Today is Mother's Day and my heart goes out to Cindy Hickey and Laura Fattal, whose sons Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal have now been unlawfully detained in Iran for more than 92 weeks. Shane and Josh are being made to suffer a harsh punishment for absolutely no crime. The Iranian authorities know that these young men are anything but spies; instead they embody the true spirit of justice and peace.
One of the most painful experiences any parent can have is being unable to help your child when he or she is suffering or in danger. You are overcome by a feeling of powerlessness which soon gives way to outrage. With strength, determination and support, we can transform our pain into positive action. This is what mothers do, whether it is fighting to protect their children from bullying in school or working for their freedom where there is great injustice, as in the case of Shane and Josh.
Cindy Hickey and Laura Fattal have taken that mother’s instinct and, with their families, they have fashioned themselves into powerful advocates for their sons on the international stage. It is an unexpected role for these two courageous women; one they must never have imagined would fall on their shoulders. But for all their weariness and despair, they press on.
Shane, a freelance journalist and fluent Arabic speaker, and Josh, an environmental educator, were detained by Iranian forces on the unmarked border with Iraqi Kurdistan, where they were hiking in the mountains behind a popular tourist destination at the end of July 2009. Shane’s fiancée, Sarah Shourd, who was arrested with them and released in September last year, was not wearing a headscarf when they were taken. That simple fact makes a mockery of Iranian allegations that they were on a spying mission since it is obligatory in Iran for women to cover their hair.
I do not think ‘prisoner’ or ‘captive’ is quite the right word for these two innocent men. It is common to hear the words ‘political pawns’ and ‘bargaining chips’ used to describe Shane and Josh but really the most accurate term is ‘hostages’. And, Iran should stop holding them for no legitimate reason simply because they are Americans.
Time is precious, especially time with your children. Cindy and Laura have had nearly two years of that time stolen from them by the actions of the Iranian authorities. For more than 21 months, Shane and Josh have been cut off from their families and the world. They have been allowed just two brief phone calls home and a short visit from their mothers.
Shane and Josh are accused of espionage but I cannot imagine two more unlikely US agents. Both men are peace activists who protested in the streets against the senseless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and have shown solidarity with the struggles of oppressed people across the globe, from South Africa to Palestine. These are precisely the sort of issues that Iran so frequently says it champions.
Shane and Josh will be put on trial on Wednesday. There is no reason for that trial to end in anything other than their acquittal and immediate release. I call on the Iranian judicial authorities to act in a spirit of justice and truth and return Shane and Josh to their mothers and families.
*Cindy Sheehan is an American peace activist who became a prominent figure in the anti-war movement after her son, U.S. Army Specialist Casey Sheehan, was killed in Iraq in April 2004.