Published on September 21st, 2011 | by Mace & Crown Administrator1
Freedom for U.S. Hikers
Written By: Janah Stokes, Staff Writer.
Two years ago on July 31, 2009, three U.S. citizens were detained by Iranian officials. According to BBC News, “they hiked across a poorly-demarcated border by mistake.”
The hikers were accused of illegally crossing the Iraq border into Iran and also for being spies. The three hikers were sent to Iran’s Ervin Prison in Tehran, which is known for allegations of torture. CNN reported the names of the three hikers who are also friends, Shane Bauer, Josh Fattal and Sarah Shourd. Bauer and Shourd are in their late twenties and were living in the Syrian capital of Damascus for about a year. Bauer was a freelance journalist and Shourd studied Arabic and taught English. Fattal (also in his late twenties) was an environmentalist who came to visit Bauer and Shourd.
According to CNN, the three University of California-Berkeley graduates planned their hiking trip a good distance from battles ranging in various areas in Iraq. Not far into their journey, Iranian officials imprisoned them. The families of the hikers were going to keep a low profile but the situation changed once Iran began to neglect them with information about their love ones.
The following March, the families spoke out on behalf of the hikers and claimed that they crossed the border by accident as it was unmarked. In May 2010, CNN spent time with the mothers of the hikers and reported on their attitudes of pure anguish toward the entire circumstance.
“These are our children and there’s nothing quite as anguishing as thinking about your kids in prison in a country so far away and being unable to help them,” said Nora Shourd. Later that summer in July 2010, the mothers traveled to Tehran, the capital of Iran, to see their children. They found that the three hikers had been treated well. During that same month, Hillary Clinton spoke out about the imprisonment of the hikers and declared their freedom. In mid-September 2010, Sarah Shourd was freed because of medical conditions on a $500,000 bond, however she was still subject to spying charges. After her release, Shourd wrote that she loves the Middle East and respects Muslim culture and openly blamed the poor relationship between the U.S. and Iran for her lock up.
Claimed by CNN’s Ashley Fantz, Sarah Shourd met with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad while he was in New York and told him that she has no animosity towards him or the government. She also made a personal plea for him to free her friends.
July 2011 marked two years for the imprisonment of Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal. Within the two years of their detainment, the men have only been able to make three phone calls to their families. In August 2011, the two were sentenced to eight years in prison for illegally going into Iran and spying.
On Sept. 13, 2011, President Ahmadinejad told NBC’s “Today” that the two men will be released on humanitarian grounds soon. President Ahmadinejad also said that he hopes the move will “solve problems.” With the men still on trial, their family still must raise millions for bail.
The question that raised the most concern to some Old Dominion students is, were the hikers really spies?
Keshaun Pearson who is a Senior IT Network Engineering & Business major, was very avid about the situation. When asked the question, “do you think they were really spies or just honestly hiking, he replied, “I don’t think they were spies. The Iranian President is very paranoid and speculative about everything. If they were spies they would have been freed by unknown forces.” He also expressed the consequences of what would happen if Iran reneged on their promise to release the U.S citizens.
“If they don’t release them they face possible U.N. action, U.S. social media propaganda about the lack of consideration, and proper protocol.”
Another student who was interviewed wasn’t that in tune about the freedom of the hikers but still conveyed her feelings. Amber Parker, who is a junior and English major at ODU, feels that it was probably an honest mistake on behalf of the hikers.
“If it was the other way around, America would have done the same thing. If Iran releases them, America needs to release some of their prisoners for Iran,” said Parker.
The official release date of the hikers has not been determined. On Sept. 12, President Ahmadinejad said in a statement that the two prisoners would be released in a “few days as a unilateral humanitarian gesture ”, however Iran’s judiciary seems to think otherwise.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei immediately rebuked the statement made by President Ahmadinejad possibly showing a current power struggle within Iran’s political system.
[UPDATED AT 1:35 P.M]
Two American hikers were released from Iranian prison on Wednesday. Their plane has left Tehran and is en route to Oman.
Photo from GOOGLE.COM