Sarah Shourd is one of three Americans held in Iran. See updates below – breaking 11-09-09. Update 12-14-09 below. Sarah was released from Iran yesterday, September 14th and reunited with her mother, Nora Shourd, in Oman, Jordan. She will receive a medical checkup in Oman.
UPDATE 9-14-11: Today there are reports that the Sultanate of Oman has sent an aircraft for Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal, and will pay the $500,000 bail for each man, as they did for Sarah Shourd. I’ll have more as details are available.
Sarah Shourd, Joshua Fattal and Shane Bauer were captured near the Iranian border of northern Iraq. Reportedly, the three left the Nirwan Hotel in the city of Sulaimaniya, Iraq to hike in nearby mountains. One companion of the three, Shon Meckfessel, felt ill and stayed behind.
Ms. Shourd is a writer and a contributor to New America Media, and Matador Pulse. According to NWCN.com, she is said to be from “the Bay area.” There is a Facebook profile for a Sarah Shroud from California who is a “teacher/writer at Iraqi Students Project Connections.” The profile also says Ms. Shourd is “currently based in the Middle East.”
Shane Bauer is “from the Bay area,” and is also a contributor to New American Media. Shon Meckfessel is a resident of Seattle and a PhD student at the University of Washington. Shon Meckfessel’s Facebook profile is here showing Sarah Shourd and Shane Michael Bauer as “friends.”
All four Americans had traveled to Turkey and entered the Kurdish region at the Zakho crossing on Tuesday, July 28th.
Iran’s media says the trio was arrested for illegally crossing the border on July 31th, at about 1:30 p.m. Iraq time. The hikers were able to call Meckfessel and say they were surrounded by Iranian troops. Earlier reports say that Meckfessel then left his hotel unannounced, leaving luggage behind. Shon Meckfessel’s family say they have heard from him and he is safe inside the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.
Local sources in Iraq said they warned the hikers that the area they planned to hike was very close to the Iran-Iraq border.
Kurdish officials from the self-ruled region in northern Iraq said the three people detained had mistakenly crossed into Iranian territory Friday while hiking in a mountainous area near the resort town of Ahmed Awaa.
Iraq’s Kurdish region has been relatively free of the violence that plagues the rest of Iraq. Foreigners often feel freer to move around without security guards in the area, and it’s relatively easy to enter the region from Turkey, particularly by plane. The Kurdish government generally grants visitors visas valid for one week when they arrive at the airport.
The area where the hikers were detained is said to a beautiful area and a popular hiking destination:
…known for a picturesque waterfall and rocky scenery as well as a thick growth of fruit and nut trees. The official said camping equipment and two backpacks apparently belonging to the Americans were found in the area and it seemed they were hiking above the waterfall when they accidentally crossed the border.
Check back for updates as available.
Read an article written by Sarah Shourd in the New American Media (NAM): Families Shout their Love Across Minefields in Golan Heights
Read an article written by Sarah Shourd in Matador Pulse: Escape from Iraq: A Muslim Family Finds Solace in Ramadan
Update 8-3-09 9:25 a.m.:
Swiss diplomats are hoping to meet in Tehran today with the Iranian foreign ministry to discuss the release of the Americans.
Announced today that Shroud, Fattal and Bauer are accused of “espionage,” and they will be put on trial in Iran.
It is not clear from his comments whether formal
charges have been filed. In Iran’s judicial system, the process of
charging and trying suspects often takes place behind closed doors.
Shroud, Fattal and Bauer will be tried by Iran’s judiciary but no timeline was given. The three Americans are still being “interrogated,” and are held under suspicion of espionage.
Bauer and Shourd had been living in Damascus, Syria – he studying
Arabic, she teaching English – and both had done freelance journalism
or writing online. Friends have described them as passionate
adventurers interested in the Middle East and human rights.
Fattal, who spent three years with a group dedicated to sustainable
farming near Cottage Grove, Oregon, had been overseas since January as
a teaching assistant with the International Honors Program.