An American woman and her Canadian husband who were captured four years ago by the Taliban are appealing to President Barack Obama and President-elect Donald Trump to exchange Afghan prisoners for their release, in a video that also shows their two young children for the first time.
“My children have seen their mother defiled,” says Caitlan Coleman in the new video released on Monday by the Haqqani Network, an Afghan and Pakistani insurgent group, and posted to YouTube.
Next to her, a baby and toddler squirm on her husband Joshua Boyle’s lap. The toddler laughs at something off camera, and then picks his nose.
“We ask quickly, in our collective fourteenth year of prison, urge the governments on both sides to reach some agreement to allow us freedom.”
Coleman was 27 and pregnant in the fall of 2012 when she and Boyle were captured by the Taliban as they were backpacking in Afghanistan. They are now being held by the Haqqanis, a group affiliated with the Taliban who have been known for their hostage operations — including holding American soldier Bowe Berghdal.
“Obama, your legacy in leaving office is probably important to you, and our lives and those of our children are to us,” Coleman says in the video. “So please don’t become the next Jimmy Carter. Just give the offenders something so they and you can save face, and we can leave the region permanently.”
Coleman goes on to recite the Haqqanis’ script, before turning to their captor’s demands.
“We need you and the government to step up and do us a favor here and solve the problems. We are told there are Afghans who are prisoners in Kabul that these men care about, and they do not want to be punished. Indeed, they threaten to retaliate against our family, that their group will do us harm and punish us, so we ask that you are merciful to their people, and god willing, they will release us.”
Boyle then addresses the camera directly and does not appear to be reading.
“And to whichever state department official has to watch this video, we both know the president is not going to see it, or the coming president, and that the decision ultimately probably lies with you,” he says. “There is no point in explaining it to our captors, and I’m sure you think that my family could get out of this if we wanted, and I can only promise you that we can’t.
“They really will not settle this until they get what they’re demanding, so I can only ask that you will please, quickly, try to resolve this for our sake, and the sake of our children, and we can talk about compensation later. But it has been more than four years, so I do plead with you to please be quick.”
Boyle was previously married to Zaynab Khadr, the sister of former Guantanamo Bay inmate Omar Khadr, according to The Associated Press and the Toronto Star, but the U.S. government does not believe that’s why they were captured.
In previous videos, the couple said their captors would execute them if the demands weren’t met. The last video before this one was in late August.
Unlike relatives of other hostages, the Coleman family has posted video appeals for the couple’s release online.