UPDATE: Iran Hiker Sarah Shourd Released From Prison
Sarah Shourd was released from prison in Iran on humanitarian grounds September 14, 2010. She is now working to help secure the release of fellow hikers Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal, who remain imprisoned and await a possible trial.
In August 2009, a hiking trip allegedly landed three young Americans on the wrong side of the Iranian border, where they were captured and detained by Iranian authorities. Almost a year later, they remain in isolation.
Last August a hiking trip landed three young Americans on the wrong side of the Iranian border, where they were captured and detained by Iranian authorities. Almost a year later, they remain in isolation.
Nora Shourd, mother to one of the detained hikers, shared this account on PulseWire to urge World Pulse members to join the campaign for their release. Here’s what she had to say about how you can get involved.
My daughter Sarah Shourd and her partner Shane Bauer, along with their friend Josh Fattal, have been incarcerated in the notorious Evin prison in Iran for more than 10 months now; 312 long and difficult days as I write this story.
Sarah and Shane moved to the Middle East in August 2008 with the clear intent to expand their activist lives by living in and writing from a part of the world perceived by many in their own country as a place to be feared, as a place where people are somehow different, a place which is not well understood in the West. Sarah felt a strong need to 'give back' and chose to work with Iraqi refugees who were stranded in Damascus, Syria after the US occupation of Iraq. Shane is an independent journalist who wrote from Yemen, Iraq and Syria about the effects of US policy in the region and who strove to break down barriers of disinformation through his work.
Since their capture by Iranian authorities last August, Sarah, Shane, and Josh have been held in virtual isolation from the outside world.
We had one brief phone call with them; our Iranian lawyer hired in December has not been allowed access to his clients; the Swiss Protectorate has been granted three consular visits. Meanwhile Sarah remains in solitary confinement seeing the other two only briefly each day.
When I and the other mothers were issued two-day visas to visit our children in Tehran last month, our biggest hope was to bring them home with us, to persuade the authorities there to just let them go. We had tried to prepare ourselves emotionally for the shock of seeing them and holding them and then letting them go again but it wasn't possible. It was the two most intense emotional days of my life.
When we first saw them, our children had no idea they would be seeing us, and they were in shock. Much of what they hear day to day from their captors is false information and they have become accustomed to this.
One of our primary intentions was to paint for them a complex picture of everything that has been going on since they've been detained: the politcal situation that is keeping them there; the enormous efforts we have made on their behalf by our campaign; all the news in our families and from their friends and supporters. We wanted them to be filled up with hope. After being so isolated in Evin, it took a while for the telling and longer for it all to sink in. But sink in it did, and by the second day, you could see the change in their faces that we hope will carry them through.
The Iranian government tells us "it’s in the hands of the judiciary" but we know these young people are being used as political collateral in a game played by both Iran and the US.
You can help Sarah, Shane, and Josh by spreading the story of who they really are. The inherent irony to their prolonged detention is that, not only are they innocent, but their personal political ideals, writing, and activism are not entirely out of synch with their captors. They are for a free Palestine; they marched in the streets of Damascus with their Syrian friends when they heard about the bombing in Gaza; they have a long history of direct action against the US occupation in Iraq and the effects of US foreign policy in the Middle East. There is no reason to hold them except for political gain.
I try to speak in Sarah's voice because she can't. Sarah would be speaking out loudly in her strongest voice against the human rights violations under which they are being held; about the injustice of detention for other political prisoners; against the recent murders of the aid workers on the Freedom flotilla to Gaza.
I see her in my mind walking out of prison, free to pick up her life again—a life so intertwined with the lives of women just like her everywhere. I see her shining a light on injustice where it hides, sometimes in a lonely prison cell.
Please visit freethehikers.org to learn more about Sarah, Shane, and Josh and spread the word about these three extraordinary and idealistic individuals. I also urge you to take direct action to petition authorities to release them on human rights grounds.
Here are a few ways that you can help:
Sign a petition for their release, which will be delivered to the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Mission to the United Nations.
Write a letter to President Ahmadinejad and Chief of the Judiciary Sadegh Larijani calling for the Hikers’ release.
Let the US government know that you care about Shane, Sarah, and Josh and encourage your Congressional representatives to get involved in efforts to secure their release.
Show your support by writing Shane, Sarah, and Josh brief messages on a postcard, sending love, strength and good wishes to help ease their isolation.