After suffering a 15-month ordeal at the hands of Somalian kidnappers, Amanda Lindhout says she’ll take her newfound freedom one day at a time.
The former Sylvan Lake resident issued a written statement on Thursday, eight days after quietly returning to Alberta with family by her side.
“After being in captivity for so long, I can’t begin to describe how wonderful it feels to be home in Canada; without doubt the best country in the world,” said Lindhout.
Lindhout goes onto say how freedom, prosperity and peace hold new meaning for her.
The 28-year-old freelance reporter and Australian photographer Nigel Brennan were released on Nov. 25 in the Somalian capital of Mogadishu after their families had secured a hefty ransom and had hired a British security firm to get them safely out of the country.
Lindhout and Brennan, 38, had been in the East African country for only a few days and were on their way to interview Somalians uprooted by violence when gunmen ambushed their vehicle on Aug. 23, 2008.
Three Somalian natives, also in the vehicle, were released 146 days later.
Lindhout and Brennan had been severely mistreated by their captors. After a foiled escape, they were separated and remained in dark rooms for about 10 months.
“I went through an extremely trying ordeal, but I never forgot the world outside was a beautiful place,” said Lindhout.
“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.”
The happy ending comes after family members put their lives on hold and sacrificed everything to bring Lindhout home.
Family was regularly in touch with Foreign Affairs and on the department’s advice, kept quiet for fear any talk could jeopardize her safety. As the one-year anniversary of the abduction neared, both families issued a joint statement to say they were doing everything they could to secure their loved ones’ release, but had received little outside support.
In her statement, Lindhout acknowledged the Government of Canada at the outset, saying she understands the federal Conservatives were being criticized both for what they did, and didn’t do to support her family.
“I accept they did what they could within the confines of Canadian policy, and for that I am grateful,” she said.
Red Deer MP Earl Dreeshen said Lindhout is ultimately thanking the people of Canada.
“Being involved closely on the case, I am just so happy that she has found the strength to do this,” Dreeshen said. “She’s an amazing individual and I wish her well on her road to recovery. It’s not going to be easy.”
Lindhout thanked numerous people in Africa, including His Highness the Aga Khan, a spiritual leader of a Shia branch of Islam, for personally supporting her and Brennan’s recovery in Nairobi, Kenya. She expressed gratitude to several members her family, including father Jon Lindhout in Sylvan Lake and mother Lorinda Stewart of the Vancouver area.
“The belief I would one day be reunited with my family gave me the strength to endure a difficult situation that often looked hopeless,” said Lindhout.
She also said she’s excited as she begins to walk on a new path in life, one full of opportunities to help others.
Through family spokesman Sarah Geddes, Lindhout said she wasn’t ready to share more of her story through individual interviews.
Red Deer psychologist Bruce Handley expects Lindhout will experience many symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder because of the terrible experience she went through.
“She needs to get it out somehow, either through writing or talking,” said Handley, who has handled many PTSD cases in his 40-year career. “She’ll be a stronger person when she gets past this, but it’s going to be tough. . . it’s going to take a while to heal.”
The Red Deer Advocate has learned that one international book publisher is interested in Lindhout’s story, but a company representative has declined comment at this time.
Lindhout also acknowledged her hometown of Calgary, and the people of Central Alberta where she grew up.
Many people are wishing her well, including Asher Shiringinyai, project co-ordinator with the Central Alberta African Centre which gives supports to immigrants.
Shiringinyai thanked Lindhout for her courageous efforts to cover the plight of Somalians.
“Even if the place is very dangerous, she was brave to step out and try to be the voice of Somalians,” he said. “She has proven to be a friend of Africa.”
Hunting Hills High School teacher Allan MacIntyre said he’s so glad to hear Lindhout is back home with family. She took two options, yearbook and art, with him more than 10 years ago.
“I think it’s a wonderful Christmas present for her family.”
Below is Amanda’s entire statement issued to media on Thursday:
Home at last! After being in captivity for so long, I can’t begin to describe how wonderful it feels to be home in Canada; without doubt the best country in the world.
The freedom, prosperity and peace we’re so fortunate to enjoy, and often take for granted, truly holds new meaning for me.
Now that I‘m home, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the incredible community of people who worked so hard to bring me back to Canada and without whom I might never have returned. I have countless reasons to be grateful and so many people to thank.
To begin, I’d like to acknowledge the Government of Canada. 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.
I accept they did what they could within the confines of Canadian policy, and for that I am grateful. I also recognize the efforts made by the Government of Australia.
In particular, I’d like to thank the Canadian High Commissioner in Nairobi, Ross Hynes, and his wife Vanessa, who are not only exceptional representatives for our country abroad, but inspiring examples of selfless, kind human beings. Thank you for providing my family with such wonderful support after my release.
I am deeply grateful to the multiple support team members in Canada and Nairobi, as well as their family members, for their incredible dedication. In the first days following my release, I was fortunate to have the support of Major Joy Klammer, Survival Psychology Advisor, whose gentle council eased my way and made my transition as comfortable as possible.
I would also like to thank the staff of the Aga Khan Hospital in Nairobi for providing Nigel and I with excellent treatment and care during our stay and most especially, to His Highness, the Aga Khan, for personally supporting our recovery and ensuring we were well taken care of.
I am also grateful to John Chase and his colleagues from AKE for their tireless dedication to our case, and ultimately, for bringing us out of Somalia safely. Their expertise was the guidance our families needed. Our successful release would not have been possible without the assistance and cooperation of the Government of Somalia and several of the country’s caring citizens, so I’d like to thank them for working closely with AKE in the final days of our captivity.
I must thank my good friend Nigel Brennan.
His strength of character in the midst of extreme hardship inspired me during the darkest days. 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. Nigel, I look forward to seeing what amazing things you will do with your life.
The belief I would one day be reunited with my family gave me the strength to endure a difficult situation that often looked hopeless. I find it hard to express the depth of my gratitude to my mom, dad, and Perry, who each put their own lives on hold and sacrificed everything so I may live to return home. They never gave up and I am blessed to be so loved.
A special thank you to my mother, Lorinda, and Nigel’s sister Nicky, who acted as the primary negotiators the entire 15 months, dedicating an unbelievable amount of time, energy and love and to successfully negotiate our eventual release.
I thank the rest of my wonderful, selfless family and friends who likewise endured 15 months of hardship and remained utterly committed to my freedom. Thanks to the Brennan family who shared the experience every step of the way with my own family and to those who supported them in Australia through this ordeal.
There is a group of extraordinary individuals in Calgary who deserve special recognition.
Sarah Geddes of Sass Communications and David Singleton of The Met Group spearheaded the fundraising campaign and took on a seemingly impossible task at great personal sacrifice. Michael Going and Steve Allen had the courage to become the trustees of The Amanda Lindhout Trust Fund. They each showed integrity and commitment to saving my life without ever having met me.
I am so proud to be a Canadian. 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.
I would like to especially acknowledge my home community of Calgary, and the people of Central Alberta who made my dream of freedom a reality. There is no adequate way to express my thanks to those who generously donated funds, and who continue to help my family and I through this very difficult financial situation. In particular, I’d like to thank Alison, a member of the Brennan family and a Canadian citizen, for the significant gift she gave Nigel and myself.
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.