Canadian-born Joshua Boyle and his pregnant American wife Caitlan Coleman are co-stars of a video released by the Taliban, offering the first and only clues about what happened to the Canadian-American couple.
In the summer of 2012, the couple began a journey together that took them through Russia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Afghanistan. Despite plans to return home in December ahead of Coleman’s expected date of delivery, the couple lost contact with their families in October that year.
An interesting development that will have profound consequences for the couple is the recent release of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. After being kidnapped by the Taliban, Bergdahl was freed last month in exchange for the release of five “high value” Taliban suspects imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. It was in light of Bergdahl’s release from captivity that the families of the kidnapped couple decided to make the Taliban’s video footage public.
The families of Boyle and Coleman have expressed their deep disappointment that their children and grandchild were not freed as part of the same deal as Army Sgt. Bergdahl. After nearly 600 days since their children’s kidnapping, the families remain hopeful that the U.S. and Canadian governments will work to secure their freedom on humanitarian grounds.
Boyle is the former husband of Zaynab Khadr, the sister of Omar Khadr, who spent a decade in Guantanamo Bay before being transferred to Canadian custody in September, 2012. Boyle developed an interest in national security and human rights issues following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. It was through this advocacy that he met the Khadr family in 2008 and where he later briefly married Zaynab Khadr.
Following his separation from Khadr after one year, Boyle married Coleman, his longtime friend.
Canadian and U.S. security officials involved with negotiations for the release of Coleman and Boyle have told the couple’s families that their abduction was in no way linked to Boyle’s marriage to Zaynab Khadr.
As of yet, there have reportedly been no ransom demands for the couple’s release. A spokesperson for Canada’s foreign affairs department released a statement saying that Canadian officials are in “close contact with Afghan authorities”. Due to the risk of compromising “ongoing efforts” to obtain their release, he would not comment further.
In a statement issued by the couple’s family, directed at those responsible for the kidnapping, the family said: “We do not know why their captors continue to hold them. We desperately want them home, but we do not know what to do…we remain hopeful that someone will reach out to us with information on how to get Josh, Caity and our grandchild home. Furthermore, we ask anyone who is in a position to help aid our children to do so. Together we can end their captivity.”
The fight for the couple’s release continues.