An American woman held hostage in Afghanistan speaks out about her 5 years in captivity

  • Caitlan Coleman has detailed the circumstances of her forced abortion and rape by Taliban-affiliated captors.
  • She disputed the official version of events given by both Pakistani and American officials.
  • She says her captors moved her between Pakistan and Afghanistan several times.

Caitlan Coleman, the 31-year-old American who was held captive in Afghanistan for five years along with her husband, broke her media silence on Tuesday to describe some of the details of her time in captivity to the Toronto Star.

In her first interview since her rescue 12 days ago, she talked about where she and her husband were held, the validity of the official version of events, and the fact she underwent a forced abortion. Coleman and her husband were kidnapped by members of the Taliban-affiliated Haqqani network in 2012 while they were visiting Afghanistan.

While she and her husband Joshua Boyle had previously alluded to some of their experiences while being held in captivity, Coleman expanded upon Boyle’s account on Monday.

Coleman says her captors forced the abortion of her first child as revenge for Boyle’s unwillingness to cooperate with them.

“They were very angry because Joshua had been asked to join them, to work for them, and he said no,” she told the Star. “They killed her by dosing the food. They put massive doses of estrogen in the food.”

Excess amounts of estrogen is known to lead to miscarriages.

Although the Star writes that the Taliban disputes the claim that they aborted the pregnancy, Coleman says her captors bragged about the act afterward.

As a result of the abortion, Coleman and Boyle kept their other three pregnancies a secret from the men holding them hostage. Coleman says the decision to have children while in captivity was not an easy one.

“It was a decision we made. We did think about it and talk about it and it’s difficult to explain all the reasons, but, for me, a large part was the fact that it has always been important to me to have a large family,” she told the Star. “This took our life away from us — this captivity with no end in sight. And so I felt that it was our best choice at that time.”

Coleman also invalidated both official accounts of her location provided by the US and Pakistan.

“We were not crossing into Pakistan that day,” she said, according to USA Today, “We had been in Pakistan for more than a year at that point. Right now everybody’s shunting blame and making claims. Pakistan says, no they were never in Pakistan, until the end. The US says, no they were always in Pakistan; it was Pakistan’s responsibility. But neither of those are true.”

Coleman instead said that she and Boyle had been in Pakistan for about a year before they were rescued, but said they were held in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. Coleman told the Star that she and her husband had quickly been taken to Pakistan after being kidnapped, and spent time first in Miran Shah, a city in Pakistan’s tribal area, and later in Spin Ghar in Afghanistan.

Between the two locations, though, in 2014 and 2015, Coleman says her family was moved quite frequently and that this was the period when the worst of the abuses occurred — including Coleman’s rape.

“We had a pen they didn’t know about and we were taking little scraps of paper and trying to hand out notes to anyone and everyone that wasn’t one of the guards or commanders involved in killing Martyr,” Coleman said, referring to their aborted daughter. “But then they took us, separated us, and beat us and that was when the assault on me happened because they wanted us to stop.”

Coleman, Boyle, and their children were rescued by Pakistani forces in an operation in the border territories along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, which used intelligence provided to Pakistan by the US.

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