TORONTO – The parents of a Canadian man held hostage in Afghanistan say a recently released video of their son and his family marks the first time they’ve seen their two grandchildren, who were born in captivity.
Canadian Joshua Boyle and his American wife, Caitlan Coleman, were kidnapped in 2012 while travelling in a mountainous region of northern Afghanistan.
In a video uploaded to YouTube earlier this week, Coleman — sitting next to her husband and two young children — urges governments on all sides to reach a deal to secure the family’s freedom.
Boyle’s parents, Patrick and Linda Boyle, said they watched the video on Monday, getting their first glimpse at their young grandsons.
“It is an indescribable emotional sense one has watching a grandson making faces at the camera, while hearing our son’s leg chains clanging up and down on the floor as he tries to settle his son,” the Boyles said in a written statement. “It is unbelievable that they have had to shield their sons from their horrible reality for four years.”
The parents say their son told them in a letter that he and his wife have tried to protect their children by pretending their signs of captivity are part of a game being played with guards.
“It is simply heartbreaking to watch both boys so keenly observing their new surroundings in a makeshift film studio, while listening to their mother describe how they were made to watch her being defiled,” the Boyles said.
The video came to public attention through the Site Intelligence Group, which monitors extremist activity online. The group said the video was dated Dec. 3.
In the clip, Coleman says her family has been waiting since 2012 for somebody to understand the “Kafkaesque nightmare” they are living.
“We understand both sides hate us and are content to leave us and our two surviving children in these problems but we can only ask and pray that somebody will recognize the atrocities these men carry out against us,” she is heard saying.
The Boyles said their daughter-in-law could not have used a more accurate term than kafkaesque.
“The absence of a clear course of action to escape a complex and bizarre situation that seems it may be somewhere between fiction and reality. Overpowered and constrained by others beyond their control, but striving to break through nonetheless,” the Boyles said.
They said the video appears to confirm that those holding their son and family captive “want to bring this to an end soon.”
“They prefer to reach an understanding during this brief period of the American presidential transition,” the Boyles said. “It also confirms the seriousness and immediacy of the captors’ threats to our four family members.”
The Boyles said they hope all governments involved will bring their son’s case to a safe resolution soon.
A spokesman with Global Affairs Canada said the federal government is “deeply concerned” about the safety and well-being of Joshua Boyle and his family and calls for their unconditional release.
Coleman’s parents say they are hoping U.S. president-elect Donald Trump will broker her release if President Barack Obama doesn’t succeed before he leaves office.
Jim and Lyn Coleman, of Stewartstown, Pa., spoke to ABC’s “Good Morning America” Wednesday, saying they took solace in seeing their daughter and grandkids looking healthy and in seeing the children for the first time.
“You just want to reach out, you know, and hold them,” Lyn Coleman said of her grandchildren. “And that’s very difficult.”
Joshua Boyle and Coleman vanished after setting off in the summer of 2012 for a journey that took them to Russia, the central Asian countries of Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, and then to Afghanistan.
Coleman’s parents last heard from their son-in-law on Oct. 8, 2012, from an Internet cafe in what he described as an “unsafe” part of Afghanistan.
In 2013, the couple appeared in two videos asking the U.S. government to free them from the Taliban. Coleman’s parents received a letter last November in which their daughter said she had given birth to a second child in captivity.
A video released in August showed Coleman and Boyle warning that their captors would kill them and their children unless the government in Kabul ends its execution of Taliban prisoners.
With files from The Associated Press