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Aid worker stands accused in Afghanistan

Family says 'she was there to help them'

Tilden Curry
Tilden Curry of Brentwood, Tennessee, says the U.S. State Department says it's doing all it can for his daughter, Dayna, and other aid workers being held in Afghanistan.  

By Larry Woods

BRENTWOOD, Tennessee (CNN) -- Tilden Curry, pensive and worried, devours every bit of information he can get about the fate of his 29-year-old daughter, Dayna.

Along with seven other Western relief workers -- and 16 Afghan aid workers -- she has been accused by Afghanistan's Taliban leaders of trying to convert Muslims to Christianity, a violation of Taliban law. If the aid workers are found guilty, they could face a possible death penalty.

"I don't think she ever thought she was doing anything inappropriate," Curry says. "She's not that type of person. She loved Afghan people and she was there to help them ... Surely they wouldn't do that for such a minor offense -- even if it were an offense."

CNN's Larry Woods reports on the concern of a family fearing for the safety of their daughter jailed in Afghanistan (September 22)

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Curry and his second wife, Sue Fuller, along with Dayna's mother Nancy Cassell, who is in Pakistan, are clinging to United States State Department assurances that everything possible is being done to free the group.

"I heard that maybe the trial had been reconvened so I'm very hopeful they'll go ahead and finish that and release them soon afterward," Curry says.

Curry, a quiet, introspective man who tries to shield his emotions, admits he fears he may never see his daughter again. All he and his family can do is wait and hope.

Dayna Curry, a smiling, friendly teenager, grew up in the suburbs of Nashville where she attended an upscale high school.

In 1989, the pretty, devoutly religious senior graduated from Brentwood High School in Tennessee. Friends and teachers say they remember her as an average student who blended in with the crowd.

Steve Czirr, a local fireman who met Dayna in the ninth grade, recalls her as sort of the girl-next-door and says her sights after graduation seemed set on helping others.

"Hopefully she knew the risks she was facing when she went over there," Czirr says. "I do feel for her and I hope they get her back, definitely. We're here to save lives ourselves and we don't ever want to see anybody perish."

Her family says that what she was doing before her arrest last month was helping feed and educate the poor in war-ravaged Afghanistan through the efforts of Shelter Now International.

"She always kind of knew in the back of her mind there was an imminent danger but she never wanted that to deter her, because she believed in what she was doing," says her brother, Clay Curry.

Before the September 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the Currys received word that Dayna was all right. "As far as being in prison she thought the conditions were pretty good," her father says. "They had a small room and they could all lie down ... had a courtyard they could exercise in, and thought the food was good and they were being treated very well."

Dayna Curry's family says she's an aid worker with Shelter Now International  in Afghanistan.
Dayna Curry's family says she's an aid worker with Shelter Now International in Afghanistan.  

Despite the favorable conditions, Sue Fuller says she knew her stepdaughter was concerned about the situation.

"I think emotionally she's probably afraid a lot," Fuller says. "We're all afraid of the unknown. But I know she has this inner strength."

And if Tilden Curry could get a message to his daughter, or her captors, what would he say?

"Well of course...'We love her, we miss her, we want her home.'"

• American Red Cross
• Federal Emergency Management Agency
• Shelter Now International
• U.S. State Department Travel Warnings and Consular Information Sheets

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