American Hikers Hostage in Iran

Sydney Berger

On July 31, 2009 Sarah Shourd, fiancé Shane Bauer, and Josh Fattal were on a hiking trip and crossed an unmarked Iranian border. The three are humanitarian workers who each worked in different fields.  Shourd was teaching English to Iraqi and Palestinian refugees, Fattah was an environmental teacher, and Bauer was a journalist.  Damascus, Syria was where Shourd and Bauer were living before the arrest and detainment.  According to Shourd, the hikers were unaware that they had indeed crossed into the border, since it was indistinguishable.  They were then detained in the Kurdistan region of Iran (the area they had strayed into) at  Tehran’s Evin Prison in Iran.  Shourd, 32, Bauer 28, and Fattal 28, were all accused of spying and were held there for 410 days.  However, on Tuesday September 14, 2010, Shourd was released from Tehran’s Evin Prison and traveled to Oman (the country that had secured her release), where she was able to enjoy her newly found freedom.  According to CNN, “Shourd was released due to the fact that Iranian doctors thought she had a lump on her breast. […] [And were worried since she] had a pre-existing gynecological problem […] her attorney Masoud Shafii said earlier.”  The reason people even knew of her lump was because she had told her mother during their only visit together, the spokeswoman for the hikers’ families told CNN.  Shourd’s bail was for the sum of $500,000 and was paid for by Omani sources.  This is the reason why once released from the prison, she traveled to Oman and stayed there for a few days.

On Sunday September 19, 2010 Shourd arrived in the US after a flight from Dubai to Washington Dulles International Airport where she reunited with her family.  They then drove up to New York so she could conduct an interview that Sunday night.  In the interview, Shourd talked about how thankful she was to the Omani government, and how she is going to do everything in her power to get Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal released.  The two men, Bauer and Fattal, are still in Tehran’s Evin Prison.  The official Islamic Republic News Agency reports that Bauer and Fattal have had their sentence extended by two months.  This is probably caused by Shroud’s early release.

CNN reported that Ahmadinejad (sixth and current President of the Islamic Republic of Iran) told the ABC program “This Week” that his ability to free Bauer and Fattal was limited, and that they will have to face Iranian justice for illegally entering his country.  Also, the release of Shourd was a humanitarian gesture.  Secretary of State Hillary Clinton followed Ahmadinejad on the program and she called for Iran to also release Bauer and Fattal as well as gave her relief that Shourd was back in the US and safe.

Hopefully Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal will be released and there will be a happy reunion for all three in the upcoming months.

I decided to go to the Harriton student body and see what others views were on this issue so I interviewed Sophomores Jessi Silvermann and Cassie Seltzer:

Question: Do you think the hikers should have been detained?

Seltzer: Well, of course I don’t think they should have been detained, because [being detained for that long of a period is] slightly excessive for a mistake.

Silvermann: I don’t think they should have been detained.  I think the country had a right to question them and possibly kick them out without passports or whatever they legally needed to get into Iraq, […] [however] it does not sound like there was any evidence to point out that they were spies.

Question: Do you think Sarah Shourd should have been released without Fattal and Bauer?

Seltzer: She had a legitimate medical reason, so she definitely should have. [T]hey also should have been released but it wasn’t nearly as urgent.

Silvermann: Because I don’t think they should have been detained in the first place, I think they should all three be released.

Question: Do you think the Iraq/Iran border should have been better marked?

Seltzer: I think if they knew they were in Iran, than I definitely suggest a warning or a one-day detainment.  But since they did not know they did not need a year’s detainment.

Silvermann: Yes.

Question: Do you think it is all right that they have been detained for over a year and have only seen their families once?

Seltzer: Nope.

Silvermann: No of course not! But I don’t think they should have been detained in the first place.