Three Americans on Being Imprisoned in Iran

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

In the summer of 2009, Americans Shane Bauer, Joshua Fattal, and Sarah Shourd, were hiking in Iraqi Kurdistan when they unknowingly crossed into Iran and were captured by a border patrol. Accused of espionage, they were held for two years and wound up in Tehran’s infamous Evin Prison. They discovered that pooling their strength of will and relying on each other were the only ways they could survive.

After their arrest, they were afraid of being tortured or raped, but Sarah Shourd explains, "We soon realized that we were lucky, that we had a certain protection because we were American and because they were holding us as valuable prisoners that they would eventually cash in."

Isolation had a profound effect on them. Shane Bauer and Joshua Fattal shared a cell at times throughout their captivity. Bauer said that he lost the ability to read people’s body language, except for Josh’s.

Shourd was held in solitary confinement for 410 days. "Solitary confinement is like a slow death. It’s the slow motion torture of being buried alive." She lost her grip on reality many times. "The miracle is that I always found my way back."

While attempts at diplomacy between the US and Iran failed, Shourd says, "It was really the tens of thousands – if not hundreds of thousands – of people around the world that continued to fight for us that, eventually, the tipping point came."

They wrote part of their memoir while being held in prison. Joshua Fattal explains, "We could steal pens and when our mothers visited we got a few pens that I snuck in my pants.” They wrote on letters (which were their main contact with the outside world) and successfully snuck the letters out in the bindings of hardcover books. 

Their memoir is A Sliver of Light: Three Americans Imprisoned in Iran.


Shane Bauer, Joshua Fattal and Sarah Shourd

Comments [20]

Norma Lee from New York City

Two of them speak Arabic..they were traveling hoping to pick up information for an article or book. IF they were credible journalists, they easily could have received a jounralis's Visa from Iran..but of course they are not.
I think it's a shame for any American publisher to have put this book out. Okay, they shouldn't have been kept for so long..but undoubtedly in addition to the money, Iran traded them for some of their prisoners being held by Western countries.

Mar. 19 2014 04:48 PM

Oh, come on, let's not pretend to be naive. They are obviously CIA assets.

Mar. 18 2014 11:03 PM

Glad to see that I am NOT the only one who asks "WHAT were these people thinking??!!"

Mar. 18 2014 09:09 PM
John F. Kennedy

"Though disapproved of by many, pronunciations ending in \-kyə-lər\ have been found in widespread use among educated speakers including scientists, lawyers, professors, congressmen, United States cabinet members, and at least two United States presidents and one vice president. While most common in the United States, these pronunciations have also been heard from British and Canadian speakers."

Pretty sure "Newkular" is a Massachusetts thing which might imply that "new clear" is actually the plebeian pronunciation. Sort of like silly midwestern hillbillies who pronounce Amherst as "Am Hirst", wrong! Go back to Wisconsin.

Mar. 18 2014 07:48 PM
Suzanne from Brooklyn

I did not listen to this story, but this American is still in Evin prison after around Three years. He was a Marine going to Iran to visit his grandmother where he was captured and accused of being a spy:

I would love it if someone from WNYC could look into this.

Mar. 18 2014 06:21 PM
JR from NYC

Another case of f*cktardation.

Mar. 18 2014 02:00 PM

Did Sarah Shourd's time in solitary confinement affect her brain's language center as well?

Mar. 18 2014 12:41 PM
foodaggro from Brooklyn

They felt rage? Depression? What about shame, or feeling damned foolish? No one forced them into their situation.

Mar. 18 2014 12:38 PM
innocent citizen from CT

How much tax dollars was wasted for these people?
They are responsible for their own behavior. How lucky they are!
So many people were killed without any cause and their behavior such as from drone strikes.

Mar. 18 2014 12:38 PM
John from UWS

Leonard is as warm as last nights mashed potatoes. I mean he is so cold in this interview, using phrases like you must have known, & that was naive to people who well held in a Iranian prison. Have some heart.

Mar. 18 2014 12:31 PM

How about a lovely Springtime vacation on the Black Sea?

I hear that Crimea is just lovely at this time of year.

Mar. 18 2014 12:31 PM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

Will they be hiking to cannibals next?

Mar. 18 2014 12:29 PM
genejoke from Brooklyn

I have trouble feeling any amount of sympathy for this trio. Utter foolishness.
How shocking that the Iranians believed these people to be spies! Why else would an American or otherwise visit that area for a recreational hike??

Mar. 18 2014 12:28 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

Maybe they weren't actually torturing the guy in the nearby cell, but rather having someone act out as if he was being tortured to psychologically work on them?

Mar. 18 2014 12:26 PM

Will these people be hiking along the North Korean border next?

Mar. 18 2014 12:23 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

Now why would Iran be suspicious of an American Jew whose parents were born in Iraq, emigrated to Israel, and then again to the US? Now why would Iranians suspect such a person as possibly being a CIA spy?

Mar. 18 2014 12:23 PM
pinus from So.Plainfield

I totally agree with you genejoke. I don't feel bad at naive...They were looking for adventure and they got it...

Mar. 18 2014 12:19 PM
pinus from So.Plainfield

I totally agree with you genejoke. I don't feel bad at naive...

Mar. 18 2014 12:17 PM
genejoke from Brooklyn

... or willfully naive.

Mar. 18 2014 12:12 PM
genejoke from Brooklyn

I'm gonna go out on a limb here and say that hiking in Iraqi Kurdistan was an incredibly STUPID and arrogant move.

"What were you thinking?" indeed.

Mar. 18 2014 12:10 PM

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