OTTAWA, Ontario — An American woman who endured five years of captivity in Afghanistan said she and her Canadian husband resisted their captors and did the best they could to raise young children in brutal conditions, using bottle caps and cardboard as toys and teaching their eldest son geography and astronomy.
“Obviously it saddened me to see how they were growing up, what they were growing up knowing. But I had to do everything I could do help them,” Caitlan Coleman Boyle told ABC News in an interview broadcast Monday.
Pakistani troops rescued Coleman Boyle, her husband, Joshua Boyle, and their three children on Oct. 11, five years after the couple was abducted in Afghanistan on a backpacking trip. The children were born while the family was being held by the Taliban-linked Haqqani network.
Coleman Boyle, who is from Stewartstown, Pennsylvania, said their captors beat their eldest son, Najaeshi, with a stick, and he knew the family was in mortal danger.
“Of course this was an intolerable situation for a child to be in, the constant fear, so we had to come up with really unique ideas on how to help him not be afraid. Because obviously with people like this, the idea of a beheading is always on the table. So he certainly knew that this type of thing could happen to his family, but then we would come up with games to make it not seem so scary,” she said.
Joshua Boyle told ABC how he and his wife physically fought with the guards, and she suffered a broken cheekbone and three broken fingers.
“She was very proud of that injury,” he said.
He said their captors repeatedly tried to get him to join forces with them, noting that he had expressed disagreement with U.S. foreign policy. He said he repeatedly told them no.
“I would call them religious hypocrites to their face and would tell them that they would burn in hellfire for what they’ve done and that I would rather be killed than join their group,” he said. “And that did not make me friends.”
Boyle told reporters shortly after the family’s release that his wife had been raped. In the ABC interview, Coleman Boyle recalled that guards dragged her husband from their cell, and one of them threw her on the ground, shouting, “I will kill you, I will kill you.”
“And that’s when the assault happened. It was with two men and then there was a third at the door and afterward the animals wouldn’t even give back clothes,” she said.
Now living in Canada, she said she hopes their children “find happiness and joy” as they grow up.
“My wish for them now is they never have to face fear in their lives again, that they can heal from this and grow to be strong, to be good, to have enough fun to make up for the years of trauma that they’ve had to endure,” she said.