The new documentary Free Shane and Josh by Jeff Kaufmann gives insight into the lives of the three American hikers detained in Iran, the circumstances of their capture, their time in prison, and, most importantly, their innocence. Sarah Shourd was recently released on humanitarian grounds after being held in solitary confinement for 410 days.
This film is a plea for Iran to release the remaining 2 Americans, Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal, who are nearing their 16th month in prison. Unfortunately this case isn’t really about the trio or the crimes they didn’t committed. It’s yet another duel between nation states at a particularly tense time in their political history, and the hikers are the pawns caught in the middle.
Clearly the three are not spies, as Iran would have been able to procure some sort of proof by now. This film details how they aren’t even guilty of accidentally entering the unmarked Iranian border. Sarah recalls their hike on a trail near Ahmed Awa Waterfall, a popular tourist destination in Iraqi Kurdistan:
There was no fence, no flag, no indication of a border of any kind. We were on the trail for several hours. We had just gotten a call from [a friend] and he was on his way to the waterfall, so we knew we should head back soon. I looked up and saw a soldier about 300 meters away from us holding a big rifle and motioning with his arm for us to go further down the trail and we thought, ‘OK, it’s just an Iraqi soldier.’
We felt we had no choice but to follow his instructions. We went further down the trail when we saw another soldier, and this soldier motioned for us to come to him, so we stepped off the trail and walked towards that soldier; and when he started speaking in Farsi, he said ‘Iran’ and pointed to the ground where we were standing, and he pointed to the trail that we had been on and he said ‘Iraq.’ So, according to that soldier, we did not enter Iran until he gestured for us to come off the trail into Iran… we wanted to turn around and go back and we tried but he would not let us.
This past weekend I had the opportunity to see Sarah Shourd as she spoke to her peers and friends for the first time since her release. In prison she learned how to “wake up every morning and just be happy that [she] was alive.” Regarding beliefs that were strengthened upon her release, she affirmed, “If you don’t live every experience like it’s meaningful, then what’s the point of living.” She is now dedicating her life to ensuring that her fiancée Shane Bauer and close friend Josh Fattal are also freed to continue living their lives of service and compassion for all people and cultures. Each of them has a history advocating for human rights and social and environmental justice. Visit the Free the Hikers site to find out more about their story or how you can spread the word and take action.