August 20th, 2009
08:25 PM ET

Families of American hikers detained in Iran speak out

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/WORLD/meast/08/11/iran.detained.americans/art.sarah.shourd.mn.jpg caption="Sarah Shourd, like the other two hikers, is a graduate of University of California-Berkeley."]

Program Note: Family members Nora Shourd, Laura Fattal and Cindy Hickey will be on AC360° TONIGHT 10p ET.


Travelers accidentally strayed across an unmarked border while hiking in Iraqi Kurdistan.

The families and friends of Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd and Josh Fattal, the three young American hikers detained in Iran on July 31, today launched http://www.freethehikers.org, a web resource to inform the world about their detention.

The families also appealed to Iranian authorities to grant consular access to their children, who were detained when they accidentally strayed into Iran across an unmarked border during a five-day hiking trip in Iraqi Kurdistan.

“We still know nothing about how our children are and where they are being held. We respectfully urge the Iranian authorities to grant them their right to consular access so we at least can know they are safe and well,” the families said in statement. “If our children had known the border was there, they wouldn’t have crossed it. We continue to hope and believe that the Iranian authorities will realize that our children entered their country by accident and will return them to us.”

Freethehikers.org provides up-to-date news about the hikers’ detention, as well as background materials about the three Americans and their case. The site links to a Facebook group formed for the hikers soon after they were detained. Almost 1,400 friends, relatives and well-wishers have already joined the Facebook group.

Shane Bauer, Josh Fattal and Sarah Shourd were detained while hiking in the mountains of Iraqi Kurdistan near the Ahmed Awa waterfall, a popular local tourist spot. The three, all graduates of the University of California at Berkeley and experienced world travelers, were in a peaceful region of northern Iraq that is increasingly popular with Western tourists for its natural beauty, culture and history.

While the Iranian government has confirmed it is holding the three hikers, it has not charged them with a crime and has not allowed them to contact their families. Swiss diplomats, who represent U.S. interests in Iran, have been seeking consular access.

Check out www.freethehikers.org for more information.

soundoff (31 Responses)
  1. Jeanette

    This is a mistake these kids made by being to close to the border. Apparently it is hard to distinguish where the border actually is. Iran is just trying to use this as an excuse to either discredit USA or to get ransom.

    They know they are not spies, they want to cause an incident.

    August 21, 2009 at 11:41 am |
  2. ronvan

    I can feel sympathy for the families, however, I agree with the other 2 comments here. No one, especially americans, should be anywhere near any of these countries. Now they have created an international incidence and Iran could be the country that does not let them go, except to a labor/prison camp.

    August 21, 2009 at 8:53 am |
  3. Kashif

    First of all the question is didnt they have a map of the area indicating the international border, Maybe it wasnt properly outlined but they were literate and should have understood that they were near the border.

    Second suppose three iranians croos the border mistakingly into the USA, would the homeland security department release them that easily. Simple answer is no and they would most likely be detained for a long long time. Similarly Iran has the right to detain them for questioning till it is absolutely clear that they didnt have any other plans and Iranians already hate USA , why would they welcome anyone from there?

    August 21, 2009 at 6:05 am |
  4. Joe Fattal

    When President Clinton went to North Korea to gain the release of the two journalists, and finaly gained their release, I said to myself the hikers detained in Iran were out of luck. I am afraid they are unless there are efforts from their family members to gain their release without a government intervention. If anyone going to stay and argue with the Iranians that it wasn't their fault and accidentally they strayed accross, you will lose the argument. What we have, three graduate American students, one is a freelance journalist, caught in a place were Americans are not very welcomed, especially after the students uprising, will not put the Iranian government in a dialogue mood. But there is an open door somewhere, that's why the Iranian government hasn't press charges yet. I am not a diplomat, neither I know the tricks of diplomacy. But, I now if the State Department allows the family to go to Iran and plead for their release, I am sure they will let them go. Another North Korea without a Clinton.

    August 21, 2009 at 3:38 am |
  5. N. Manetavat

    This is the result of having enemy all over the middle east.

    August 21, 2009 at 3:33 am |
  6. Chehab

    I think we as Americans can take advantage of the Holy Month of Ramadan. I am a muslim and fasting is a part of my faith. The Holy month starts within a day or so depending on the moon sighting. Furthermore in Islam, Ramadan is a very special holy month full of blessings and mercy. Muslims all over the world practice their faith by fasting from sunrise to sunset, pray extra prayers, and share food with their family and friends everyday throughout the month. Muslims have to practice day in and day out being merciful, especially during this holy month. This can be used as leverage to assist in gettting the hikers released. The correct language from an intelligent State official can communicate with the Iranian Government to come to a quick,safe, and satisfactory solution to this really sensitive matter. We can say that muslims practice mercy and love in this month due to the importance of Ramadan and that by truely realizing that these hikers made an honest mistake they do not deserve to be put in jail. The hikers have to be realesed and allowed to come back to the U.S.A. safe and sound. Also, add in God will have mercy on them even more that they returned a loved one back to their family. Just like Joseph was returned to his father Yahya. This story can be found in the Holy Quran Chapter Youssef. Be patient and pray, the American Hikers will be back home very soon. God Bless you all.

