Event Hikes Awareness, Funds for Detainees

Photo: A patron at the Saturday silent auction fundraiser for the hikers detained in Iran is visibly affected by a piece of artwork up for bidding.
A patron at the Saturday silent auction fundraiser for the hikers detained in Iran is visibly affected by a piece of artwork up for bidding.

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Young families and more seasoned art enthusiasts gathered from around the Bay Area at San Francisco's South of Market Arts, Resources, Technology and Services Cultural Center Saturday night as part of a silent auction fundraiser for two UC Berkeley alumni who remain detained in Iran.

The event - held for alumni Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal - attracted over 450 supporters and is one of several recent efforts by the Free the Hikers organization, a group dedicated to raising awareness about the men. The two have been imprisoned in Iran since July 2009 when they were detained while hiking near the Iran-Iraq border. Sarah Shourd - Bauer's fiancee who was hiking with the men - was released from the prison in September after she found a lump in her left breast.

Shourd said money from the auction will go towards paying for the translation of media and legal documents into Farsi, as well as towards other legal fees and transportation expenses, though she also stressed the event's importance as far as mental and emotional support.

"Every dollar that goes toward the campaign is crucial," she said. "(And) real human sweat and love goes into it."

The silent auction featured artwork from over 100 artists in a variety of mediums from photography to paintings to jewelry. Additionally, three of Bauer's own photographs he took while in Sudan were featured in the auction.

Along with the silent auction, six musical acts performed at the event and Shourd sang a few songs that she composed while in prison.

"It's an incredible outpouring of support and love," Shourd said. "And it really just reminds me and the other family members, even people from Shane and Josh's family who weren't there ... that we're not alone in this."

The event was co-organized by Sarah Hobstetter and Pauline Bartolone, two of Bauer's friends. Hobstetter said that Bauer, a photojournalist, hoped to change people's understandings of the world - a hope that inspired the idea for the art auction.

Though there have been about four events in the past four months - including a short film about the hikers' detainment - Shourd said the auction was the largest event in the East Bay dedicated to spreading awareness about the hikers. A benefit concert will be held at Bottom of the Hill in San Francisco Feb. 10.

Fadwa Musleh, a resident of Santa Clara, met Shourd at another event for the hikers and said she was touched by the cause.

"The world is becoming a smaller place, and we're all eventually going to be affected," she said. "And it does start at the grass roots, with the common folk, to make the change."

Zohreh, a visiting scholar from Iran studying at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, who was not willing to give her last name for fear of retribution, said she has a friend who was in prison with Shourd. She added that most Iranians believe the hikers are innocent.

"I really wanted to come," she said. "I wanted to tell them, I'm with you, and I really want to help if I can do a little bit, for the guys."

Regarding the case, Shourd said that the families of both men hope the issue will soon be resolved and the men will be released on humanitarian grounds, as she was.

"We're in regular contact with our lawyer," she said. "He remains optimistic that we're getting close to resolution and that Shane and Josh will be found innocent."


Victoria Pardini covers Berkeley communities. Contact her at [email protected]

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