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Call to Help the Hikers

If you care about solidarity activism, independent reporting and the ability of progressive journalists to work on the frontlines of world events, I encourage you to make a simple phone call to the Iranian Interests Section in Washington D.C. on behalf of the two American hikers who are still being held in a 10' x 14' cell in Iran.

Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal have been locked away for almost 2 years. Recently, after repeatedly denying them visits with their lawyer and failing to produce them in court at the last hearing, Iran announced that it will resume their espionage trial on July 31. In reality, Shane and Josh were merely vacationing, and went for a beautiful hike along a river valley. Shane and his fiancé Sarah Shourd had been living in Damascus, Syria. Shane was studying and writing. Sarah was teaching English to Syrian students, and Iraqi and Palestinian refugees. Their friends Josh and Shon Meckfessel were visiting. Sarah had time off from teaching, so the four traveled together to Northern Iraq/Kurdistan, a semi-autonomous region where tourism flourishes, and which the Kurds, with the help of a U.S. Political Relations firm, a former U.S. Ambassador, and Fox News, had touted as safe. Everyone they met told them to hike to the waterfall. The problem was, they continued up the same trail, having no idea how close they were to the completely unmarked border with Iran. Somewhere along that border, and it is unclear on which side of it, Shane, Josh, and Sarah were arrested -- or more accurately abducted -- by an Iranian patrol. (Their other friend, Shon Meckfessel, was sick, and had stayed at the hotel.) Sarah was released after 14 months. Now, the other two face trial on espionage charges.

Shane Bauer has reported from Iraq, Ethiopia and Syria. He has written acclaimed articles, highly questioning of U.S. foreign policy for the Nation magazine where I am a contributing editor. Recently, Shane won high praise for his journalism from the inimitable Robert Fisk. (See "Is Shane Bauer Really an Enemy of Iran," U.K. Independent, May 6, 2011.) Josh is an avid environmentalist and teacher. Though I have never met Shane or Josh, we have close friends and extensive community in common.

The espionage charges against Shane and Josh are absurd on their face, and Iran knows it. As Sarah's chief interrogator informed her two months into her detention, Iran knew they were innocent but their case had become political. Two years later, Shane and Josh are still being held as political pawns, caught between two nations who refuse to talk to each other directly. If the Iranian political class has read any of Shane's, Josh's, or Sarah's works, which are widely available on the internet (see FreeOurFriends.eu/), it would be evident to them that the hikers are the exact opposite of U.S. spies.

But the Iranians have not acted on this reality as a result of their own inner turmoil and tension between political factions. Meanwhile, their continued detention of these two young men, in isolation, in a cramped cell, and without affording them even the process they are due under Iranian law, further corrodes their image around the world.

The competing Iranian power brokers need to be reminded collectively that their continued incarceration of the hikers is a stain on Iran's honor. This is the purpose of the phone blitz leading up to Shane and Josh's trial on July 31. Please make a simple phone call between July 25 and July 29, and politely but clearly let the Iranian Interests Section in Washington D.C. know that your eyes, and the eyes of the world, are on them.

Here are the details:

Week of Action Call Everyday For Their Release!
Starting Monday July 25th until Friday July 29th
Interests Section of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Washington D.C.
(202) 965-4990
For more information: www.twoyearsistoomuch.wordpress.com