By Mark Ellis —
An American mother held by the Taliban for five years says she was beaten, raped, and had her unborn baby murdered, as she tried to protect her children from their captors.
Caitlan Boyle, 31, from Stewartstown, Pennsylvania was abducted while backpacking in Central and South Asia with her husband, Joshua, 34, a Canadian citizen. The married couple had three children during their incarceration, according to a report by ABC News.
Like a mama bear fighting for her cubs, Caitlan sustained significant injuries while fighting to keep her children safe.
“She had a broken cheekbone,” Joshua told ABC. “She actually broke her own hand punching one of them. She broke her fingers, so she was very proud of that injury.”
Caitlan said the guards murdered their unborn daughter in a “forced abortion,” and she was later raped by two captors because she tried to report the crime to their superiors.
“They just kept saying that this will happen again if we don’t stop speaking about the forced abortion, that this happened because we were trying to tell people what they had done and that it would happen again,” she said.
The couple was abducted in eastern Afghanistan’s war-torn Ghazni province in 2012, taken prisoner by the Haqqani network, an extremist element of the Afghan Taliban, and quickly transported to Pakistan.
After the couple’s release, Joshua said he and his wife were on a humanitarian mission, to help “the most neglected minority group in the world, those ordinary villagers who live deep inside Taliban-controlled Afghanistan,” according to the Toronto Star.
While some suspected Joshua was attempting to join the Taliban, he said, “I’m a harmless hippie and I do not kill even mice…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.”
Caitlan was five-months pregnant at the time of their capture and gave birth to three children during their captivity.
The family was frequently moved to various locations in Pakistan’s tribal area. Joshua says he was held in chains for most of his captivity. The family was kept in a single room, usually underground, with concrete or dirt floors. The parents used throwaway objects as toys for their children.
“We would just teach them to use things like bottle caps or bits of cardboard, garbage essentially, but what we could find to play with,” Caitlan told ABC.
They taught their oldest son the alphabet, geography and about the constellations.
The physical abuse of the family intensified after their captors demanded that Joshua join their group as a propagandist.
“They had come four different times, to offer employment in the group … and I made it very clear that I’d rather be the hostage than be on your side of the cage.” Boyle said. “I’d rather be inside than outside.”
Because he rejected their invitation there were more beatings and violence.
After he rejected them repeatedly, “that’s when they killed our daughter. And after that, there were no more intimations of recruitment.”
Caitlan believes the guards put something in her food in 2014 to force a miscarriage of their unborn daughter, who the couple named Martyr Boyle. “They didn’t want us to have any more,” she told ABC.
The couple complained to their captors and tried to slip notes to Taliban visitors informing them of the crime. In retribution, the guards raped Caitlan while their eldest son was in the room to compel her to remain silent.
“One day they came into the cell, and they took my husband out forcefully, dragging him out, and one of the guards threw me down on the ground, hitting me and shouting, ‘I will kill you,’” she said.
Then they raped her. “It was with two men. And then there was a third at the door. And afterwards, the animals wouldn’t even give me back my clothes.”
The day following her rape, Pakistani gunships attacked Haqqani positions in North Waziristan. “There were two helicopters with Gatling guns firing constantly,” she told ABC. “There was a lot of AK-47 fire, and there were even some larger explosions.”
“It was a big, big battle. And our guards were hiding out of sight. They were absolutely terrified,” she said. “But my husband and I were each laughing to ourselves … thinking, ‘I hope that these sons of bitches die today.’”
On October 11, 2017, Pakistani forces rescued the family, after receiving intelligence from the U.S. that the hostages were in northwestern Pakistan. The family was located in the trunk of a car at the time. Pakistani forces located the kidnappers and shot the tires of the car, but the captors managed to flee, according to The New York Times.
Joshua was injured by shrapnel during the operation.
Now living in Canada, Caitlan says she is focused on helping her children make up for lost time. She says it was the children who kept hope alive while she was incarcerated.
“I hope that they (the children) find enough happiness and joy to make up for it,” she said.
The two told ABC News they are speaking out because they want justice for their abusers, hoping Taliban leaders will be put on trial for war crimes.
“Our focus is on trying to hold accountable those who have committed grave human rights violations against us and against others,” Boyle said. “I lost a daughter. That was more of a crushing blow to me than the years. What they did was a crime against humanity by international law.”