As we enjoy a summer weekend with friends and family, it bears remembering that, for the families and friends of Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd, and Josh Fattal, this weekend marks a milestone of misery: As of Saturday, it had been exactly one year since the three were arrested while hiking in the scenic border region between Iraqi Kurdistan and Iran. Theories differ on exactly how the arrest took place: the three may have accidentally crossed the border, or they may have been snatched while inside Iraq. (Their traveling companion, Shon Meckfessel, who stayed behind that day because he had a cold, sent us a wrenching account of the last call he got from his friends.)
This much is for sure: They were not spies for the United States, as Iran has alleged (so far without pursuing the charge in its own courts). Bauer is a talented, muckraking journalist whose most recent story for Mother Jones looked at how the US government was using construction and other contracts to pay off corrupt ex-warlords in Iraq. (He also worked with the Investigative Fund of the Nation Institute, the Center for Investigative Reporting, and New America Media.) Shourd--who became engaged to Bauer while in prison in Iran--was teaching English to Iraqi kids in Damascus, where she lived with Bauer prior to their arrest. Fattal had worked at a sustainability center in Oregon and taught overseas. All of them have been held in near-isolation (Shourd is being held by herself, while the two men share a cell), without access to the Iranian lawyer their family has hired to them or the rest of the outside world. Their only contact with their families came in May, when the mothers were allowed to visit; both Shourd and Bauer have reportedly struggled with illness while in prison.
It's no surprise that the three are being used as pawns by the Iranian government—that's a trick just about every country has used. But a year is enough, especially for three people who have committed no offense except being insufficiently paranoid in exploring a tourist region world-renowned for its beauty. Nothing good can come from their languishing behind bars, whereas once released, they would likely go back to their work for truth and human rights. We hope that day comes soon.
There are vigils and protests throughout this weekend seeking the hikers' release; you can follow the Free the Hikers campaign on Twitter and Facebook. Even President Obama has weighed in. Read his statement after the jump.