Families, Friends of Detained Hikers Speak Out

Photo: Students and friends and family of the UC Berkeley alumni detained in Iran held a demonstration and press conference on Monday.
David Herschorn/Photo
Students and friends and family of the UC Berkeley alumni detained in Iran held a demonstration and press conference on Monday.

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UC Berkeley Graduates Detained In Iran For One Month

On Monday, there was a press conference to raise awareness towards the detainment in Iran of three UC Berkeley graduates. University News Editor Angelica Dongallo speaks to family members and friends of the detainees.

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One month since three UC Berkeley alumni were detained in Iran, family and friends are still without updates concerning the trio's condition.

To raise awareness about their detainment, approximately 30 friends and family members of Shane Bauer, Josh Fattal and Sarah Shourd held a press conference on campus Monday, sponsored by the alumni association. The three UC Berkeley alumni were detained July 31 after crossing into Iran while on a hike in northern Iraq and since then have been unable to contact their families.

"We decided to bring it to the campus to make sure that students are aware," said Nora Shourd, the mother of Sarah Shourd. "This is just day one of doing this."

Friends say Bauer, Fattal and Shourd unknowingly crossed the unmarked border into Iran. In his last correspondence, Bauer called his friend, Shon Meckfessel, on July 31 to inform him that the three were being detained.

Family members are asking for the Iranian government to allow consular officials to visit the hikers where they are being held. They have also been working with the U.S. State Department in order to make contact with the detainees.

"There's been no word," said UC Berkeley alumnus Molly Nakahara, a former housemate of Bauer and Fattal when they were students. "We encourage the Iranian authorities to understand this was a really big mistake and let them come home."

While an Iraqi official alleged that the three hikers are C.I.A. agents and purposely crossed the border, Nora Shourd said it was simply a "regrettable misunderstanding."

"It was just a mistake on their part," she said. "They just got lost when they were hiking and ended up in the wrong place."

Nora Shourd said her daughter had been teaching English in Damascus, Syria before having a week off to take a vacation with Bauer, Fattal and Meckfessel in Kurdistan, a northern region of Iraq. According to a statement, Meckfessel said he felt ill and opted to stay behind when the trio made the trek that brought them into Iran.

To continue sharing news of the hikers, their friends and family members have created a Web site-freethehikers.org-as well as a Facebook group and a Twitter tag.

Students on campus are also organizing ways to spread the word of the former UC Berkeley students.

To show its support for the three hikers, ASUC President Will Smelko made a statement at yesterday's press conference and the ASUC Senate is considering a bill this week that "condemns Iran's treatment of the UC Berkeley alumni."

The bill also authorizes Smelko and External Affairs Vice President Dani Haber to write letters to relevant parties concerning the detainment.

While many students who saw the "Free the Hikers" banner being carried around the campus today said they were unaware of the hikers' detainment, they said they wanted to learn more about it.

"I did read this in the news," said junior Daniel Tran. "I just wanted to educate myself on this issue ... I didn't know they were still there."

But until word reaches Alex Fattal about the condition of his brother and friends, he said he will continue to push efforts to bring them home.

"We wait on good news," Fattal said. "We hope it's forthcoming."


Angelica Dongallo is the university news editor. Contact her at [email protected]

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