Caitlan Coleman, 31 — who was abducted while traveling in Afghanistan with her Canadian husband, Joshua Boyle, 34, and had three children in captivity — described the brutal treatment her family suffered in captivity, in an interview with ABC News.
She said some of their guards “hated children” and targeted their eldest son for beatings, sometimes with a stick, claiming he was “making problems” or being “too loud.” When Caitlan Coleman tried to intervene, she was beaten as well. “I would get beaten or hit or thrown on the ground,” she said.
“She had a broken cheekbone,” Joshua Boyle said. “She actually broke her own hand punching one of them. She broke her fingers, so she was very proud of that injury.”
She accused her captors of even more grievous crimes, saying the guards murdered their unborn daughter in a “forced abortion,” and she was later raped by two men in retribution for trying to report the crime to their superiors.
“They just kept saying that this will happen again if we don’t stop speaking about the forced abortion, that this happened because we were trying to tell people what they had done and that it would happen again,” Caitlan Coleman said.
The two told ABC News they are speaking out so soon after their release because they want justice, hoping Taliban leaders will be put on trial for war crimes or otherwise be held accountable in the tribal justice system.
“I lost a daughter. That was more of a crushing blow to me than the years. What they did was a crime against humanity by international law.”
The US-Canadian couple was freed in Pakistan in mid-October 2017, nearly five years after being abducted in Afghanistan. Caitlan Coleman was pregnant at the time of their capture.
Danger, however, was never far from their minds. Caitlan Coleman said they told their son “some” of what was happening to them but tried to keep “the worst bits” from him.
The physical abuse of the family escalated, Boyle said, when the Haqqani network demanded he join the group as a Western propagandist.
“They had come four different times, to offer employment in the group…and I made it very clear that I’d rather be the hostage than be on your side of the cage,” Boyle said. “I’d rather be inside than outside.”
His refusal had serious consequences.
“There were beatings. There was violence. Then they’d come to make the offer again. Still said no. More beatings, more violence. Maybe that’ll be the solution. Still no,” Boyle said. “And after the final time — that’s when they killed our daughter. And after that, there were no more intimations of recruitment.”
Caitlan Coleman had to hide the pregnancies of her two other children born in captivity. Her husband helped her deliver them, she said, with no doctor present.
She believes the guards put something in her food in 2014 to force a miscarriage of their unborn daughter. The couple complained to their captors and tried to slip notes to Taliban visitors informing them of the crime, so, the two said, their guards raped her while their eldest son was in the room to compel her to stay silent.
The day after she was raped, Caitlan Coleman said, Pakistani gunships strafed Haqqani positions in North Waziristan.
Now living in Canada, the couple says the scars from years of abuse in captivity are only beginning to heal. In the meantime, the two are focused on the future and on their family. Caitlan Coleman says it was the children who kept her going while she was in captivity.
“I hope that they find enough happiness and joy to make up for it,” she concluded.
This story originally appeared on ABC News.