The meeting was to take place at the residence of ex-Taliban Australian hostage Timothy Weeks, a former professor at the American University of Afghanistan (AUAF) who was kidnapped from one of the heavily-secured areas of Kabul along with his American colleague Kevin King in 2016. I set up an appointment with him around 4:00 pm local time in Sydney.
I arrived at the residence of the Australian hostage at exactly 4:00 pm. His house is located near a beach in a calm area far away from the noise of the cities—a place where you can only hear the birds singing.
When I arrived at the residence, I saw Timothy Weeks standing on the balcony of the house talking to lady whom I later discovered was a psychologist meeting with him on a daily basis.
The Persian Stories
Timothy Weeks’ grandmother Florence Weeks used to tell him stories about Afghanistan when he was a child. “Since I was a young boy, my grandmother Florence Weeks used to tell me stories based on a Persian carpet that she had on the wall, and it’s always been my dream to visit Afghanistan and unfortunately I only had the opportunity to stay there for three weeks. So I am hoping that one day I may have the opportunity to return and to visit the people of Afghanistan and I will always keep alive the dream that my grandmother gave me and of being able to go back and to see the people in the country that is now part of my life,” said Weeks.
So memories of his grandmother’s stories, evoked by the Persian carpet, motivated Timothy Weeks to come to Afghanistan in 2016.
Timothy Weeks arrived on a sunny day in Afghanistan in 2016 to teach the Afghan students English at the American University of Afghanistan. During his first days in the country, he wanted to discover those stories that he had heard from his grandmother.
However, his dreams weren’t realized because he was kidnapped along with an American professor Kevin King in a highly secure area of the Afghan capital Kabul only three weeks after his arrival to the country. Timothy Weeks and his colleague spent three-and-half years held by the Taliban and were not allowed to sit in the sun or in fresh weather.
Trusting the kidnappers
Timothy Weeks closed his eyes while talking, perhaps trying to remind himself of the day when he was kidnapped by the Taliban. He said that the armed men stopped their vehicle and ordered them to get out of the car and they had no option except to trust them to save their lives. “The guards told us to get of the car and at that point, I began to argue with them, because I believed they were going to kill me, and they told me ‘get out get out,’ and I said ‘no’ you are going to kill me, and finally they said, ‘we are not going to kill you,’ and at that point, I handed over my trust to them.”
Timothy Weeks was chained to his American colleague Kevin King for a good portion of the time.
The search operation
Following the abduction, foreign forces in Afghanistan made their rescue a priority. Weeks said that the foreign forces several times came near the door where they were hidden, but the Taliban fighters managed to relocate them. “One time they were in the room next to us, they were coming down and we did know that they were Navy SEALS. The Taliban had told us that they were Daesh coming in and we just made it into the tunnels and they managed to close the steel doors to stop anyone following us. I believe the Navy SEALS came in six times to try and rescue us,” said Weeks.
According to Timothy Weeks, the Taliban used fear of Daesh to motivate Weeks and King to accept the Taliban’s orders, as their fate would be worse in the hands of Daesh.
A brotherly feeling
Timothy Weeks says that they were never tortured by the Taliban, however they were beaten on different occasions after they refused to accept the Taliban’s orders tense moments. He said the Taliban was responsible to ensure their safety and security.
He says that he never gave up hope while in detention, but he said the ordeal was harsh: “I am not going to whitewash the situation. At times the guards beat me and this was usually at times of great stress when Daesh would come into our area we would have to be moved into tunnels and that was for our own protection, and the Taliban always told us that if Daesh came and they caught us, they would kill us all rather than hand us over to Daesh,” he said.
Weeks says that with the passage of time, there were good relations between them and the Taliban guards: they were soldiers carrying out orders, and sometimes he considered them “little brothers.”
Timothy Weeks said Afghanistan “is now part of my life” and “any way I can help the people and the peace process is now one of my number one goals.”
Timothy Weeks and his colleague were swapped in exchange for Taliban prisoners held at Bagram airbase. The Taliban were always telling them that their release was near. However the Taliban never took them out of their chains. Weeks says that the day when they saw the chains removed from their hands and legs, they became hopeful of freedom. Weeks said that the guards were always talking in local languages, but in the moments leading up his and King’s release, all the guards started speaking good English.
Weeks said he has no animosity against his captors : “I have no animosity against them at all, because they are soldiers and soldiers don’t get the choice.”
End of a nightmare
And so, after three-and-a-half years, Timothy Weeks found himself in the open air, in the sun, and that frightening nightmare had finally ended.
Sadly, when he returned home and rejoined his family, his mother was not there to greet him. She died months after his abduction.
Timothy Weeks’ family has called on the media to let them alone for a while. Now it seems that the happy days are again knocking at their door.
Timothy Weeks’ sisters Alyssa Carter and Jo Carter are happy to see their brother return home.
Alyssa and Jo at first knew little about Afghanistan, but after Timothy’s abduction, they started researching the country.
Jo said they got a phone call at 3:00 am and she was very excited after hearing the news of his release.
Timothy Weeks said his life is now tied together with Afghanistan since his ordeal, and he is now focused on Afghanistan and hopes peace will come to the country. He wants to educate its youth.
Weeks says the last three years have connected his life with Afghanistan, and he wants to help the peace process in some way, and educate more youth.
The Australian professor has opened a new Twitter account for peace in Afghanistan-- @AfghanistanSola--and wants to focus his efforts in this area. He says his family is very afraid of his return to the country, but he says for him, the fear went a long time ago.
When Weeks arrived home, bushfires had broken out on the outskirts of Sydney, affecting the city’s air. But this doesn't stop him from sitting on the balcony of his sister’s house. The air is hazardous due to the bushfires, but he says he inhales freedom, if not the clean air.