Iran Has Detained Three Americans for a Year
On July 31st of 2009, three American activists were detained near the Iran/Iraq border by Iranian forces while on a hiking trip through Iraqi Kurdistan. Iran claims to have picked the three Berkley grads on its own side of the border, while The Nation – not in the habit of intentionally whipping up anti-Iranian fervor, and holding an impressive track record of accuracy for an American magazine of political commentary – now reports that witnesses from a nearby village claim to have seen the three hikers being arrested on the Iraqi side of the border.
Regardless of whether or not the Iranians crossed into Iraq or whether the hikers mistakenly crossed a mile or two into Iran somewhere along the poorly-marked border, the Iranian regime has quite clearly been using these three detainees as chips in its high-stakes poker game with the U.S. and other of its international adversaries. The hikers are being accused of espionage, presumably on behalf of the CIA or NSA; and although both the U.S. and Israel are known to engage in espionage against Iran, the details of this particular case would not seem to indicate that these particular graduates of a distinctly anti-CIA educational institution were working on behalf of the perceived imperialistic interests of the U.S., Israel, or both. Detainee Sarah Shroud taught Iraqi refugees in Damascus and otherwise spent her time advocating on behalf of the reasonable aspirations of various oppressed Arab groups; one article she wrote for a left-leaning online media outlet – entitled “Families Shout Their Love Across Minefields in Golan Heights” – is particularly non-indicative of someone in the planning stages of some daring espionage action in service to the U.S. intelligence community. Another of the hikers is an acquaintance of one of my top associates with Project PM, who summed up his experiences with the fellow to me thusly: “If he was under cover, it was a damned good cover.”
What we have here, then, is a case of three American activists who are not only clearly innocent of espionage, but who have actually done more than their part to improve relations between the U.S. and the Muslim world during a low point in that volatile relationship. These are the three individuals whom the Iranian regime have chosen to use as pawns in an attempt to score public relations points against the U.S., among other things; that the Iranian government has proposed a prisoner swap indicates that its more ambitious goal is to buy back its own operatives with the espionage equivalent of counterfeit currency.
It is all well and good to know of some injustice perpetrated by a far-away theocracy, but in order to provide these three noble young people with a better chance at eventual liberty, it is necessary to bring further attention to this ongoing incident so that those of our own representatives with the means to act will be compelled to do so. This Friday – the first anniversary of the hikers’ detention by Iranian forces – friends and family of the three Americans will be holding a rally in New York in an effort to prompt firmer action on behalf of Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd, and Josh Fattal, who have languished in an Iranian prison for a year and who will continue to do so until such time as the Obama Administration steps up to the plate and does everything in its power to secure the liberty of three American citizens who’ve found themselves abducted by a theocratic and criminal regime.