Hikers Say Iran Held Them Because They’re Americans

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Declaring that they were detained because of their nationality, not their actions, two American hikers held for more than two years in an Iranian prison came home Sunday, ending a diplomatic and personal ordeal with a sharp rebuke of the country that accused them of crossing the border from Iraq.

Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer, both 29, were freed last week under a $1 million bail deal and arrived Wednesday in Oman, greeted by relatives and fellow hiker Sarah Shourd, who was released last year.

Their saga began in July 2009 with what they called a wrong turn into the wrong country. The three say they were hiking together in Iraq’s relatively peaceful Kurdish region along the Iran-Iraq border when Iranian guards detained them. They always maintained their innocence, saying they might have accidentally wandered into Iran.

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The two men were convicted of spying last month. Shourd, to whom Bauer proposed marriage while they were imprisoned, was charged but freed before any trial.

The men took turns reading statements at a news conference Sunday in New York, surrounded by relatives and with Shourd at their side. They didn’t take questions from reporters.

Fattal said he wanted to make clear that while he and Bauer “applaud Iranian authorities for finally making the right decision, they “do not deserve undue credit for ending what they had no right and no justification to start in the first place.”

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“From the very start, the only reason we have been held hostage is because we are American,” he said, adding that “Iran has always tied our case to its political disputes with the U.S.”

The two countries severed diplomatic ties three decades ago during the hostage crisis. Since then, both have tried to limit the other’s influence in the Middle East, and the United States and other Western nations see Iran as the greatest nuclear threat in the region.

The hikers’ detention, Bauer said, was “never about crossing the unmarked border between Iran and Iraq. We were held because of our nationality.”

He said they don’t know whether they had crossed the border. “We will probably never know.”

The irony of it all, he said, “is that Sarah, Josh and I oppose U.S. policies towards Iran which perpetuate this hostility.”

The two also told of difficult prison conditions, where they were held in near isolation.

“Many times, too many times, we heard the screams of other prisoners being beaten and there was nothing we could do to help them,” said Fattal.

Added Bauer: “How can we forgive the Iranian government when it continues to imprison so many other innocent people and prisoners of conscience?”

They said their phone calls with family members amounted to a total of 15 minutes in two years, and they had to go on repeated hunger strikes to receive letters. Eventually, they were told — falsely — that their families had stopped writing them letters.

“We lived in a world of lies and false hope,” Fattal said.

Fattal called their release a total surprise.

On Wednesday, he said, they had just finished their brief daily open-air exercise and expected, as on other days, to be blindfolded and led back to their 8- by 13-foot cell.

Instead, the prison guards took them downstairs, fingerprinted them and gave them civilian clothes. They weren’t told where they were going.

The guards led them to another part of the prison, where they met a diplomatic envoy from Oman.

His first words to them? “Let’s go home.”

Hours later, the gates of Tehran’s Evin prison opened and the Americans were driven to the airport, then flown to Oman.

The days following their sudden release, Fattal said, made for “the most incredible experience of our lives.”

Shourd was with the families to greet the two on the tarmac at a royal airfield near the airport in Oman’s capital, Muscat. At about 20 minutes before midnight Wednesday, Fattal and Bauer, wearing jeans and casual shirts, bounded down the steps from the blue-and-white plane. The men appeared very thin and pale, but in good health.

The first hint of change in the case came last week when Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Fattal and Bauer could be released within days. But wrangling from within the country’s leadership delayed efforts. Finally, Iranian defense attorney Masoud Shafiei secured the necessary judicial approval Wednesday for the bail — $500,000 for each man.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry called their release a gesture of Islamic mercy.

Until their release, the last direct contact family members had with Bauer and Fattal was in May 2010, when their mothers were permitted a short visit in Tehran, which Iranian officials used for high-profile propaganda.

Since her release, Shourd has lived in Oakland, Calif. Bauer, a freelance journalist, grew up in Onamia, Minn., and Fattal, an environmental activist, is from Elkins Park, Pa., a Philadelphia suburb.

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Do you agree with the hikers? Sound off in our comments section below…

(TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

  • Anthony Pepe

    these idiots have the whole world to hike in and they chose the worst possible location. they probably were spies.

  • bob

    The 3 of them were a waist of news. They just wanted their pictures in the paper and faces all over the news. They knew where they were going and were hoping Iranian guards would pick them up. You see the last statement by one of them concerning American policy in Iran that created this hostility. What moran would hike in Iraq so close to Iran!!!

    • Ben Stern

      I told you not to be stupid, you moran!

      • Rodin

        @ Ben and Bob ( Kinda like Darryl and Darryl without the brains) –


        • Ben Stern


          Duh. was paraphrasing a bit from the Howard Stern show whilst poking fun at Bob’s language “skills”.

