Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Free The Hikers

"Then the righteous will answer him and say, 'Lord, when did we see you... in prison and visit you?' The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'" ~Matthew 25:37-40

A year ago it was in the news. And from time to time in the course of this past year there were reminders that the situation was unresolved, but for the most part, there is so much going on in the world that it is easy to forget. I am referring to the three hikers who accidentally wandered across the Iranian border, and were shuttled off to prison.

"What were they doing there?" many Americans probably asked themselves, and then went on with their lives. The families of these three young people, however, have been permanently altered.

Aside: My own daughter, though only 21, has been to Europe three times. We live in an era where travel to exotic places is easy and affordable. But as parents, even when things seem safe we still have a measure of anxiety. I tend to be that way anyways and do not think myself totally alone in that. When my daughter went to Scotland and Italy a few years back I got myself a passport as well, "just in case." In short, I understand in a small measure the helplessness a parent must feel in this kind of situation, which is why I am writing about this story today and tomorrow.

As regards real events, the information was sketchy at that time. According to the State Department and the families of the hikers, the three young people -- Shane Bauer, Joshua Fattal and Sarah Shourd -- were vacationing in a mountainous resort area in Northern Iraq, accidentally straying across some unmarked frontier only to be snatched in the disputed territory on July 31.

But according to an article in The Nation, the Iranians came across the border, nabbed them and trundled them away to prison. The silence of Iranian officials has led many to believe they are simply pawns in a much larger political stand-off.

In a Philadelphia Inquirer story this week Michael Matza reminds us that it has now been a year since the hikers were whisked away, and a harrowing year it has been for the parents who have had limited to no information about what will happen next or when. Two months ago the mothers were able to visit their children in Evin Prison in Tehran, but attempts to move the Iranian into negotiations for their release came up empty.

This weekend there will be organized protests in a number of locations around the country to mark the one year anniversary of their seizure. The mothers will fly to New York for a protest in front of the Iranian Embassy. Here in Duluth, where Shane Bauer's younger sister is in school, there will be the two events outlined below.

DULUTH 'WAITS' FOR SHANE, SARAH AND JOSH: BENEFIT CONCERT
WEEKEND OF ACTION PART 1
Thursday at Pizza Luce

Featuring:

Bill and Kate Isles
Tony Bennett
Dave Mehling
Coyote
James Moors
Charity Huot
The Tico Three
Rachael Kilgour
Tha Marc Anderson Trio
Jim Hall

performing their favorite songs by Tom Waits and other musicians, a raffle with items donated by local artists, musicians, writers.

Ticket Price: $10

*Please RSVP & invite friends to DULUTH WEEKEND OF ACTION PART 2
http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=109030052482542
....
THEN ON SATURDAY...
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Location Lakewalk, Lake Superior
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DULUTH, MN: ONE YEAR UNJUSTLY DETAINED WEEKEND OF ACTION PART 2

*This event will begin with a walk on the Lakewalk along Lake Superior. The crowd will be joined by Duluth mayor, Don Ness, and MN Senator, Al Franken.

*Benefit will officially start at 2:30 at The Duluth Playground.

*We will be showing Shane's documentary on Darfur.

*We will have TONS of sweet gear for auction/raffle items: Granite Gear, Big Agnes, Osprey Packs, Cascade Designs, among others are donating silent auction items.


Here is some additional information from Freethehikers.org:

Iranian forces detained Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd and Josh Fattal on July 31, 2009 while they were enjoying a recreational hike in the mountains of Iraqi Kurdistan. There are conflicting news reports about whether they strayed across the poorly marked border by mistake or Iranian forces entered Iraq to arrest them.

The three young Americans, all graduates of the University of California at Berkeley, are being held in Evin Prison in Tehran. Sarah is in solitary confinement and is able to meet for only two 30-minute periods each day with Shane (her fiancé) and Josh, who share a cell. On May 20, their mothers traveled to Iran to visit them but were allowed to stay for only two days. They have been able to telephone their families only once, on March 9, and have been denied access to their lawyer. No charge against them has been presented in a court of law.

Shane, Sarah and Josh care greatly about our world and have a documented record as advocates for social and environmental justice. They admire and respect different cultures and religions and share a love of travel that has taken them to many countries. That is why they went to Kurdistan, not because they wanted to enter Iran.

Their protracted detention without due process is illegal according to international and Iranian law and must end immediately. It is widely acknowledged that they are being held for political purposes that have nothing to do with the facts of their case. Their detention is arbitrary and inhumane and we call on the Iranian authorities to release them without further delay.

TO BE CONTINUED

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