The American woman who was – giving birth to three children while in captivity – has accused her husband of physically and emotionally abusing her while the family was being held by Taliban-linked militants.
The allegations levied by Caitlan Coleman against her Canadian husband Joshua Boyle are contained in newly unsealed court documents
Canadian American family rescued after five years as captives in Afghanistan
In the documents, filed earlier this year as part of a family court application aimed at allowing Coleman to leave and return to the US with the couple’s children, Coleman accused her husband of exacerbating the nightmarish ordeal.
“JB (Joshua Boyle) regularly threatened to kill me by setting me on fire,” Coleman – who is expecting the couple’s fourth child – said in an affidavit. Her husband, she claimed, “had uncontrolled rage, instituted corporal punishment of me, and struck me in a fit of rage”.
None of the allegations contained in the affidavit have been proven in court.
Boyle, 34, denied the allegations, and in his own 23-page affidavit, he accused Coleman of assaulting him and of having untreated mental health issues that he claimed caused her to neglect the couple’s children.
Boyle, Coleman and their three young children The couple while backpacking through Afghanistan. Coleman was five months pregnant at the time.
Shortly after the family landed on Canadian soil, Boyle told reporters that his wife had been raped and one of their children was killed during their time in captivity. The allegations were later denied by the Taliban.
After a short stay with Boyle’s parents the family attempted to build a normal life in Ottawa, renting an apartment and
Months later, the couple was locked in a custody battle in an Ontario court. The Ottawa judge who considered the case said she had not seen anything to suggest that Coleman suffers a mental health issue that would affect her ability to parent.
“The court does have evidence, on the other hand, that CC (Caitlan Coleman) is healthily and protectively parenting the children,” the judge noted as she granted Coleman temporary custody of the children.
“To say that the circumstances of this case are tragic in the extreme would be an understatement,” the judge added. “Under the exceptional circumstances of this case, requiring CC and the children to remain in Ottawa would be akin to once again holding them hostage.”
Children born in Afghanistan captivity fear new lives in Canada won't last
Coleman, 32, is reportedly now living in her home state of Pennsylvania with the children.
The judge also issued an order preventing Boyle from contacting or approaching Coleman and the children.
According to court documents, the pair met in 2002. Four years later, Coleman, a manager at a Quiznos sandwich restaurant, and Boyle, an aspiring journalist, struck up a turbulent, on-off again relationship.
Their shared interests kept them together, according to Boyle’s affidavit. “We both wanted to travel by way of backpacking, and we both wanted to see the world.”
The couple married in 2011 while traveling in Central America. After Coleman launched divorce proceedings in 2012, Boyle travelled to Pennsylvania and the couple were reconciled, according to the Ottawa Citizen.
They agreed to travel Central Asia, pushing forward with their plans even after discovering Coleman was pregnant, according to Boyle’s affidavit. He said he was open about his desire to travel to , hoping to make contacts and gain experience that would help him land a job in journalism.
In court documents filed by Coleman, she said she reluctantly agreed to embark on the trip after Boyle promised Afghanistan would not be on the itinerary. Boyle only revealed his plans to travel to the country after they had landed in the region, she claimed, “so that I would not back out”.
The pair was abducted after leaving a Kabul guesthouse in a taxi, and held by the Taliban-linked Haqqani network.
The documents presented in family court, however offer contrasting takes on how the couple handled life in captivity, with both claiming to have been primary caregivers to the children.
Coleman accused Boyle of increasingly erratic and irrational behaviour as the years dragged on, saying that he was fixated on “depicting me as an enemy in his life”.
The guards would often separate them, after which Boyle would accuse her of betraying him by “accepting niceties from the guards and not asking for him more often”, she claimed.
The abuse by Boyle escalated over the years, she alleged. He would confine her to a small shower stall for weeks at a time, she claimed, and alleged that after a disagreement in 2017, Boyle “hit me in the face hard enough to break my cheekbone”.
Boyle repeatedly told her that she was “one of the worst people in the world”, Coleman claimed, alleging that her husband suggested at one point that a “husband who kills his wife is justified”.
In his affidavit, Boyle alleged Coleman neglected the children while in captivity, leaving him in the role of primary caregiver. He said that he often went without food in order to ensure his pregnant wife and children had enough to eat and spent hours crafting toys and gifts out of anything he could find.
In a second affidavit provided to the court, Coleman alleged that she did not share her husband’s interest in extremism, pointing to Boyle’s earlier marriage to Zaynab Khadr – the eldest daughter of a now-deceased member of Osama bin Laden’s inner circle – as an example.
In his affidavit, Boyle described the trauma of readjusting to life in Canada. “While captivity was the worst thing that ever happened to me,” he said, “the adjustment to coming home was a very close second”.
Two months after the family returned to Canada, Boyle was arrested on more than a dozen charges including sexual assault, misleading police and making death threats. The Ontario Court has banned the identification of Boyle’s alleged victims.