Free The Hikers
This week I'm going to be talking about something off-topic. If you're looking for promotional product news, advertising commentary or your usual dose of snark, check back next week.
If you've been following the news lately, you've probably seen a few things about the two American hikers imprisoned in Iran, Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal. The two young men, along with a third American, Sarah Shourd, were arrested for illegally crossing the Iraqi/Iranian border while hiking in 2009. Shourd was released about a year ago on $500,000 bail, while Bauer and Fattal were recently sentenced to eight years in prison on charges of trespassing and espionage.
Since their arrest two years ago, there's been a public outcry for the release of the Americans. A website, FreeTheHikers.org, was set up to support them and their families during this ordeal. Political figures from President Obama and Hillary Clinton to general secretary of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, have insisted on the boys' innocence and requested clemency.
On Tuesday, it looked like that may happy. Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on NBC's "Today" show that Bauer and Fattal would be released, on bail, "in a couple of days." Despite universal approval of the statement from the international community, the New York Times reported that Iran's judiciary said it had no intention of releasing the two men.
I know Josh. It's been a least a decade since I last spoke to him, but I've known him since kindergarten and we still have mutual friends. When he was five, he would put pickles, ketchup and mustard on his pizza; at 17, he because our senior class president. Everyone in our community knew Josh in one way or another. For me, and all the people I grew up with, his story hits close to home.
My hope in writing this is simply to raise awareness Josh and Shane's plight. With luck, they'll come home soon. If you'd like to learn more about their story or donate, please visit FreeTheHikers.org.
Update: As of Friday morning, Iraqi president Jalal Talabani claimed to have negotiated the release of Shane and Josh on $500,000 bail each. Iran has not responded to the statement.