Canadian relatives say Joshua Boyle, freed with his family after five years, suffered torture in captivity and requires intensive medical care
The family of the Canadian man freed with his wife and three children five years after they were kidnapped in Afghanistan have implored media to consider the trauma suffered by the family, noting that Joshua Boyle – the only member of the family to speak in public since their rescue – has yet to receive medical or psychological clearance.
On Wednesday, the family of the 34-year-old said it was a blessing to have them at home and safe. But they said that the family’s ordeal was far from over as the years of captivity had taken a great toll on each of them.
“We as family see that toll more than anyone,” they said in a statement. “They are deeply traumatized and Joshua is not of clear thought as he speaks at times.”
Their statement laid bare the tensions that have played out since Boyle, his American wife, Caitlan Coleman, and their children landed in Canada. The family have been the subject of intense media interest and speculation while still reeling from the physical and emotional impacts of their ordeal; on Tuesday, Boyle said that Coleman had been rushed to hospital the previous day. “My wife has been through hell and she has to be my first priority right now,” he wrote in an email to the Associated Press.
Meanwhile, their extended families have been scrambling to locate resources that can help the family move past their time in captivity and begin to recover – a search complicated by the extraordinarily rare nature of the family’s ordeal.
Boyle, Coleman, and their children – all of whom were born in captivity – were rescued last week after being abducted by Taliban-linked militants in 2012 while traveling through a mountainous region of Afghanistan.
After the family landed in Canada late on Friday night, Boyle briefly spoke to reporters, hinting at the horrors the family had suffered at the hands of the Haqqani network, a group deemed a terrorist organisation by the US.
“The stupidity and the evil of the Haqqani network’s kidnapping of a pilgrim and his heavily pregnant wife … was eclipsed only by the stupidity and evil of authorising the murder of my infant daughter,” Boyle told reporters, his voice cracking. “And the stupidity and evil of the subsequent rape of my wife, not as a lone action, by one guard, but assisted by the captain of the guard and supervised by the commandant.”
They had travelled to Afghanistan to help the “most neglected minority group in the world,” said Boyle. “Those ordinary villagers who live deep inside Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, where no NGO, no aid worker and no government has ever successfully been able to bring the necessary help.”
Following their rescue, his father-in-law expressed frustration with Boyle for taking his daughter to Afghanistan while she was pregnant. Many seized on the remarks, along with the fact that Boyle was once married to the sister of Omar Khadr, the Canadian held for 10 years at Guantánamo Bay after being captured as a teenager at an al-Qaida compound in Afghanistan, to speculate that the couple had had other motivations for the trip.
Boyle, a former call center worker, dismissed the reports. “I’m a harmless hippie and I do not kill even mice,” he told the Toronto Star. “I’ve been vegetarian for 17 years. Anybody who knows me would laugh at the notion that I went with designs on becoming a combatant.”
Boyle also responded reporters over email, explaining why he and Coleman had decided to push ahead with having children while in captivity and sounding the alarm after Coleman was rushed to the hospital on Monday.
They worried that the string of interviews was not in his or his family’s best interests. “We call upon your ethics to recognize that every word can cause potential harm to Josh and his family, whether he understands that or not right now.”
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