          • Rodin

            Show me. What is there to ‘paraphrase’? Do you know the meaning of the word?

            Bad orthography is bad orthography. Was a teacher for 40 years. Correction is compulsive with me. Not a fan, don’t do ‘talk’ anything. I never watched him, never heard him, don’t own a TV but, if Stern has the good judgement to concur with me, good for him. He has greasy long hair and a hook nose, right? Related to you?

            • Rodin

              From what I HAVE heard about him and gather from you, you’re both obnoxious bores.

  • Jim

    Why is it that no one will say who paid all the Money to get all 3 back ? Why is this not checked? If it was the U S tax payers?

  • F

    Geez! These two privileged, were what? Exercising their constitutional rights to hike in Iraq.

    Give us a Freakin break. These two clowns are annoyed? At least their trust funds are ok.

    Rot in prison for tghe crime of Capital Stupidy!

    • Rah, Rah, R e t a r d

      That should be your new name. Please have a t-shirt emblazoned with Capitol Stupidy on the front. Wear it.

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  • Steve

    I’m shocked at the utter lack of humanity, compassion and ignorance in these comments. There is so much anger and hostility. And they were not “hiking in Iran,” they were in Iraq and were taken illegally by Iranian border guards: http://www.thenation.com/article/36562/us-hikers-were-seized-iraq.
    If these young people were U.S. soldiers in Iraq killing people, we would call them heroes. But since they were engaged in peaceful pursuits (ie, hiking and trying to learn about another culture), you call them horrible names and wish death upon them?!?!
    I am frightened for this nation. I’ve traveled around the world and I have never heard people in other countries speak with such hostility. And I’ll bet most of you would call yourselves Christians. You should be ashamed of yourselves.

    • Rodin

      But they are NOT US soldiers, they are imbeciles.

    • Rodin

      “I’m shocked at the utter lack of humanity, compassion and ignorance in these comments.” I’m ‘shocked by the lack of brains…, yours included.

      • Bob

        Still trolling, Rodin? I have to admit, your comments make me laugh. I must say, I thought you were a freshman bigot in middle school. I was wrong, you’re a retired bigot perhaps? One who doesn’t say much in the real world but says plenty on these boards. I hope you don’t have offspring. I bet you spew your hate, so you’re children grow up just like you. Oh well, you are funny though. Thanks for the laughs, I enjoyed them.

        • Rodin

          What do you have a problem with? Can you post a sensioble argument or, lacking one, must you resort to pointless insults?

          • Bob

            You make laugh, still. Nope, can’t post a sensIBLE argument, you’re just so funny. your statements are pointless enough. You’re doing fine. Keep it up.

            • Rodin

              ‘Y’our. The i and the o are together on the keyboard and I’m a clutz.

              ‘Pointless’ you should know about.



              • Bob

                Your spelling lessons are hilarious.. I’d rather be a horrible speller than a mentally challenged bigot. You and your comments irrevalant. You spew your hate to your children? grandchildren? I guess they will be feeble minded bigots soon.

                • Rodin

                  Last round of e-mail checking. Too tired to bother with foolishness. At this point I have no idea of what you’re talking about or what your problem is. You seem as idiotic as the purported ‘hikers.’ Maybe that’s it. But you should check your anger. It’s sad to see someone self-destruct over imbecilities.

                  Tomorrow is my ‘pub’ day. I call it the ‘club.’ I come down from my mountain into town and converse with the other old farts in the village. Don’t expect to hear from me.

                  Glad to know I’ve been of service bringing some lightness into your obviously empty, dreary life. Get one.


                  (8•[P=} {¡=¡|

              • bob

                Typical! You open your trap, put your foot in your mouth, get called out and claim ignorance, hide and throw the “what did I do/say, prove it” mantra. So you then say that you’re done and leave a parting shot. Glad to know I’ve been of service bringing some lightness into your obviously empty, dreary life. Get one.” This is a good one! Good to know I left a mark in that bigoted brain of yours to really think and come up with that. Then again, your puny thought process probably didn’t need to go so far deep in.

    • DCLaw-1

      BTW,, I have travelled around the world as well, in both recreational and professional capacity. Please explain how your travels left you with knowledge of how hostile people are in other countries, compared to the US? How many thousands of people did you speak with abroad, and here in the US, that would allow for your conclusion (that foreigners are more tolerant and sympathetic to reckless ignorance that the average American)? Was it a scientific sampling of people you polled about these hikers, or others, that make you scared for the US? The US is, in fact, the most charitable nation in civilized history.

      Finally, what does Christianity have to do with anything?

