News / USA

US Hikers: Iran Held Us Because of Nationality, Not Actions

Peter Fedynsky

Two American hikers released after 781 days in an Iranian prison are back in the United States.  Appearing at a news conference in New York on Sunday, the two men criticized Iran for holding political prisoners and the United States for maintaining the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.  

Iranian prison officials used the Guantanamo facility as justification to deny Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer better prison conditions.

Captivity details

Josh Fattal described their captivity as nearly complete isolation in Tehran’s Evin Prison.  He said he and Shane Bauer were forced to live in a world of lies and false hopes.

“We had to go on hunger strike repeatedly just to receive letters from our loved ones.  Many times, too many times, we heard the screams of other prisoners being beaten, and there was nothing we could do to help them," he said.

Shane Bauer told reporters that it is the Iranian people who bear the brunt of what he termed their government’s cruelty and disregard for human rights.  He called for the immediate release of all political prisoners in Iran.  While thanking American diplomats for helping to gain their release, he also directed criticism at the United States.

“In prison, every time we complained about our conditions, the guards would immediately remind us of comparable conditions at Guantanamo Bay.  They would remind us of CIA prisons in other parts of the world, and the conditions that Iranians and others experienced in prisons in the U.S," he said.

Why they were arrested

Fattal, Bauer and a third American, Sarah Shourd, say they were hiking along Iraq's unmarked border and might have unknowingly strayed into Iran in July 2009.  The three were arrested and charged with espionage.  They say they were held hostage only because they were Americans.  Shourd was released in September 2010.  She appeared with her two colleagues in New York, along with family members of the hikers.  

Laura Fattal, Josh’s mother, said the men kept mentally active by quizzing each other, reading books and exercising. “One of the things that Josh told me was that they were very serious about their exercise.  And they used water bottles as weights in their cell to build muscles.  And you see they’re both very fit now," he said.

What's next?

The hikers expressed gratitude to the tens of thousands of people who participated in an international campaign to win their release.  They included world leaders, Nobel laureates, diplomats, the U.N. secretary-general, officials in the Iranian government and former boxing champion Mohammed Ali.

While Sarah Shourd was imprisoned in Iran, Shane Bauer asked whether she would marry him.  She agreed.  Now that she is reunited with her fiancé, Shourd says she looks forward to being married soon.  Josh Fattal will be their best man.

Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter
and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs