Iran arrests worries many in the Bay Area

August 3, 2009 6:14:33 PM PDT
Three Americans, two with Bay Area connections, are still held in Iran. They were arrested in Northern Iran along the border with Iraq over the weekend. Shane Bower graduated from UC Berkeley, Sara Shord is from Oakland and the third detained American is Joshua Fattal from Oregon.

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Many people in the Bay Area are very concerned because The U.S. and Iran do not have any diplomatic relations and haven't had any for about 30 years. The U.S. is working with the Swiss embassy to find any information on the whereabouts and conditions of the three missing hikers.

Shane Bouer and his two friends were captured in a popular hiking destination along the Iraq/Iran border. Jerry Sanders is chair of peace and conflict studies at UC Berkeley, where Bouer graduated from in 2007.

The senior lecturer said his former student is a seasoned traveler and dedicated journalist.

"He is a well-traveled person. He traveled to Darfur and reported on the crisis there with the human rights fellowship as an undergraduate," said Sanders.

Since their arrest, Iran has accused the three Americans of being CIA agents. Bouer was working out of the Middle East and had filed some reports with New America Media in San Francisco.

"He was interested in covering the Arab Middle East. He was not interested in crossing over to Iran. He was extremely careful about what his plans were," said Sandy Close from New America Media.

Iranians in the South Bay are worried the three hikers are the latest pawns in the government's game of propaganda.

Azita Larijani owns a restaurant in San Jose and does not trust the people in power in her homeland.

"They might want to scare them, but I hope they are smart enough not to do anything crazy," said Larijani.

Crazy is just one word Rahmat Jafari uses to describe developments unfolding in Iran. Jafari was active against the Shah government in the late 70's and says conditions now are far worse.

"You cannot compare it to anything in the history what they are really doing. They torture people, kill people and they are ready to oppress people. It's just amazing," said Jafari.

Those who know Bauer are confident he and the other two detainees will return safely.

"There will be difficulty, but I think he will be able to explain his actions that day and all of this will blow over," said Sanders.

Many people are hoping that is exactly what happens, and this issue complicates an already precarious situation in Iran. In just two days, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is going to be sworn in for a second term as president, and that election is disputed by much of the Iranian people.

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