Caitlan Coleman, the American woman held hostage by Taliban-linked militants for five years before being rescued on October 11, has spoken of her time in captivity in an extraordinary first interview.
The 32-year-old spoke to The Toronto Star on Monday to describe how terrorists murdered her unborn daughter and explained why she and her husband Joshua Boyle had three children in captivity, a decision many have criticized since they were saved.
Wearing a hijab as she was photographed with her months-old daughter Grace on her lap, Coleman also claimed that both the US and Pakistani governments were lying about how the family were rescued.
The woman from Stewartstown, Pennsylvania, refuses to reveal whether or not she has converted to Islam.
In 2012, Coleman was five-months-pregnant with the couple’s first child – a boy they named Naejeshi Joanah – when they were kidnapped in Afghanistan. At the time they had told their families they were on a hiking holiday in Central Asia.
After their rescue earlier this month, Boyle revealed that he and his new bride at the time were there to bring aid to remote areas of the country that were being terrorized by the Taliban.
After the birth of their first son, Caitlan welcomed another boy and a daughter while being housed in Taliban prisons. They were planned pregnancies. Another pregnancy resulted in her miscarrying a daughter who she and her husband named Martyr.
Coleman believes the pregnancy was deliberately ended by her captors who she claims put high doses of estrogen in her food.
It was payback, she said, because her husband had refused their recruiting attempts.
‘They were very angry because Joshua had been asked to join them, to work for them, and he said no. They killed her by dosing the food. They put massive doses of estrogen in the food,’ Caitlan told the Star on Monday.
She knew about their attempts, she said, through her husband who understands Farsi and who listened in on them boasting about sabotaging the pregnancy.
High levels of estrogen is known to harm fertility in women but it is not known how it can affect a woman who is already pregnant. Coleman did not explain where she believed the captors obtained the hormone from.
Explaining why she and her husband chose to have sex in captivity, Caitlan said she always wanted to become a mother and did not know when else she would have the chance.
‘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.
‘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.
‘We didn’t know if we would have that opportunity when we came back. We didn’t know how long it would be,’ she said.
The couple were rescued along with her and her husband when Pakistani officials ambushed the vehicle they were being driven in by their captors who were members of the Haqqani Network, a sophisticated branch of the Taliban.
President Trump celebrated the mission as a joint effort with Pakistani forces and a show of improving relations between the two countries.
Pakistani officials said they intercepted as the family was brought over the border from Afghanistan – a claim Coleman put down on Monday.
She insists they had been in Pakistan for at least a year before they were saved.
‘We were not crossing into Pakistan that day. We had been in Pakistan for more than a year at that point,’ she said of their October 11 rescue.
‘Right now everybody’s shunting blame and making claims. Pakistan says, no they were never in Pakistan, until the end. The U.S. says, no they were always in Pakistan; it was Pakistan’s responsibility. But neither of those are true,’ she said.
She also shared a glimpse of their in captivity where they were sometimes separated and moved around prisons – which they called houses – several times.
When they were apart, their oldest son stayed with her, she said.
‘They first took us out of Afghanistan; it was several days’ drive. They took us to Miran Shah, in Pakistan, where we were kept for more than a year.
‘It was very bad. My husband and I were separated at that time. He wasn’t allowed to see Najaeshi or spend any time with us,’ she said.
In the second location where they were kept, she said their captor was ‘very nice’ and took their son out for ‘sunlight’ – a luxury they were not afforded.
‘He would take Najaeshi out to get him sunlight and nobody else did that at any other point,’ she said.
She claims she was raped while being held away from her husband between 2014 and 2015, by which time she says she had already miscarried Martyr.
The rape was punishment for giving notes to anyone who was not involved in the ‘abortion’, she said.
‘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.
‘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,’ she said.
In their final location, she said they watched as militants carried out training and laughed as one recruit struggled to grasp their commands.
‘Outside every day they were doing some training, or something was going on, and some guy was shouting and we laughed because whoever Musa was, he was not doing a good job. He was always yelling, “No, no, no, Musa Musa.””
Coleman and her children were taken to hospital in Canada after they returned to North America on October 12.
The family had refused to board a US military plane, despite the US’s involvement in their rescue, because Boyle feared he would face arrest if he was brought back to America.
Before he was kidnapped or even married to Coleman, he was married to Zaynab Khadr – the daughter of Canada’s ‘first family of terrorism’ whose father was a close friend of Osama Bin Laden.
Friends of the man have told how he was fascinated with Afghanistan and had an ‘academic obsession’ with terror when he volunteered to be an advocate for Zaynab’s younger brother Omar, a teenager who was jailed in Guantanamo Bay over his involvement in a battle in Pakistan when he was 15.
Coleman’s own father condemned the decision during an interview with Good Morning America after they were released and said it was ‘unconscionable’ for his son-in-law to have taken his daughter to Afghanistan when she was pregnant in 2012.
His daughter did not address the controversy or reveal if she’d seen her parents since settling back in to life with her in-laws in Canada.
Her husband Joshua previously said the older children were adapting well to life in Canada.
He previously explained their decision to have children in captivity by telling The Associated Press: ‘We always wanted as many as possible, and we didn’t want to waste time. Cait’s in her 30s, the clock is ticking.’