Friday, July 1, 2011

After Near Two Years It Is Time to Free the Hikers

As I was reflecting on our summer events schedule I recalled to mind that at some point in late July last year having participated in a small demonstration on behalf of the three hikers who had been arrested and imprisoned in Iran one year before. It is believed that they were not even on the Iran side of the border, but most certainly if they had inadvertently trespassed it was without ill will. Duluth Mayor Don Ness was present, as were members of the Shane Bauer family and Senator Al Franken.

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. One thing certain, our geography maps in school have very defined lines where one country ends and another begins, and usually the countries are different colors. It is most unfortunate that such definition was absent for Shane, Sarah and Josh.

If you have been following the story, Sarah Shourd was ultimately released on $500,000 bail last fall, due primarily to health concerns. Once free she began campaigning for the release of her fiance Shane and friend Josh.

This week I was notified by a friend of Shane's mom that a trial date had been set. Interestingly enough, the date coincides with the second anniversary of the hikers' arrest and detention. Here's the story from UPI.

TEHRAN, June 20 (UPI) -- The trial of two American hikers who strayed into Iran from Iraqi Kurdistan will begin on the second anniversary of their arrest, their lawyer said.

"I've just received an official notification that says the ... trial will be on July 31 in the morning, which is exactly the anniversary of their arrest in the Iran-Iraq border two years ago," attorney Massoud Shafii said in a Los Angeles Times report Monday.

Read more.

Think of all the things that have happened in your life this past twelve months. Now go back yet another year to July 2009. Two years of life experience have been stolen from these kids. My prayer is that something inside them will have added a depth and power to their lives that makes the years which follow significant. Undoubtedly this kind of experience makes a life changing impact.

We take our freedom for granted. For a brief space of time today let's remember these young men as they approach the end of a second year in Iranian captivity.

EdNote: The image at top was created for last year's memorial... do not think it is still but one year. Sadly we approach two. It really is time to free the hikers.

Lower right: In May I ran into Senator Franken at the Minneapolis airport while I was on my way to Denver. Though all smiles for this photo, we talked in more serious tones about Shane and Josh.

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