book a lecture
Sarah is a frequent keynote and guest lecturer for nationally and internationally known organizations. Some notable appearances include a Keynote address at Amnesty International, Oprah, MSNBC, and Occupy San Quentin.
Book a lecture email sarah (at) sarahshourd (dot) com
\\ Quotes and recommendations //
Sarah Shourd is doing something that seems impossible—helping audiences connect viscerally to the excruciating pain experienced by prisoners serving time in solitary confinement. Her talk shifts deftly between heart-wrenching details of her own experience and our own misguided domestic policies of mass incarceration facilitated by punitive segregation. What a courageous human being and a remarkable voice for reform.
– Locke E Bowman, President of Northwestern Law School, Chicago
Several of the students who were there told me afterwards that it was the single most moving event they have been to… She’s a powerful speaker.
– Alan Mills Legal Director Uptown People’s Law Center
Sarah’s is a voice that needs to be heard–it is one of peace, compassion, tolerance, and understanding. She represents the best of her generation: courage in the face of adversity, faith in times of trial, and an unswerving dedication to ‘be the change she wishes to see in the world.
-Ambassador Akbar Ahmed, Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies, American University, Washington D.C.
Amnesty International USA has been proud to feature Sarah Shourd, Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal as keynote speakers at our 2012 Human Rights Conference in Denver, CO. The harrowing accounts of Sarah, Shane and Josh’s time as prisoners in Iran captivated hundreds of Amnesty International USA activists into stunned silence. Their accounts moved many of our activists to tears, but more importantly into action. The fact that these three activists are still able to campaign to end solitary confinement after their horrendous ordeal speaks volumes to their unbreakable spirit and dedication to social justice for all people.
-Kalaya’an Mendoza, Amnesty International U.S.A
p>Sarah Shourd spoke at my law school and captivated the audience of law students and activists with the harrowing story of her solitary confinement. She is an outstanding speaker with an amazing story. I recommend Sarah for any type of audience. She has a universal message of hope, survival, and need for change that must be heard.
-Professor Justin Brooks, Director, California Innocence Project
Sarah Shourd is the only American women who has survived a foreign government kidnapping, then returned to help rescue her husband and friend from the same hands that imprisoned her for over a year. I have seen Sarah’s brave and riveting account of her life-changing experiences in Iran challenge and educate audiences of varied ages and worldviews. It has been a long time since there was a story like this – one that everyone needs to hear.
– Eric Volz, Managing Director of the David House Agency and author of the critically acclaimed, Gringo Nightmare: A Young American Framed for Murder in Nicaragua, St Martin’s Press 2010.
Hearing you talk about how you’d go through multiplication tables or watch ants for days…such eloquent detail gave us profound insight into the daily horrors of solitary confinement.
-Princeton Student, Katie Tyler, Freshman
\\ Topics //
From Political Hostage to Prisoner Rights Advocate
From 2009 to 2010 Sarah Shourd was held as a political hostage by the Iranian government, captured with her two friends while hiking in semi-autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan and imprisoned—without due process or any evidence shown against her—for 410 days of solitary, incommunicado detention. In her lectures, Shourd shares stories of resistance, survival and political intrigue: from clandestine encounters with other prisoners, to the visit their mothers were granted to Tehran, her appearance on Oprah days after her “compassionate” release and subsequent meetings with figures such as Hilary Clinton, President Obama, Actor Sean Penn, Boxer Muhammad Ali and President Ahmadinejad himself. Since her ordeal, Sarah has gone on to co-author a memoir, A Sliver of Light: Three Americans Imprisoned in Iran, and to speak out about a wide range of human and prisoner rights issues, focusing on the widespread use of prolonged solitary confinement in US prisons.
Solitary Confinement: Invisible Torture in our Own Backyard
The best way I know how to describe the torture of being held in prolonged solitary confinement is that it feels like a slow death. With nothing but four white walls you slowly become consumed by an emptiness so vast and inescapable it threatens to erase you. After spending 410 days in solitary confinement while being held as a political hostage by the Iranian government form 2009-2010, I came back to the U.S. to find out that this draconian practice, antithetical to any pretense of rehabilitation, is far more prevalent in U.S. prisons than in any country in the world—any country in history. Since my release I’ve dedicated my professional life to raising awareness about this senseless, brutal practice through journalism, advocacy, theatre and a memoir I co-authored with my fellow hostages, A Sliver of Light: Three Americans Imprisoned in Iran, published by Houghton-Mifflin Harcourt in 2014. In this lecture I will discuss how I survived solitary confinement, the painful legacy it left in my life and my recommendations on the policy changes necessary to greatly reduce and prohibit this practice in
the United States.