September 27, 2011

Hikers Come Home

Three hikers released from Iranian prison are talking about their experience.

Shelby: The American hikers released from an Iranian prison are back on U.S. soil. For the first time, Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal described their two-year nightmare to the public.

“Many times, too many times, we heard the screams of other prisoners being beaten and there was nothing we could do to help them. “

Shelby: They spent 781 days in what they called ‘almost complete isolation’. Their cells were about the size of the storage area in a mid-range U-Haul truck, just eight-by-thirteen feet. They were held here in Iran’s notorious Evin Prison.

It all began in 2009 when the two men, along with Sarah Shourd, were hiking near the Iran-Iraq border. Iranian authorities arrested the three hikers, saying they had entered Iran illegally, accusing them of spying. Shourd was released from prison last year for medical reasons after paying a $500,000 bail. Bauer and Fattal were sentenced to eight years in prison, but the countries of Switzerland and Oman secured the two men’s release last week after paying a total bail of $1 million.

“This was never about crossing the unmarked border between Iran and Iraq. We were held because of our nationality. No evidence was ever presented against us.”

Shelby: The hikers still do not know for sure if they even crossed into Iran two years ago. The pair called themselves hostages and referred to Iran’s government as cruel. Bauer called for Iran to release all political prisoners.

“There are people in Iran who are imprisoned for years simply for attending a protest, for writing a pro-democracy blog or worse, for having an unpopular faith. Journalists remain behind bars and innocent people have been executed.”

Shelby: Their families told the media that the two men made a routine for themselves in prison. They read and discussed books, used water bottles as weights and quizzed each other on tough subjects. They kept this up so they could stay both physically and mentally fit. Even so, the hikers said their jailers played mind games, like telling them their families stopped writing letters. But Josh Fattal’s mother said she wrote one letter every day her son was imprisoned.

“Sarah, Josh and I have experienced a taste of the Iranian regime’s brutality. We have been held in almost total isolation from the world and everything we love, stripped of our rights and freedom.”

Shelby: It was the little things, too. Josh Fattal’s mother recounted a conversation with her son right after his release.

“He said, “Mom, I hadn’t heard music in two years.” But can you imagine not hearing music in two years? Music out of a radio or out of a CD player, such simple things were not known to him.”

Shelby: Shourd and Bauer became engaged in prison, but no wedding date has been set just yet.

“The moment that we saw Shane and Josh running down those stairs of that plane, a huge burden was lifted off all of our chest. And I feel more free than I’ve ever felt in my life.”

Shelby: Shelby Holliday, Channel One News.


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