      • Steve

        DCLaw-1, I think you might have misunderstood me. You typed: “Please explain how your travels left you with knowledge of how hostile people are in other countries, compared to the US?” I was instead saying that I have only rarely heard/read of people in other countries (I was referring to Europe) expressing their opinions with such hostility and lack of compassion–even their extreme right-wingers. If you don’t believe me, read the comments left by readers on both American and Europeans news organizations. The European ones are far more gentile and usually don’t lack compassion toward other human beings, the way the comments on articles in American news web sites. My experience is that most Europeans are hesitant to discuss politics with Americans because they assume that we are so off-the-charts to the political Right. When I assure them that I personally am not, I see them visibly relax.

        As far as requiring “scientific sampling” to form my opinions, no, I can’t say I did that. That’s a very high standard. But is that how you manage to form your opinions? If so, wow! I’m impressed. No, I formed my opinion about that from speaking with hundreds (probably not thousands) of foreigners and reading comments in both newspapers and from web sites around the world. So I’m afraid I’m only speaking from my personal experience. I admit I did not do a scientific poll about this topic. Did you?

        As far as the U.S. being, as you put it, “the most charitable nation in civilized history,” Bill Gates would disagree with you: http://www.gatesfoundation.org/annual-letter/2010/Pages/rich-countries-foreign-aid.aspx In fact, as a percentage of GDP, the U.S. falls far behind most First World nations. And much of our “aid” is in the form of military equipment (like our “aid” to Israel).

        And you’re right, I probably should not have speculated about these commenters probably being Christian. It was not on point. However, I have heard so many people who typically express such harsh political views also refer to their staunch Christianity during the same conversation, which I find hypocritical. My perceptions of Jesus are of a loving, gentle, forgiving, compassionate person. But most people I’ve encountered who wear their so-called Christianity on their sleeves possess few of those qualities. Just my opinion, for what it’s worth.

        • Rodin

          Traveled ’round the world X 3 in the 70’s. Cold War days. Moscow 1977. YOU ARE KNOW-NOTHINGS.

          Pretentious @rseholes!

    • DCLaw-1

      Soldiers are armed professionals, who are willing to sacrifice for their Country, without regard to the politics of the sidewalk cafe intelligencia of Manhattan. Theirs is the ultimate public service. Their contribution to the common good cannot be discounted. To insinuate they are simply killers is unbelievably naive, and narrow-minded. Soldiers have existed since the first days of recorded history. Unlike most soldiers throughout history, and today, ours are volunteers.

      The hikers made a really bad decision to hike in a hostile and war-torn area. An area that is particularly hostile to Westerners. To couch this is a trip to learn about another culture is correct; they learned about another culture, and now know to avoid it at all costs. These hikers acted irresonsibly, and ignorantly. The result was the expenditure of diplomatic, financial, and other limited resources that could have been better spent. The most seasoned diplomat will agree that peaceful pursuits have no place in the midst of hostility.

      • Steve

        First, even though you disagree with me, I sincerely appreciate you countering my comment with intelligence and not name-calling. With that gesture of good will in mind, I hope my response also is just as thoughtful and respectful as yours:
        1) I know that this is a controversial position, but I would argue that most of our soldiers are not “sacrificing for their country.” They are given incredible incentives to join (free college, pension, sign-up bonuses, etc.). Take away all those goodies, give them a salary and benefits package that the average American now gets and let’s see how many still enlist. I also wonder how many would still go if they first educated themselves about the justness of America’s role in the conflict. What thoughtful, informed person really thinks “Our reasons for going to and staying in Iraq are so important and I want to be a part of that vision!” I don’t think so. As a social worker, I have strapped on a bullet-proof vest and gone into gang-ridden neighborhoods to resolve conflict and I’ve convinced many of them to discontinue their bad lives and instead continue with their education. And I did that with crappy pay and almost no benefits. Who’s more patriotic? Who is actually working to make this nation a better place for our people? Who’s the REAL hero? Does sending the military in Iraq and Afghanistan REALLY makes the U.S. safer? Nah! It’s just a boondoggle for the military contractors.
        2) I agree with you that hiking in that area reflects bad judgment. But I wonder if you past through your youth without also exhibiting poor judgment at times. I know I did a lot of really dumb things back then (including traveling in dangerous parts of the world)!
        3) I also agree with you that the resources expended could have been put to good use elsewhere. But I blame that more on the Iranian government for creating this mess in the first place and holding these Americans as political pawns for over two years.

    • Uncle Sam

      Up yours!

      • Rodin

        Great argument! Proof of the above. Let’s try again. Using the brain you may have been supplied with.

        • Stealth Eggfart

          Eat my fatwa.

          • Rodin

            Inspiring. Another genius!

