This Doctor Survived Being Kidnapped by the Taliban
Dr. Dilip Joseph was on his tenth visit to Afghanistan in December 2012. On Wednesday, December 5, he had been serving at the medical clinic all morning with a local physician, Rafiq, and his assistant, Farzad. After lunch, the three of them had just dropped off a dozen students at a nearby educational facility when members of the Taliban approached their four-door pickup. The gunmen blindfolded the three of them and tied their hands behind their backs. Fearing this was the end, Dilip prayed, God, save me from this situation! The gunmen drove their truck down the mountain. After fifteen minutes of wild driving through a wide valley, they were ordered out of the truck and made to climb the steep terrain up a mountain.
The Taliban made them hike for a total of nine hours. “I had time to think through all the things that I was thankful for,” says Dilip. “I came to the conclusion that I’ve lived a full life which allowed my heart to freely worship and thank God.” As soon as he came to grips with that realization, Dilip knew God wanted to do something in the middle of their dire situation. “I did not want to die a victim,” he says. With each step, Dilip knew God was allowing him to see a bigger picture. For the moment, Dilip accepted that there was nothing he could do about his situation.
While sitting in a thatched-roofed room, one of the captors, Wallakah, began asking Dilip questions about his family. He was 19 years old and his father taught him to kill people. When his father was imprisoned, Wallakah joined the Taliban. Initially, Dilip categorized the Taliban as inhumane, wild cannibals who would do anything to preserve their way of life, but conversing with Wallakah changed his mind. Wallakah asked Dilip about life in America. “He had never been out of Afghanistan,” says Dilip. “He knew there was more to his life than what he was currently experiencing.”
By the second day, the captors allowed Dilip to make contact with Morning Star to negotiate a ransom but kept them moving through the mountains and hills. On Friday, the Taliban released Rafiq and Farzad. Dilip was alone with his captors. He felt helpless and began sobbing when one of the captors offered a scarf to wipe his tears. “I was blown away,” he says. “Something in my plight had struck a chord in them and brought out the best that humanity has to offer.”
On Saturday afternoon, December 8, the captors moved Dilip to a one-story home at the base of a mountain. Shortly after midnight, Dilip woke up to wipe his nose. Wide-awake, he laid on the floor listening to the peaceful sounds of the night. He heard a dog barking followed by the bleating of a sheep. He thought the livestock were just being restless. Dilip started to doze off until the sound of a gunshot broke the silence. The Taliban scrambled while loud voices commanded them to stand and put their hands up. Dilip didn’t realize that he was being rescued by US Navy SEALs. One of the American commandos helped him out of the house. “They were all dead. I felt an overwhelming wave of sadness,” says Dilip. “In one of the lowest moments of my life, some had even shown me unexpected compassion.” While Dilip was being rescued, Wallakah shot the first Navy SEAL who burst in the room. “The man had taken the lead in rescuing me,” says Dilip. “Here in front of me was the cost of his service.” A large helicopter loaded Dilip and the SEALs and transported them to a military air base. While valiant efforts were made to save his life, the Navy SEAL later died from his injuries. Dilip was debriefed for several days before being allowed to return home. He called his family and found out that Rafiq and Farzad were also safe.
Dilip never intended to write a book about his experiences but after many people encouraged him, he decided to do so. “I have been blessed, not only by my rescue but also by how I’ve been able to deal with the impact of my ordeal,” says Dilip. He made a relatively smooth transition back to “normal” life. Rafiq and Farzad left Afghanistan in 2013 because the risk of staying was so high, but both are now back. Rafiq has a great passion to help his people by giving them new opportunities in medicine, education and building a greater sense of community. “He refuses to live in fear,” says Dilip. Afghanistan remains a difficult place to work as the Taliban remain active and innocent lives continue to be lost. “I will never forget the sacrifice of the young Navy SEAL,” says Dilip. “His service is a debt I can never repay. I grieve for my Taliban captors, too, though perhaps not in the same way as others. To me, I am a doctor. My passion is to bring ‘wholistic’ approach of healing -- physical, emotional, mental and spiritual, to everyone.”
Dilip hopes that we develop a heart for the lost. “When I look at myself, it’s so easy to put my work and desires in a category. Look at me; I’m doing something good. Even being in this realm of work, it’s easy to forget. But developing God’s heart and really loving these people the way God loves them, that’s what we need to seek after.” He believes the actions of non-governmental organizations (NGO) are helping. “Our activities make a huge difference,” he says. “There are only a few who choose to make a difference, but that makes a huge impact on those who choose to live differently. If we can propagate forgiveness and peace, the impact of that goes beyond what we can imagine or understand. It’s worth it.”
Dilip plans to continue his work in Afghanistan.