Canadian Woman Kidnapped, Forced To Convert To Islam And Sexually Brutalized By Somali Militants
Amanda Lindhout traveled to Somalia hoping to find a story that would launch her career as a television reporter. Four days after arriving in the country with a photographer friend, both were taken hostage by Islamist insurgents.
While in captivity, she was “starved, beaten and sexually brutalized” according to her memoir of the 2008 saga set to be released next month.
According to the description of her book, A House in the Sky, Lindhout spent fifteen months “of harrowing captivity” after being pulled from the car in which she was traveling by a group of masked men.
During her 460-day ordeal, the aspiring reporter converted to Islam in order not to be killed, received “wife lessons” from one of her captors, and made a daring escape attempt with her fellow hostage.
Canadian Press reports that Lindhout was trussed up like an animal, tied for days with her hands and feet pulled together tightly behind her back.
In the book, Lindhout who is now 32-years-old concedes she was naive to have traveled to such a dangerous country for the thrill.
In an interview last year, she said “it was not a wise decision to make” and agrees with criticism she has faced for having traveled there.
Prior to that, she had worked as a cocktail waitress in Calgary, saving her tips for backpacking trips, then later picking up freelance reporting work in other dicey locations, including Afghanistan and Iraq, where she was hired by Iran’s English language Press TV before realizing she was “part of a propaganda machine.”
Then it was off to Somalia with an ex-boyfriend with whom she had worked in the past, Australian photographer Nigel Brennan.
“The reasons to do it seemed straightforward. Somalia was a mess. There were stories there — a raging war, an impending famine, religious extremists and a culture that had been largely shut out of sight,” she writes.
She knew it was dangerous but hoped to find a story that would launch her career.
They had only been in Somalia a few days when they got into a car with a hired fixer, driver and security guards and headed for a camp of displaced people outside the capital city of Mogadishu.
On the way, armed men stopped and dragged them from the vehicle.
It turns out the abductors were staking out their hotel, but were really targeting two men on assignment for National Geographic. She says they were surprised when they pulled a woman out of the car.
While Lindhout and Brennan were kidnapped together, they had different experiences in captivity.
Brennan was kept in a room with windows, furniture and books to read, but Lindhout was holed up in a dark room with rats. It was simple: he was a man, she was a woman.
They both told their captors they wanted to convert to Islam. They recited the Qur’an and prayed five times each day, hoping it would provide them some protection.
Back in Canada, Lindhout’s family feared she was being sexually assaulted, but Canadian officials assured them Muslims were unlikely to do such a thing.
However, one of the kidnappers would routinely sneak into her room and force himself on her. In early 2009, Lindhout and Brennan tried an escape.