Family draws attention to UC hikers in Iran

August 31, 2009 6:30:09 PM PDT
In Iran, three Americans remain in jail for walking in the wrong place at the wrong time. Each one had attended UC Berkeley and had been on vacation in Kurdistan. Their families have been trying to get them released without making the situation more political than it already is.

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Of all the people with all their causes at UC Berkeley, some are more personal than others.

"I'm sorry to trouble you. My brother is one of three people detained in Iran," said Alex Fattal to some fellow students.

Hence, the quiet determination by Alex Fattal and Nora Shourd. Nora's daughter, Sarah, Alex's brother, Josh, and another Berkeley grad, Shane Bauer, went hiking in Northeastern Iraq with two other Berkeley grads last month. They wandered across an unmarked border of Iran and are now in prison.

"Our kids are innocent. They made a mistake. We want them home," said Nora.

The arrests happened one month ago. The families found out at 1:33 exactly. They questioned if they should go public, stay private, and what the ramifications might be.

"They are definitely on their own. This government cannot help them," said Robert Baer.

Baer is a former CIA operative now working on his fifth book about the Middle East and Iran. This situation poses problems, he says, because the United States and Iran do not have diplomatic relations. Baer says the issue of three young Americans pales when compared with Iran's nuclear program, or its political stance towards Israel.

"They are not worth a compromise with Iran, but on the other hand, they do not deserve what is going to happen to them. They could be there for years. They could be tried as spies. They could be convicted," said Baer.

So for families, back home, spreading the awareness is all they can do for now; they've talked to the state department, put up a website, posted a Facebook page and prayed for a break at the one month mark and counting.

"Each day feels like it could be a month. And a month feels like two and a half years," said Alex.

LINKS:
www.facebook.com/album
www.freethehikers.org

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