SYLVAN LAKE, Alta. – Despite more than a year of abuse at the hands of Somali captors, a Canadian freelance journalist says she still believes people are fundamentally good.
Amanda Lindhout released a statement Thursday thanking her family and others for securing her freedom after 15 months being held hostage in the lawless African nation. An accompanying photograph showed her smiling broadly next to a white Christmas tree.
“My faith in human decency was sorely tested at times during my captivity; however, after my release, I am humbly reminded that mankind is inherently good by the tremendous efforts and support of fellow Canadians,” she wrote.
Lindhout was kidnapped along with Australian photographer Nigel Brennan along a crumbling road in southern Somalia on Aug. 23, 2008.
They were released Nov. 25, several months after both their families hired a private hostage negotiation firm to secure their release.
Canada’s government has cited privacy concerns in refusing to say what, if any, assistance it provided to Lindhout’s family. Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said the country kept its policy of not paying ransom for hostages.
Lindhout said she doesn’t fault the government for refusing to do more.
“I know there’s great debate about the role government should or shouldn’t play in a situation such as mine, and I understand the government of Canada is being criticized both for what they did, and didn’t do to support my family,” she said.
“I accept they did what they could within the confines of Canadian policy, and for that I am grateful.”
Lindhout acknowledged that her release has left her family, who reportedly helped pay a ransom that has been reported as being between US$500,000 and US$1 million, in a “very difficult financial situation.”
She also wrote of “a difficult situation that often looked hopeless.” But she didn’t provide details of her experience while in captivity.
Not long after she was released, she told one television network she was kept alone on the floors of darkened rooms, and was sometimes beaten and tortured.
People who helped negotiate her release have said she and Brennan were undernourished and had parasites from eating contaminated food. Lindhout also had complications from a pre-existing dental abscess that had flared up while in captivity.
In her statement, Lindhout thanks many people, including individual Calgarians, who helped raise money for her family. She also expresses gratitude to a trauma psychologist who helped her immediately after her release.
She also pays tribute to Brennan.
“Despite our separation, he always managed to find small ways to remind me that there are gentlemen in the world, even when I was surrounded by just the opposite. His resilience and positive attitude after our ordeal is a tribute to the strength of the human spirit.”
Brennan said last week that he would not have been able to survive without Lindhout.
“Even though for the most part we were completely isolated from each other, just knowing you were through the wall or down the corridor was an unbelievable comfort,” he told the Australian media.
Lindhout’s statement ends on a hopeful note.
“I went through an extremely trying ordeal, but I never forgot the world outside was a beautiful place. The road to recovery will not always be easy, but I will take it one day at a time, focusing on the moments I’ve dreamed about for so long.
“I am excited as I begin to walk on a new path in life, one full of opportunities to help others.”
-By Shannon Montgomery in Calgary