Heather Mercer

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Heather Mercer (born 1977) is an American aid worker. She was one of eight aid workers on trial in Afghanistan. She was held captive until anti-Taliban forces freed her in November, 2001.[1]

Early life[edit]

In 1995, Mercer graduated from James Madison High School in Vienna, Virginia, where she was a track captain.

After high school, Mercer attended Baylor University, where she majored in German.

Afghan trial[edit]

Mercer arrived in Afghanistan in March 2001. She and another American, Dayna Curry, were working for a German-based aid group called Shelter Now International.

On August 3, 2001, the Taliban arrested the two women. [2] After their arrest, the Taliban raided the group's offices and arrested the six other aid workers that Mercer and Curry were teamed up with.

Their trial began on September 1, 2001. On September 13 the trial was suspended and relatives of the detained aid workers were ordered to leave the country. The trial resumed on September 30. On October 6, the Taliban made an offer to release Mercer and Curry, if the United States stopped its military action against Afghanistan. During her captivity, she met the British journalist Yvonne Ridley, who was arrested near the Pakistan border and brought to the same prison in Kabul. Yvonne Ridley informed her about 11 September and the subsequent military actions against the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. On November 15, the women, along with the six other imprisoned aid workers, were freed from prison by anti-Taliban forces and flown to safety in Islamabad, Pakistan.[3]

After their release, and upon their return to the U.S., Mercer and Curry met with President George W. Bush at the White House on November 26, 2001.[4]


In 2003, Mercer returned to Iraq to serve Muslims. In 2008, she founded Global Hope—a nonprofit organization that serves in the Middle East. Global Hope provides customized services after it meets with individual families and local leaders to determine specific needs. This has included delivering necessities to building a community center. Global Hope was asked to establish a permanent presence in Iraq by a Kurdish Governor. To fulfill this request, Global Hope is building the Freedom Center, a 25,000-square-foot (2,300 m2) multipurpose facility that will include an Internet café, playground, coffee shop and classrooms. The Freedom Center is currently under construction.