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Interview: Mothers Say U.S. Hikers' Yearlong Detention 'Outrageous'

The mothers of the detained Americans before leaving for Iran in May
The mothers of the detained Americans before leaving for Iran in May
On July 31, 2009, three Americans were arrested by Iranian forces after they purportedly strayed across the Iranian border while hiking in Iraqi Kurdistan. Shane Bauer, 27; Sarah Shourd, 31; and Josh Fattal, 27, have been held in Iran ever since, without charges, and are currently in Tehran's notorious Evin prison. RFE/RL correspondent Nikola Krastev, who last spoke to the hikers' mothers in May after they traveled to Iran to try to secure their children's release, catches up with them again ahead of their address on July 30 before Iran's Permanent Mission to the United Nations.

RFE/RL: What have you been doing since your visit to Tehran in May?

Cindy Hickey, mother of Shane Bauer:
Well, we've been writing to Iranian officials asking for meetings, some contacts, [but] we don't get a response from them. Nora [Shourd] and I actually went to London and did some media there. And we went to the Iranian mission just last week and ask for a meeting and we were denied. We haven't heard anything from Iran. Again, our lawyer was not allowed in [to Tehran's Evin prison, where Sarah Shourd, Josh Fattal, and Shane Bauer are being held].

RFE/RL: Why did you have to go to London?

We wanted to go somewhere where there was an [Iranian] embassy, so we chose London. We actually sent two letters requesting a meeting. We got no response, so, Nora and I went last week at 10 o'clock in the morning and knocked on the door [of the Iranian Embassy in London] and asked to be seen. And someone finally did answer the door but a meeting was denied. They told us they couldn't help us.

RFE/RL: When was the last time you communicated with Shane?

I left him [in prison] May 21, the last I saw of Shane when he was loaded on to the elevator and the doors closed and that was the very last time I saw him. And at that moment I knew, you know -- I had no idea when I would see him again. We haven't talked to him, we haven't gotten a phone call. I think they are getting some of our letters, they're sending letters to us but we've never received any letters from them. When we met them in Tehran [May 21-22], they said that they have received some of our letters and they've also received some of the books we've sent, and that means the world to them because it's their only contact. Now, from what Shane told me, he's not receiving near the number of letters that I've sent because I sent letters several times a week and I have for a year.

RFE/RL: Laura [Fattal, mother of Josh Fattal], when was the last time you spoke to Josh?

Laura Fattal:
My husband spoke to Josh March 9 because he called the house line. We had no notice that he was calling us and we then understood Nora [Shourd] got a phone call from Sarah, and Nora said to the other families, "Beware, the kids may be calling." So, we called my husband and he transferred the house line to his business line so he can pick up at his work both phones, his work phone and his house phone. And Josh called 10 minutes later and said 'Hi, dad.' So, it was terrific. I have not spoken to Josh on the phone. I was happy though, of course, to meet Josh May 20 and 21 in Tehran.

RFE/RL: You will be speaking July 30 before the Permanent Mission of Iran to the United Nations, what are you going to say?

I'm going to say: "I miss my son, I love my son and Iran is holding Josh, Shane, and Sarah unjustifiably, it's unnecessary and it's unethical. And they should let him come home. And there is no reason he should be held, and he shouldn't be held August 1, 2009, and he should not be held July 30, 2010. This could've been solved in three hours or one day, and one year is outrageous."

RFE/RL: If things don't work out soon, do you plan to apply again for an Iranian visa and go back to see your children?

Nora Shourd, mother of Sarah Shourd:
You know, we're kind of torn about that and honestly, as much as we'd like to see our kids, we don't want to just keep going to see our kids, we want to get our kids released. So hopefully that's the next trip we're going to plan, not just going to visit them. You know, we always kind of look at things in a way that maybe something will lead to something else. The only thing that we've actually seen positively is -- if you could look at it one way, the fact that Amiri [eds. Iranian scientist Shahram Amiri, who returned to Iran earlier this month after surfacing in the Iranian interest section of the Pakistani Embassy in Washington] is back in Iran and kind of right before that, the Russian spies got released. These are not exactly the same kind of things that we hope are going to happen to get these kids out but they're kind of in the same category, so we hope that this will mean something. You know, these kind of things are very possible, very doable by governments.

RFE/RL: Is there any message you would like to pass to the Iranian authorities?

We really are asking at this point, we're asking the Iranian government to stop using our kids for political reasons. They have committed no crime. They haven't been charged with anything in more than a year. It's very, very obvious to the world now that they're only keeping them for political reasons. So we call upon them to live up to their own Islamic values and their own rule of law all of which they've pretty much bypassed or seem to have forgotten and to let our kids come home to their families. This is in their power to do, so we ask them to do that.