    I hope this helps.

    August 21, 2009 at 3:26 am |
  7. Chehab

    I agree to pray for their release. Also keep in mind the Holy month of Ramadan starts within the next day or so depending on the moon siting. Furthermore in Islam, Ramadan is a very special holy month full of blessings and mercy. Muslims all over the world practice their faith by fasting from sunrise to sunset pray extra prayers and share food with their family and friends everyday throughout the month. Muslims have to practice day in and day out being merciful, especially during this holy month. This can be used as leverage to assist in gettting the hikers released. The correct language from an intelligent State official can communicate with the Iranian Government to come to a quick,safe, and satisfactory solution to this really sensitive matter. Basically, to have the American Hikers back home safe and sound. Be patient and pray, the American Hikers will be back home very soon. God Bless you all.

    August 21, 2009 at 3:05 am |
  8. Kathleen Zamora

    I am not unsympathetic to the hikers' plight or that of their families, but no one should be in that area of the world for recreation or travel. I will never understand why these three were there in the first place.

    August 21, 2009 at 1:55 am |
  9. Sunday Weiss

    Irac is not in peace right now, they are in a dangerous transition time trying to take control of the duties the American forces have been doing, It is dangerous with bombings for its own citizens to live in irac, and even though one mom says whe would go to irac to hike with her son, that kind of makes things seem more strange, and more difficult to understand than less strange or difficult to understand. American military personel serve in irac and a war torn country and have ptsd from terrorist attacks, and kids think hikeing in irac and near the iranian border is like going to yellowstone park? I am just saying. I wish I could understand why this is a good idea at this time in Irac's history. That being said with Bill Clinton getting the reporters who crossed a dnagerous boundry, maybe since Larry Kin allowed the Iranian presidents views to be open on his show. maybe Larry King could request the release of these hikers.

    August 21, 2009 at 1:55 am |
  10. J H Horne

    These three intelligent and educated people had to know they were pushing the envelope. The N. Korea intrusion taught them that the US Gov and people will sell themselves for 2 or three thrill seekers, whom have been made famous by the media. They can now ride the circuit, write books, and the US will be blackmailed for their, what has to be, intentional intrusion. There are 1000's of more dangerous mountains to climb, and 100's of "safer" political situations to provoke. The US Gov't and people should do nothing. They made their bed, let them...It is NOT our problem. They might have an even better story if we mind our own business.

    August 21, 2009 at 12:53 am |
  11. illinihog oinkavin

    Iran should not be questioned about intentions concerning captured americans. The track record is old and dusty. The upside is that the State
    Department now has rock solid proof for these adventurers that think they are invisible or bulletproof. They should heed travel warnings.

    August 21, 2009 at 12:01 am |
  12. Kristen, MD

    I pray these hikers do come home safely.

    What were they doing hiking in Iraq? Sometimes common sense goes a lot further than being a world traveler or college graduate, you have to be smart about things.

    August 21, 2009 at 12:00 am |
  13. maryking

    i am fedup with americans going to these different countries thinking that they can do what they want and then looking for the government to bail them out of situations now we are at war with iran why would you be over in the first place talking about going hikingthe same thing goes for lisa ling sisters they were luckie you ccan not go to these other countries and do certain things and think that you are not going to have problems and they do not like people from the united states anyway.

    August 20, 2009 at 11:59 pm |
  14. James McCall

    With all the most beautiful National and State Parks in the United states why were these three people hiking in a country so near Iran. Do they have more money than brains. OR were they looking for a life challenge and hoping they would not get caught?

    August 20, 2009 at 11:55 pm |
  15. blaine

    how about ppl kidnaped and tortured in guantanamo without trial.pray for them.than these useless hikers

    August 20, 2009 at 11:53 pm |
  16. rodney

    My heart and compassion goes out to the lost ones and their families,why isnt travel for americans suspended these people are in a war how dare you cross there line just irresponsible. this just keeps on happeneing whether they meant to cross the iran line or not they were evidentially to close, after the 2 chinese americans I thought it was over but now it happens again so many people yelling about reform and defits but soo many people still living very lavish.it just show as a sign of disrespect from americans we have more respect than that that's why I believe travel should b suspended to that area

    August 20, 2009 at 11:48 pm |
  17. michael armstrong sr.

    You gotta love getting tired of rescuing idiots that dont have any buisness being where they are I would say to just feed them to the dogs but thats not how the American machine works just ask what the Iranians want and give it to them and then make those idiots pay the people back for there stupidity.

    August 20, 2009 at 11:42 pm |
  18. Sean Hersey

    Are they morons? A few weeks ago I read a caption on CNN, it said "They have a love for traveling and learning" -REALLY?? Because they didn't learn anything from the two journalists who crossed the border of North Korea. Of course I want them to return safely but here's some advice for them- BUY A MAP AND A COMPASS, and learn how to use them when you're on the border of another hostile country.