  • Melanie Greene

    They are the same as the people who go to Lebanon to visit family and when things get all fired up they are complaining that the U.S. didn’t come to their rescue to get them out of the country fast enough. F the family.
    Pakistan is lovely this time of year, let’s go! We’ve got troops dying in those countries and these jackwagons want to hike there. Our troops could recommend some prime hiking grounds. That they could come away from the experience feeling wronged tells that they should do hard labor with no time wasted on thinking.

  • Treehuggerssuck

    Its a bit like the Lorie Bernstein in S.A. These 2 little pains in the asses will be writing a book before you know it making $$$$ of this. Its a crazy world we live in people.

  • michaelfury
  • LG

    How about hiking in the Great Canyon instead next time you morons.

  • Glenn Erdmann

    Stupid Jews should not have been hiking along the Iran / Iraq border in the first place. Why do we have to “bail” these idiots out anyway?

    • bob

      You’re an idiot!

      • Glen Erdmann

        Oh, am I?

  • wedahpeople

    COME ON PEOPLE!!!!!!! Gee, where do you wanna go hiking? How about the border of Iraq! D’uh…………ok SURE. We the people are gullible.

  • Karen

    Actually some high level dude in Oman bailed these clowns out after bailing out their girlfriend last year.

    But we still pay because I’m sure the sheik wants a return favor from the U.S.

    • Rodin

      Or from her. Did she have to put out?

  • Karen

    That is a good plan Mike in San Diego. They should hike through Compton.

    The only thing I wanted to hear out of their mouths was – we are so sorry for getting you all involved in our drama. We are never going back again.

    Instead I hear their whining about how they were in solitary confinement and it was because how Americans treat foreigners and whine, whine, whine.

    Here is a tiny violin for you. Thanks a lot for getting us yet involved with some other tumultuous middle eastern country. You are lucky someone felt sorry for you because I sure did not want our tax dollars paying your bail. I did not care if you rotted in jail.

    What were you doing hiking in Iran? You mentioned in your news conference today that you supported those people who locked you up. Wonderful. I always support people who keep me under lock and key too. Why are you complaining then?

    How dare you criticize the United States? Who do you think you are? Go back to where you came from and stay there. If you get stuck in Iran again, I hope they lose the key.

    • Glenn Erdmann

      Well said. I hope you run for president.

    • M

      Couldn’t have put it better myself. You go get yourself locked up by making a REALLY dumb choice and then want to complain that everyone else didn’t act fast enough to rectify your idiocy? I would have left them there.

  • Stuboy510

    Where did the $500,000 bail for each of them come from? I know those ignorant tree huggers didn’t have it stuffed in their socks or back in their dorm room. Just another reason some people shouldn’t be allowed to reproduce. And the 2 that are engaged? I can’t wait to see the genius offspring those ra-tards produce. Lord help us

    • Rodin

      From your pocket and mine. From OUR tax $$$$$$$!.

  • mg

    No, they held you because they are Islamic fanatics and you are idiots.

  • jant1215

    So they oppose the U.S. policies towards Iran? Maybe they should be thrown in jail in this country! Idiots!

    • Nick

      Agree. The re ta rds should have been left to rot in Iran where they want to be.

  • Linda

    Why do the two who are engaged look like brother & sister if not twins ?

    • Sofia Vergara Stitz

      Look for Natalie Portman to play both in the upcoming ripped-from-the-headlines hollywood blockbuster!

  • sk

    you still have to feel some sympathy for the hikers! they did not intend to get in to trouble. I think its thes LEFTISTS/ liberal/professors fault: they convince the studnets that everyone is peaceful and the americans arre the agressors. All acts of terror is our government’s fault. so students listen and don’t think they are targets until its too late!

    • Rodin

      SYMPATHY? Not one bit. Stupidity knows no left/right. It’s ambidextrous.

  • Hardmoney

    The three mongoloids want to tickle the devil, and then they come crying for help. They should have been left to rot in prison. Why do we want three more morons in this country, don’t we have enoungh. Although, I would have gladly traded the Iranians, one obama for the three mongoloids. Now that would be a good deal !

    • Mike in San Diego

      I agree with HM and question, why do white people continue to head to the Middleeast, get F’d up and other white people blindly go right back? Hellooooooo, if you want a hiking adventure, try hiking through Compton idiots!!

    • jant1215

      totally agree.

  • Mike

    Who really cares?????? That’s what they get for hiking anywhere near the Iran/Iraq border. I mean really, how stupid can you get????

    • Rodin

      The imbeciles are being greeted like heroes when the State Department should be passing them the tab for rescue expenses after their idiotic folly. Take away their passports. Next time they want to take a hike they can do so in the Rockies.

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