The notion that three American hikers could innocently
wander across the border from Iraqi Kurdistan into Iran has elicited some
understandable skepticism. But a statement from their friend who stayed behind
in his hotel because he was ill helps explain how the situation unfolded.
Shon Meckfessel, whose statement is here, traveled
with his friends Shane Bauer, Sarah
Shourd, and Josh Fattal to Kurdistan on
vacation. That may sound odd, but actually this is a beautiful and relatively
safe region where Americans are welcome. You also have to keep in mind that
Shane was a journalist and correspondent based in Damascus, Syria.
He told his editor, Sandy Close at New America Media, that he was interested in
covering the post-election events in the region.
Shane and his companions--all of whom had an interest in
writing or photography--may have documented what they observed in Kurdistan, but the hike that apparently took them across
the Iranian border was solely recreational, according to Shon's statement. One
of CPJ's researchers is from the region where the three were hiking and told me
that the border is not clearly marked.
There is no evidence that that the three hikers were
pursuing journalism when they were detained, but it is important to reiterate
that they were in the region as journalists and writers and that Shane was
accomplished reporter with some prominent bylines. CPJ's goal is speaking
publicly about the case is simply to make this point as clearly as we can, to
dispel the obvious and mounting concern that the Iranians may view them as