Sarah Shourd is an author, prisoner rights advocate, Contributing Editor at Solitary Watch, and a Visiting Scholar at UC Berkeley—currently based in Oakland, California. Sarah was held as a political hostage by the Iranian government from 2009-2010. She was captured, along with her two companions, while hiking near the unmarked Iran/Iraq border in semi-autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan while on a weeklong trip from her home in Damascus, Syria. Sarah was held incommunicado in solitary confinement for 410 days before being released, without a trial or any evidence shown against her, by President Ahmadinejad on “compassionate grounds,” a move designed to ease international pressure against the Iranian government.

Upon her release, Sarah worked tirelessly for the release of her fiance and friend, appearing on Oprah and meeting with key figures such as Hilary Clinton, President Obama, President Talabani, Actor Sean Penn, Boxer Muhammad Ali, Musician Cat Stevens and President Ahmadinejad himself. The cynical game the Iranian government played with the lives of the “Three American Hikers” in hope of gaining concession from the U.S. government finally ended in Sept 2011 when Shane and Josh were released and Sarah and Shane were finally able to get married in May, 2012.

Sarah spent her 20s doing human rights, anti-war and international solidarity work around the world. She lived as a peace observer and participated in Zapatista indigenous movement in Chiapas, Mexico. She organized with mothers from Juarez, Mexico who lost their daughters in a spree of unsolved murders many have coined “femicide.” Sarah spent a year living in Damascus, Syria teaching Iraqi refugees with the Iraqi Student Project.

She now writes, speaks and advocates against the use of prolonged solitary confinement in U.S. prisons. She’s written for The New York Times, CNN, Mother Jones, San Francisco Chronicle, Salon, Huffington Post and is a regular contributor for Daily Beast. Shourd co-authored a memoir A Sliver of Light: Three Americans Imprisoned in Iran, which was published by Houghton-Mifflin Harcourt in 2014. She also co-edited an anthology Hell is a Very Small Place: Voices from Solitary Confinement, to be published by New Press in 2016. Her play, Opening the Box, will premiere at Z Space in San Francisco in July, 2016 You can also follow her on Twitter, read her blog on Huffington Post or reach her directly at sarah (at) sarahshourd (dot) com.