After departing for a backpacking trip through Afghanistan in 2012, Joshua Boyle and his pregnant wife, Caitlin Coleman disappeared without a trace.
In the five years since the couple have suffered violence and captivity at the hands of a Taliban-linked insurgent group.
Reportedly an “idealistic” pair, Boyle told reporters that he and Coleman went with the intention of serving the people of Afghanistan.
“Those ordinary villagers… live deep inside Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, where no NGO, no aid worker, and no government has ever successfully been able to bring the necessary help,” he said. Exactly how the pair had intended to assist these communities was never made clear.
The idea for the trip was said to have begun a few years earlier during an expedition to central Asia, where they met a couple who spoke highly of Afghanistan for its natural beauty and relative safety.
During her five years of captivity, Coleman gave birth to four children, one of which was killed by her captors in Afghanistan. The surviving children are now aged four, two, and approximately six months.
As far as the young family’s attitude, Boyle recalls he and his wife thinking, “hey, let’s make the best of this and at least go home with a larger start on our family.”
Now back in Canada, Boyle says they are adjusting well.
“These are children who… did not know what a toilet looks like. They used a bucket,” he said in a video released last week.
Having once been married to Zaynab Khadr, the older sister of former Guantanamo Bay detainee, Omar Khadr, Boyle is no stranger to controversy.
During their year-long matrimony, Boyle defended controversial comments made by his then-wife, in 2004, which seemed to suggest the 9/11 terror attacks were “justified.”
However, according to long-time friend, Alex Edwards, Boyle himself did not seem to ascribe to any particular system of beliefs or ideological persuasion.
“He once described himself to me as a hippie, Mennonite love child,” wrote Edwards in a blog post for Medium.
Controversy still surrounds the Boyle-Coleman family as many questions remain unanswered.
The young family is currently re-adjusting to Canadian life in Boyle’s parents’ home.