iran hikers.ap.jpg
American hikers Shane Bauer, Josh Fattal, and Sarah Shourd wait to see their mothers at the Esteghlal Hotel in Tehran, in May. (AP/Press TV)

Three hikers in Iran, one year on

By Joel Simon/Executive Director on July 27, 2010 3:27 PM ET

On July 30, three American hikers in Iran will have endured an entire year in custody, held without charge or a modicum of due process. This is obviously a terrible injustice, so much so that it surprises me when I mention their situation to skeptical friends or colleagues who believe that the three were foolish to hike along the Iranian border and should have anticipated the consequences.

Let me clear from the outset, as I have in previous posts. This is not a press freedom issue per se because the hikers—only one of whom is a journalist—were not on a reporting trip when they apparently strayed across the Iranian border while hiking in Iraqi Kurdistan (The Nation reports that they may have been captured in Iraq by Iranian agents).

Yet CPJ has spoken up to affirm Shane Bauer’s journalistic credentials because, regardless of the circumstances, a professional colleague has been unjustly detained. The other two hikers are Sarah Shourd, 31, who taught English and lived with Shane in Damascus who and their friend, Josh Fattal, 28, an environmentalist they knew from college who had joined them for vacation.

Shane was a correspondent for New America Media (NAM), whose editor, Sandy Close, gave me my start in journalism. NAM, which started as Pacific News Service (PNS), is a unique media operation made up of a network of independent freelancers around the world. I covered Mexico and Central America for PNS back in the late 1980s and early 1990s. My assignment was to keep my eyes open, talk to as many people as I could, and file when I came across a good story.

Of course Sandy’s idea of a good story was different from most editors—she wasn’t particularly interested in politicians and diplomats, she wanted new and unconventional perspectives reported at ground level. You could never take Sandy for granted. If you filed a story that matched The New York Times she was unimpressed. Four rewrites were par for the course.

What this meant was that I was never off duty. I might come across a story while vacationing at the beach, or while hiking up a volcano, or while watching a parade. And I took some chances to see new things and meet people who were not talking to the big-time correspondents. Nothing too terrible happened to me, but it could have.

Shane and his friends decided to take a vacation in Iraqi Kurdistan, an unconventional destination to some but only a moderately adventurous undertaking for someone living in Damascus. Shane took his camera, and Sandy says she had an understanding that he would file a story if he came across anything interesting.

Of course, he’s got a hell of a story now, but he’s also got a major problem communicating with the rest of the world. But the point is this: I understand and identify with the spirit of adventure that led Shane and his friends to take some chances and obviously make some bad decisions. I could certainly envision a scenario where I might find myself in the same situation.

I hope the perception that the hikers made some bad decisions does not blunt our sympathy and concern for three young people who have now become pawns of a cynical and corrupt regime. I know the families have struggled to keep their children’s fate in the public eye. I hope that a year of cruel injustice will spark additional interest, concern, and increasing demands for Iran to end this charade and let the hikers come home.


Seems to me your thinking with a one-track mind, you think it's an injustice for the Iranians to hold a few Americans? Then tell me what you think about the Iranians in U.S custody at the moment? Do you even know about them? Do you think they should also be sent home to Iran? Why don't you write a piece about them as well? Or don't you care about Iranians? Seems to me you have a few injustices here, and Iran is not the problem - it's US-Iranian relations, and if your an American, you shouldn't be talking to us about corruption - your entire foreign policy is corrupt.

Iranian Journalist. July 27, 2010 4:14:45 PM ET

CPJ has consistently advocated for the release of the dozens of journalists jailed in Iran, all of them Iranian (we don't include Shane Bauer because he was not jailed for his work as a journalist). This is the focus of our advocacy.

Lauren Wolfe/CPJ Senior Editor July 28, 2010 2:43:09 PM ET

There is Iran and its Iranian population and
then there is Islamic Republic. These 2 don't
have much in common,with the exception that Islamic Republic paid mercenaries speak farsi
(&many of them within the riot police &militia
don't as thy are Arabs). Since its inception this mafia savage regime has not spoken even 1
word(I am not exaggerating, I mean LITERALLY
even ONE word)that wasn't a lie.If they say
that now sun is shining I will go to bed as I
know that it is night. Any one who attempts to
divert the attention from brutality of this
regime to other issues such as USA foreign
policy or other stuff in the world(good or bad)is either direct or indirect on the payroll of the regime or if not has for sure
lost his/her brain frontal lobe.This regime is
the mother of ALL terrorism in the world and
if american public ignores this will regret it
heavily in the future as through this regime
world terrorism flourishes. Put pressure on
your represantatives to support Iranian people
by easing sattelite internet connection and
good tv/radio stations, boycott all oil export
Iranian people then will get rid of this PEST
on its own if the world cuts their for profit
relatins with these animals that kill for fun

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