukh, a man who hides the vulnerability of his situation beneath the armour of a great warrior. A gripping page-turner, 165 Days puts the reader right at the heart of action – you live every situation as if you were experiencing it yourself."
"They say truth is stranger than fiction. Asad Qureshi's account of his escape from the jaws of death certainly fits the bill. His journey into the heart of darkness, which resulted in the deaths of two of his colleagues, has all the ingredients of a Hollywood blockbuster – betrayal, suspense, gripping action – made all the more impressive by his honest, down-to-earth prose."
"The powerful, absorbing memoir of a brave journalist lured into a terrorist trap. Accounts of captivity are not unfamiliar, yet Asad Qureshi has an iron grip on the reader's attention with a style that is so impressively raw it places this biography head and shoulders above similar titles. His first book, this exceptionally realistic narrative is packed with emotion, giving the reader a crystal clear picture of what it’s like to walk in the shoes of a human being with the constant threat of death hanging over him. A five-star read."