Caitlan Coleman, the Pennsylvania woman who gave birth to three children while being held hostage for five years by a Taliban-affiliated militant group, says she is torn about who treated her worse: the Canadian husband who took her hiking in Afghanistan or her captors.
In interviews with the Washington Post, Coleman, 33, originally from York County and now living in an undisclosed U.S. location, described what she called a “double imprisonment.”
"The whole captivity with the Haqqani network, obviously it was horrible,” she said of the Taliban offshoot that held her hostage. “But in my mind, it paled in comparison to what was going on in my personal life.”
Coleman’s husband, Joshua Boyle, 36, is on trial in Canada on 19 counts of abuse, including sexual assault and unlawful confinement. Boyle has denied the charges, with his lawyers accusing Coleman of erratic behavior and questioning her credibility. The Post said the case has been delayed while the judge considers what could be aired about the couple’s sexual life.
Married in 2011, the couple were abducted after they went hiking in Afghanistan in 2012. Boyle, who had previously been married to the sister of a young inmate at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, was fascinated by the Taliban, according to the Post.
“Josh never held a gun to my head and said, ‘Go to Afghanistan or die,’” Coleman told the Post. “But I was told I didn’t have a choice, and I was already at a point in our relationship where I felt like I didn’t.”
The Post said it could not independently verify many aspects of Coleman’s account, “but it appears to fill in gaps in what had been a perplexing public narrative of the couple’s captivity — one that the Western officials who worked for years to secure their release found implausible and even suspicious.”
Pregnant when she was taken captive, Coleman said she gave birth in January 2013 — during a seven-month period when she was separated from Boyle — with the help of a midwife. The midwife was the last woman she would see for nearly five years.
Coleman said she became pregnant again but had a miscarriage, which she believes was caused by a chemical in her food. When she became pregnant for a third time, she hid it until giving birth in July 2015.
Coleman said she was sexually assaulted by guards between the births, possibly as punishment for accusing the militants of terminating her second pregnancy.
After the second child was born, Coleman said, a senior militant told the couple they could have more children. "The more children, the more money I’ll make on ransom,” Coleman said he told them.
A third child was born in August 2017. During their captivity, the family was moved to two dozen locations before they were rescued in Pakistan.
The Post said Coleman could not explain why she continued to have children in captivity except that Boyle insisted on having sex.
After their release in October 2017, Coleman, who has since had a fourth child, said Boyle continued to be controlling and abusive.
She and the children returned to the United States from Canada in July 2018 and her two older children are in counseling.
Coleman, who is seeking a divorce, says she fears Boyle will re-enter their lives.