Journalist reveals how 15 months of sexual assault by terrorists brought her to brink of suicide, only to be saved by a little bird
In 2008, Amanda Lindhout, a 26-year-old freelance journalist, traveled to Mogadishu with her then-boyfriend Niger Brennan and the pair were kidnapped three days after their arrival
A journalist was on the brink of committing suicide after she was kidnapped, tortured, and raped over a span of 15 months in Somalia before a bird 'rescued' her. In 2008, 26-year-old Amanda Lindhout, a freelance journalist, traveled to Mogadishu, the war-torn capital of Somalia, with her then-boyfriend Niger Brennan, an Australian photographer.
The pair were kidnapped on August 23, three days after their arrival. The abductors contacted their families demanding a ransom of $1.5 million for each of them to set them free.
Both were beaten and starved for the next 15 months — but Lindhout paid the price of being a woman, and was repeatedly raped throughout her captivity, reported Daily Mail.
She recounted, more than nine years after the ordeal, how she came to the "calm decision" of taking her own life using a small razor after she couldn't take the abuse anymore.
In a conversation with Australia's Channel Seven, Lindhout said: "I was really getting close to making this decision. [And] as the morning sun was coming up... a little bit of movement caught my eye... and there was a bird hopping around in this little bit of light."
"I'd always believed in signs of a messenger, in a way, to hold on," she said.
"And that bird was a messenger. The desire to end my life left me and it never came back and this amazing feeling just flooded through my body, which was determination to survive no matter what; that I would have my freedom again; I would see my family."
At the time of her abduction, she was not affiliated with any media organization. However, she had previously worked in Iraq and Afghanistan and had completed assignments in Somalia for France 24. That said, Brennan had no prior experience in war-ridden areas.
"We were going to an internally displaced people's camp. That was going to be the big story that we were in Somalia for. We're on a big open highway and we see a car pulled over off to the side up ahead. Within minutes what unfolded was like something out of a nightmare.
"There were about a dozen armed men who had been hiding behind that parked car. And the next thing I knew I had been abducted," she said.
The pair were constantly moved to different houses after their capture. They even converted to Islam in order to get into the good books of their captors but, unfortunately, nothing changed.
Four months later, the aspiring journalist was put in a car in the middle of the night and taken to the center of a desert.
"They took me out of the car under this tree, pulled my head back, and the next thing I knew there was a knife at my throat," she recalled. "One of them was telling me that they were going to give me 30 seconds to convince my mother to pay the money within seven days or they were going to behead me."
Five months later, the pair tried to escape. Loosening several bricks, they jumped out of a window and ran towards a crowded mosque nearby. But to their horror, they discovered they were being followed by their captors.
Lindhout then told a surreal story of a woman in the building wearing a hijab who embraced her. "She pulled me into her arms and in English, she called me her sister," she said. "And then she turns to our kidnappers begging them to let us go. [But] the next thing I knew one of them had grabbed me around my ankles and was dragging me by my feet across the floor of the mosque. I was being taken to the door where the truck was parked... [and] they brought Nigel out in the same way. As we drove off, there was a gunshot inside the mosque and I still don't know what happened to that amazing woman," she said, emotionally.
The "punishment" she received for her actions cannot be described in words. She was locked in a pitch black room and the sexual assaults suddenly escalated to an unbearable point.
Ultimately, 460 days after their abduction, the kidnappers set them free after their families somehow managed to gather thousands of dollars and begged for their release.
Now, nine years after the heart-wrenching incident, Lindhout has finally found peace with herself and considers each day a gift. "The ability to move my body... the freedom to use the toilet when I wanted to... to be able to see the sky again," she said.
"Just to be able to see the sky again, that's over our head every day. I had never really looked up and really appreciated it until after my freedom."
Even after her disillusioning experience, she declared: "I absolutely believe in the goodness of humankind. It'd be easy to watch the news and think that the world is mostly bad people doing terrible things and it's just absolutely not true. That is a small handful of people who, themselves, carry a great deal of pain that leads them to hurt other people. But actually, our world is just full of such kindness and goodness and compassion and I certainly experience that every day."