Smart Risk Magazine Spring 2018 | Page 16

AMANDA LINDHOUT 16 SPRING 2018 A LESSON IN RESILIENCY: SURVIVING the Unimaginable A STORY ON AMANDA LINDHOUT AMANDA’S STORY begins in Red Deer, Alberta, a small city halfway between Calgary and Edmonton. Born into a poor family, Amanda long dreamt of escaping her bleak surroundings to travel the world, inspired by the fascinating photographs she saw in the stash of National Geographic magazines she kept by her bedside. Determined to become a world traveler, she saved the income she earned waitressing in nearby Calgary, and in 2007, she set out to test her mettle in the war-torn countries of Afghanistan and Iraq. A year and some few assignments later, she found herself in Somalia where she met up with an Australian photographer and friend, Nigel Brennan. From there, her life descended into an abyss of torture and terror. THE KIDNAPPING On August 23, 2008, shortly after setting out to cover a story about a refugee camp in Mogadishu, Amanda, Nigel, and the rest of their party were abducted by a group of Somali gunmen. Their captors would hold the two photojournalists captive for the next 460 days. Their release was contingent on a $1 million ransom demand, which neither of their families could afford to pay. The Canadian government, which maintains a strict policy of not succumbing to ransom demands in an effort to help ensure the safety of Canadian travellers, was unable to help the families pay or fundraise for the ransom. When Amanda found herself separated from Nigel just eight weeks into her ordeal, she realized immediately that her situation worsened considerably. While a male prisoner was often able to manage a sense of respect from his abductors, there was no such luck for a female. Amanda’s captors mercilessly tormented her with complete impunity. At one point, she reports, she was tortured for forty-eight hours straight. She was alone, desperately afraid, and physically and emotionally gutted. What followed Amanda’s kidnapping was almost unimaginable in its horror. After the duo attempted an ill-fated escape five months into their capture, things became unspeakably worse. As described in A House in the Sky, Amanda’s own account of her ordeal that she co-authored with journalist Sara Corbett, her circumstances became much more dire after the failed escape. From that point on, she was held alone in a small, dark shed, with tiny portions of food and water, shackled in chains and beaten repeatedly. Yet if you were to meet 35-year-old Canadian Amanda Lindhout today, she’d probably strike you as a Kate Middleton look-alike, with a radiant smile and flowing chestnut hair. Never would it enter your mind that this woman had survived extreme torture in Somalia – and thrived despite tremendous odds. How did she do it? How does someone face the depths of inhumanity and, according to all accounts, manage to still emit positivity upon reentering the civilized world? A FAMILY SUFFERS As a victim of this misogynistic culture, Amanda had no hope of reasoning or negotiating with her captors. Not only did they strip her down to a bare existence mentally and physically, but they preyed on her mother, too, by calling her at all hours to demand ransom, and turning her entire family’s lives upside down. While her family occasionally received tightly scripted calls from Amanda, they knew little about her day-to-day existence, which they realized sat squarely in the hands of a group of irrational gunmen. “My mother wasn’t allowed to ask any questions during these calls, and I wasn’t allowed to speak freely”, she says. Believing that everyone in Canada is wealthy, the kidnappers had no qualms about beating Amanda to get her to stick