kids

How three little children, born in captivity, are coping with freedom for the first time.

We read about the Canadian man and his American wife who were last week freed, finally, from being held in Afghanistan where they’d been imprisioned for five years.

The pair, Joshua Boyle and Caitlan Coleman, were expecting a child when they were first abducted by the Taliban-linked extremist group Haqqani while in Afghanistan as part of a backpacking trip.

We watched Boyle emerge at Toronto airport, pale under fluorescent lights, telling reporters how his wife was raped at the hands of their captors and that their fourth child born in captivity, a daughter, was murdered by the Haqqani network.

Coleman had three children while imprisoned, before she and her family of five were freed by Pakistani fighters.

But what about those children? We’ve heard next to nothing about them.

The three children – aged four, two and two months – were born in the darkness. In a place of war and terror and heartache. Where their parents weren’t free to walk in the village, or buy them ice cream, or race them down the street to the neighbour’s front steps.

“We have reached the first true home that the children have ever known, after they spent most of Friday asking if each subsequent airport was our new house,” Boyle told the CBC News on Saturday.

In this image from video released by Taliban Media in December 2016, Caitlan Coleman talks in the video while her Canadian husband Joshua Boyle holds their two children. (Image via AP)

Photographs have emerged of Boyle and his eldest son, Najaeshi Jonah, enjoying the outdoors at Boyle's parents' house in Ontario, Canada in the days since their release.

"[Najaeshi] is exuberant. Honestly, freedom seems to have cured half his ills instantly, he's running around examining all the gifts compiled over the years," Boyle said.

"He is examining Post-it notes, and curtains, and paints, and boardgames, remote controls. Everything in the house is a wonderland to him."

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For the middle child, it's not so easy.

"He is nearly as distressed as he was in prison, it seems everything reminds him of the horrors," Boyle told CBC News.

"Cameras are equated to hostage videos, pens are equated to syringes used to drug his parents with ketamine by the guards, slamming doors is associated with cell searches or worse, it seems his healing process has barely begun — so we pray that God will hasten it."

Joshua Boyle and his son. (Image via AP)

The Taliban has denied Boyle's claims of rape and murder. They've called it "propaganda", AAP reports, and "fabrication" on behalf of the Pakistanis.

And, while there are several unknowns about Boyle and Coleman's story and their time imprisioned in the Middle East, we must think about the true innocents in all of this.

We cannot being to imagine what freedom must feel like for three young kids who've been dealing with imprisonment instead of fancy dress days. Violence instead of kids' birthday parties. Fear instead of a future.

We must hope that Najaeshi Jonah and his two younger siblings continue exploring. Picking up flowers and whistling blades of grass. Feeling the sunlight and playing hide-and-seek behind the curtains.

The suffering they no-doubt endured throughout the beginning of their lives rings true for too many children around the world. Children caught up in wars that are not their own, and who don't know any other way of life.

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