Mother Of American Detained In Iran: 'This Case Has Nothing To Do With Politics'
The mothers of Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd, and Josh Fattal, three Americans who
were recently detained in Iran, have
issued a letter to Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad,
urging him to bring their children to the United States when he travels to New
York next week to attend the United Nations General Assembly.
Joshua Fattal (right) with his
mother, Laura Fattal, in an undated family photograph
Bauer, Shourd, and Fattal were detained on July
31, reportedly after unintentionally straying across an unmarked border area
between Iran and Iraqi Kurdistan. RFE/RL correspondent Golnaz Esfandiari spoke
to Laura Fattal, the mother of 27-year-old Josh Fattal.
RFE/RL: Today you delivered a letter to the Iranian Mission in New York
with a request that it be relayed to President Mahmud Ahmadinejad. What would
you tell him if you could speak to him directly?
Laura Fattal: We would say, "President Ahmadinejad, you as a father
will understand the importance of bringing our children home to us. And you will
understand that this is a time of forgiveness and reflection. And it is a time
when the United Nations meets -- an organization devoted to friendship and
peace. And it is a time for us to share friendship and peace among all nations."
And we urge him to bring Josh, Shane, and Sarah with him.
RFE/RL: Your son and his two friends have been
in Iranian custody for some 50 days now. You haven't been able to speak with
them over the phone. What kind of news have you been receiving about them, about
their location and conditions?
Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd and
Fattal: Unfortunately, we
don't have any news of their location. We are concerned about them every single
day. We are hopeful that they're being fed; that they have showers; that they
have a good bed; and their well-being is being taken care of. But we are worried
every single day.
We don't have word about them and we have not spoken to them and we have not
received counselor access through the Swiss, the protecting power for the United
States in Iran. The U.S. State Department has worked very closely with the Swiss
government, and the Swiss government, being our protecting agency, is going
frequently to the Iranian authorities to seek counselor access and to learn more
about our children.
RFE/RL: But they haven't been given access to Josh, Shane, and Sarah so
Fattal: No, to the best of our knowledge.
RFE/RL: Some Iranian officials have reportedly said that your son and
his two friends are suspected of espionage. What is your reaction?
Fattal: Our children are suspected of illegal entry into Iran. This
case has absolutely nothing to do with politics. Our kids -- Josh, Shane and
Sarah -- they have an enormous respect for different cultures, societies, and
religions. They had no intention of going into Iran.
RFE/RL: Please tell us about your son Josh. What was he doing before
being taken into custody?
Fattal: He was a teaching fellow with the International Honors Program
from January to May. This is an undergraduate study-abroad program. This was a
very prestigious paid position, and he worked with undergraduate students on the
topic of health and community in countries such as Switzerland, India, China,
and South Africa.
He finished his trip in May and visited his brother, who is a graduate student
in anthropology in Europe. He also met his father, who was on a business trip in
Germany for a few days, and then Josh went traveling in southern Europe. Then he
met his friend, Shane, in Damascus, where Shane and Sarah were living.
He was planning to spend a short time there and Sarah, Shane's partner, was
teaching English in Damascus and Sarah had a one-week vacation; and that's why
they decided to go to a cooler place than Damascus in the summer and they went
up to Iraqi Kurdistan.
RFE/RL: That's when they accidentally crossed the border into Iran?
Fattal: They are suspected of illegal entry. I would like to add that
it would be a wonderful humanitarian effort by President Ahmadinejad to bring
our children home with him. We are eager for him to bring the children to the
United States and it would be a wonderful occasion for the opening of the
General Assembly of the United Nations.
We urge him to do that and we ask for his compassion both as a leader and as a
Copyright (c) 2009 RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org
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