‘My Husband Will Never Safely Return Home’
American Warren Weinstein was kidnapped from his home in Pakistan four days before his departure date. With the news of his death made public on Thursday, his family now has to accept he will never come home.
Warren Weinstein spent seven years working in Pakistan, and cared for the country and its people so deeply that when he returned to the United States on vacation, he encouraged his friends to come and visit.
“He would tell people what a wonderful place it was, how warm the people were, how many things there were to see,” his daughter Alisa said in an interview with CNN in August.
But the same country where Weinstein dedicated himself to improving the economic sector as a private contractor for USAID is where he was killed as a hostage, the White House announced Thursday.
He was kidnapped on August 13, 2011, when gunmen invaded his temporary home in Lahore, Pakistan. He was scheduled to fly home to the States four days later, but never made it back.
American drone strikes targeting al Qaeda operatives on the Afghan-Pakistani border in January accidentally killed Weinstein and Giovanni Lo Porto, an Italian held by the group since 2012. The White House said they had “no reason to believe either hostage was present.”
In a statement released by the family Thursday, Weinstein’s wife Elaine said “we are devastated by this news and the knowledge that my husband will never safely return home.”
Weinstein, 74, had not been heard from since December 2013, when he appeared in a video wearing a track jacket and black beanie, pleading for U.S. assistance.
“Now, when I need my government, it seems that I have been totally abandoned,” he said.
In that video, the same clean-shaven man who in family photos had smiled alongside his wife, children, and grandchildren appeared bearded and haggard, and was missing a tooth. “I have been suffering deep anxiety every part of every day,” he said, his shaky words only proving that his condition was worsening. He suffered from asthma and heart problems, which added to his family’s worries.
The details surrounding Weinstein’s capture remained blurry even to his family. In the same interview with CNN in August, Elaine said all she knew about the attack that took him away from his guarded home in Lahore was what she “read in the papers.”
As a hostage, he became a bartering chip for al Qaeda, which tried to negotiate a swap with the Obama administration for terror operatives held by the U.S. in exchange for Weinstein.
His wife and adult daughters appeared on CNN and other news outlets on the third anniversary of their father’s kidnapping after al Qaeda contacted them saying their silence would result in Weinstein’s death.
“Your continued silence on the inaction of your government will only lead to your prisoner dying a lonely death in prison after this deliberate and prolonged neglect on the part of your government,” the al Qaeda statement said. “Therefore, if you want Warren Weinstein to be released, do whatever you can to pressurize (sic) your government.”
His family, clearly under distress, said then they could only put faith in the U.S. government and “believe what they tell us.”
“We’re just normal American citizens,” Elaine Weinstein said during the August interview on CNN. “We don’t have any special ‘ins’ with our government. My husband is a development worker; he has no pull with anybody; we have no pull with anybody.”
But in the family statement released Thursday, his wife did lash out against the Obama administration’s failure to prioritize her husband’s release. Elaine Weinstein thanked the FBI and three officials in Congress for their commitment to the case, but said assistance from the government as a whole was spotty at best.
“Unfortunately, the assistance we received from other elements of the U.S. government was inconsistent and disappointing over the course of three and a half years,” Elaine Weinstein said in the statement.
Until the very end, Weinstein’s family believed he would come home. In a 2014 interview with Al Jazeera, Elaine said that hope kept her going each day.
“If I don’t have hope, I won’t get up in the morning,” she said. “Just like I got a phone call to hear he was taken, I’ll get a phone call to hear he was freed.”
Sadly, that call never came. Through a spokesman, his family declined to be interviewed for this story.
Photo Courtesy of Weinstein Family