Sunday, October 26, 2014

Questionable hospitality from the Taliban

Dr. Dilip Joseph was an Indian-American doctor serving with the non-governmental agency Morning Star when he was kidnapped by the Taliban while working in Afghanistan in 2012.  The time he spent in captivity and his rescue make up the story in Kidnapped by the Taliban.

Dr. Joseph was born in India and moved with his parents to the USA before his junior year in high school.  He had a background in public health when he decided to attend medical school after serving an internship in India and deciding that would be the best way to help people.  He married and had 4 children when he began working for the aid agency.  He had been to Afghanistan on aid missions nine times previously without incident before his luck ran out.  One day, while returning to Kabul from a remote village, he, his Afghan colleague Rafiq and their assistant and driver Farzad were intercepted by several Taliban fighters and forced to walk many miles to a remote cabin.

While the captives were understandably concerned about their fate, they were allowed to contact their superiors in the agency to let them know what had happened, and to try to facilitate their release.  The problem was that the Taliban fighters could not agree on what they wanted in exchange for the prisoners.  It varied from millions to thousands of dollars, then to the release of prisoners.  All the time, certain members of the Taliban were apparently arguing that they should just kill the captives.

As the prisoners are being moved around, they are treated fairly well and shown Afghan hospitality -- always given food and drink at the same time as their Taliban captives, for instance.  With Rafiq translating, Dr. Joseph is even able to learn a bit about some of the individual fighters who are holding him.  He begins to understand how people who have known nothing but war and violence might turn to the Taliban.

From the beginning, it seems, the location of the captives is known to the US military, and after four days Dr. Joseph is rescued in a raid by Navy SEALS (this isn't giving anything away, the subtitle of the book is "A Story of Terror, Hope, and Rescue by SEAL Team Six").  Rafiq and Farzad, being Afghans with local family connections, were released before Dr. Joseph due to local pressure.

After his ordeal, Dr. Joseph was debriefed and returned to the USA to be reunited with his family.  Throughout his confinement, his Christian faith sustained him and allowed him to remain strong and compassionate in the face of fear for his safety.  He hopes to one day be able to return to help in the rebuilding of Afghanistan.

I really enjoyed the personal story of someone who went through such a traumatic experience, yet remains sympathetic and humble.  The fact that he wants to continue his aid work speaks to the genuinely good heart and humanitarian spirit that drives this compassionate doctor.

Disclaimer:  I received a copy of Kidnapped by the Taliban from BookLook Bloggers in exchange for this review

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