    August 20, 2009 at 11:11 pm |
  19. Jerome Parkin

    If a person plays around with a rattler who's gonna cry when they get bit , people who mess around on the borders of counrties like iran and north korea are just another kind of thrill seeker who want their names in the papers and want to cause a rukus, their respective governments should leave them to rot it would soon stop.
    Mostly its you Americans.

    August 20, 2009 at 10:55 pm |
  20. Beverley Barnes

    I have just watched the interview, and I feel very strongly that those hikers were wrong, they should never have been hiking in a country that is in a state of war, where innocent people die every day,. I want to say to the hiking mother, have some respect, does one really do a pleasure hike when the rest of the country is suffering, please get out of your comfort zone and face the facts. I am a mother, so I hope sincerely that they can get out of this mess......

    August 20, 2009 at 10:53 pm |
  21. Al

    I have no doubt in my mind that they are spies. Iran is hardly a tourist destination. There are a number of alternative hiking trails in the world that do not involve nearing Iran border. They should stay where they are now and be punished accordingly. I do not want a cent of my tax payer's money to be spent on their recovery.

    August 20, 2009 at 10:46 pm |
  22. John Adam

    The hikers from Berkeley should sit there and wait on Code Pink to come save them, since they are the ones that protested the Marine Recruiting Station in Berkeley…bet they wish they had the Marines there now..

    August 20, 2009 at 10:45 pm |
  23. canadian

    Yeah, If you "don't have to be" there, you probably should not be there.

    August 20, 2009 at 9:33 pm |
  24. Annie Kate

    I can easily see a mistake like theirs happening on an unmarked portion of the border. I wouldn't have been hiking so close to the border just in case, you know, but I also would expect the border to be better marked and where it wasn't for the Iranians to warn them they were on Iranian soil which was against the law and escort them back over the border. The second time if there was a second time I would have arrested them.

    With this group and then the girls that were held in North Korea we need to remember that borders are important and that not every country is as sane in their reaction as the US is. Today isn't like the old days when Anderson got into Burma on a fake press pass.....we must be very vigilant about where we walk. I hope these young adults will be walking out of Iran soon. My hopes are with them.

    August 20, 2009 at 7:20 pm |
  25. Charlie

    If I understand this correctly, The 3 are students going to college in Syria. They decided to do a hike on the Iraqi-Iranian border. The 3 & 1 who didn't do the hike due to illness. All 4 are from families worth millions, after all, what is the cost of sending your kid to college in Syria? Secondly, I assume friends & family of all 4 told them not to go because that region of the world is very volitile, and that is just Syria! Thirdly, the 4 decide to embark on a multi-day hike, in Iraq on the Iranian border. It appears these students were asking for trouble, even if they didn't feel that way due to young age & you never think anything like this will happen to you, but it did! I believe that the U.S. government should NOT get involved, while I have sympathy for all involved. This was a fool-hearty adventure the day they left American soil.

    August 20, 2009 at 6:18 pm |
  26. Heather,ca

    You know its one thing to go hiking in our country. If you get lost help will come looking for you. But to hiking in Iraq or any of those neighboring countries is just plain STUPID. Do they not watch the news. The reports of the war we have been in for years. I just don't get it. You don't mess with Iran. You don't even go wandering around a foreign country like that. Hell their laws and culture are different than most western ones.

    Why don't these kids use their brains. Do you not know about the hostage crisis. The counrty doesn't care about mistakes. Its not like sorry I accidentally walked in the wrong direction. I can't believe they even risked this. If you are in a foreign country that is not a democracy that is engaged in a war and killing people ,probably not a good idea to go on a hike especially when you have no idea where you are and you don't belong there.

    I feel awful for the parents. But Iran is no place for a free spirited american teenager. They don't care about innocent accidents. They don't say down with America for nothing.

    I hope the hikers get to come home. I hope this teaches anyone a lesson. If you want to hike try this country first.

    August 20, 2009 at 4:55 pm |
  27. GF, Los Angeles

    If the first two posters read the piece carefully, they are hikers who didn't intentionally go into Iran. They were on a 5-day hike in Iraq and accidentally entered an unmarked border. That's a very easy thing to do when a person is out hiking anywhere.

    August 20, 2009 at 3:31 pm |
  28. S Callahan

    Praying for them regardless of why they strayed there in the first place...Come on Iran....let them go!

    August 20, 2009 at 2:55 pm |
  29. Nadine

    I so much agree with the statements that they had no business being there in the first place. Want to hike? Go to California, Colorado, Western Canada,etc. Those places are probably "boring" to them, but at least they are safe.

    I have no sympathy for their situation. . . while I do not know enough about their backgrounds, they strike me as being from affluent families.

    August 20, 2009 at 1:38 pm |
  30. Fed Up

    Why were they anywhere near there in the first place???

    August 20, 2009 at 12:34 pm |
  31. Michael C. McHugh

    They should never have been in Iran in the first place. It's against the law to go there, and rightfully so. It's a Nazi police state, so people should know better than to even try to go there/ American have no business in a place like that, not even as tourists, and the law should be strengthened so that no one will ever go there again.

    August 20, 2009 at 11:50 am |