ON JULY 31, 2009, three American hikers — Shane Bauer, Josh Fattal, and Sarah Shourd — were arrested in the unmarked border region of Iraqi Kurdistan. All three were detained on charges of illegal entry and espionage.
I learned about the arrest from the emails that began piling into my inbox. I was editor of Brave New Traveler at the time, and Sarah was one of our former authors. Her beautiful article, A Muslim Family Finds Solace in Ramadan, had been published a year earlier.
Now, after more than 2 years, the nightmare appears to be over. While Sarah was released a year ago, the remaining American hikers Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal have just now been freed.
While the ordeal is over, as Sarah wrote in a previous letter, the real work is yet to begin:
When Josh and Shane are free we will all be able to exhale collectively, pause and then ask, “Who’s next” There are millions more lined up, waiting to get free. “What’s next?” There are countless changes that devoted, committed people like ourselves can band together and fight for. I’m looking forward to the day. I’m hoping that Shane and Josh will soon be standing with us, asking these questions and finding answers. – Open letter from Sarah Shourd
Timeline of the events
- July 31, 2009 – Shane, Josh, and Sarah are hiking in the mountains of Iraqi Kurdistan and accidentally cross into Iran, where Iranian forces take them into custody.
Matador editor Sarah Menkedick publishes Travel Is For Idiotic Idealists: Three Americans Held In Iran, a manifesto in support of the hikers.
Fall 2009 – Family and friends create the website FreetheHikers.org to spread the word about their detainment. Friends begin holding vigils across the United States.
March 2010 – Detained hikers are allowed to call their families.
May 2010 – The mothers of the hikers visit their children in Iran.
September 14, 2010 – Sarah Shourd is released on humanitarian grounds due to health concerns after 410 days of solitary confinement. She writes an open letter about her release.
November 2010 – The trial, originally set for November 6, is delayed and then postponed until May 11, 2011.
May 2011 – The trial is again delayed because the authorities fail to transfer the hikers from the prison to the courtroom.
June 2011 – Family members of the hikers and many people across America, including Matador editor Ian MacKenzie, begin a rolling fast in support of Shane and Josh.
July 30, 2011 – On the eve of their trial, a rally is held in NYC. [PHOTOS]
July 31, 2011 – The men finally get their trial, and the judge announces that he will issue a verdict within a week.
Aug 20, 2011 – The judge issues his verdict, sentencing Shane and Josh to 8 years in prison.
Sept 13, 2011 – Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad reveals the hikers will be released within a few days. The courts dispute his claim.
Sep 21, 2011 – After paying 1 million in bail, the hikers are confirmed released and leave Evin Prison heading for the airport.
All of us at Matador are so happy for the hikers and their families and wish them safe travels on their way home.
Timeline compiled by Abbie Mood.