New York Times
May 11, 2011
– by Sarah Shourd
On May 11, Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal, two of the three American hikers who were detained by Iranian officials after crossing a border between Iraqi Kurdistan and Iran in 2009, will go on trial in Tehran for espionage. They have been held in Evin Prison for almost two years.
“Their lawyer Mr. Shafii is STILL being denied access to Josh and Shane,” said Alex Fattal, Josh’s brother. “All Josh and Shane have in Iran are each other, Mr. Shafii, and God,” he continued, saying that the hikers’ families are hoping for an innocent verdict within the next 24 hours.
Sarah Shourd, the third hiker who was released last September for humanitarian reasons, has given a brief description of what she imagines their life to be like these days. For more information, visit Freethehikers.org.
For five hours a day the sunlight shines through the only window in Josh and Shane’s cell in Evin Prison, casting a small square of light on the wall. As the sun steals across the horizon, Josh and Shane’s square of light moves in its own arc across the 10 feet of their universe.
Very little reaches Shane and Josh inside those four walls. The closest they come to nature is a single potted plant that they pass in the hallway outside their cell each day. Their only view of the outside world is a patch of blue sky divided by steel bars. Their cell contains two beds, a sink, a toilet, a shower and an empty space about the size of a large beach towel. With fluorescent lights continuously kept on, Josh and Shane never enjoy the luxury of darkness; in order to sleep at night they have to tie a shirt around their eyes.
Once a day, the door opens and a guard barks “Hurry up” in Farsi. Shane and Josh quickly blindfold themselves so they can be marched, single-file, down a long corridor to an “open-air” room, which is a large, empty cell with tall stone walls and an open ceiling crisscrossed by thick bars. They are given 40 minutes to run in circles around this room, while a moving camera mounted on the wall constantly monitors the scene. This brief period each day is the greatest freedom Shane and Josh have experienced in nearly two years.
As time passes, the free world becomes more and more abstract and idealized. The one visit by their mothers they were afforded almost a year ago is now a distant memory and their most recent five-minute phone call in November a painful recollection. Even the scraps of information that trickle in from letters and 15 minutes a day of English-language news on Iranian TV are filtered through their own equivalents of the wire, bars and glass. Josh and Shane have no activities, no contact with other prisoners and no pens or paper. Three times a day, plastic containers of food are delivered to their cells which they eat in silence.
It is very difficult to describe the psychological effects of this kind of extreme isolation accurately. Even though I was imprisoned under nearly identical conditions for 14 months, I cannot begin to imagine how Shane and Josh are still coping after 21 months. Needless to say, their safety and mental health are a serious concern for all of us. Knowing that you’re innocent adds another layer of anxiety to being in prison. The human spirit cannot accept punishment for no cause. Instead your soul is restless and your longing for freedom never abates. At 18 months Josh and Shane were brought to the Revolutionary Court and allowed to testify to their complete innocence. On May 11, there will be another trial. Shane and Josh have suffered for far too long; let this day in prison be their last.