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One Year Unjustly Detained

One year ago, on July 31, each of us received an unexpected telephone call from the U.S. embassy in Baghdad. It was to tell us that our children had been detained by Iranian forces on the border with Iraqi Kurdistan. Shane, his fiancée Sarah and their close friend Josh had been on vacation there -- contentedly walking a trail near the waterfalls of Ahmed Awa, feeling grateful for the chance to be there, enjoying their hike and loving each other's company. It was not, perhaps, the most conventional choice but it was an understandable one. Shane and Sarah had been living and working in Damascus, Syria; the mountains of Kurdistan were close and cool; and the region was beautiful, welcoming to Americans and safe -- far removed from what the Kurds call "the other Iraq" of war and killing.

The Baghdad caller had very little information about what had happened to our children. In fact, officially, we know very little more today about Shane, Sarah and Josh's case than we knew 12 months ago -- except that it's now abundantly clear that Iran has no legitimate reason to continue to hold them. They are political pawns, bargaining chips in Iran's standoff with the United States.

Never did we imagine on that fateful day a year ago that the change of seasons rolling by would get us sick to our stomachs. Little did we ever expect that we would reach the height of summer once more and our children would still be deprived of their liberty, cut off almost completely from the world in their cells in Evin Prison.

In 12 long months, our families have received just one hurried telephone call from our children. The three of us we were able to visit them briefly in May, to fill them with hope, touch them physically and emotionally. At the end of our all too brief time together, we watched in despair as the elevator doors in the hotel where we met under tight supervision closed in front of them. We wondered at that moment when we would see them again. It was, for all of us, a moment we will never forget.

We do not know why Shane, Sarah and Josh are still being held without charge, why their human rights are being violated, why they are not allowed regular consular visits or to make calls and write letters home and why they have had no access to their lawyer. Most mystifyingly and cruelly of all, we do not know why Sarah remains in solitary confinement, denied any human contact other than brief periods each day when she is allowed to meet Shane and Josh in the prison yard.

We will not know how they have been treated until we get them out. And we may never know precisely what we did that worked to get them out. But what we do know is that we must not stop working for our children's freedom until they get out. It has become our fulltime pursuit and we have all put our lives on hold because of it, interrupting careers, sacrificing many of the pleasures of a normal life and time with others in our families to devote ourselves to the task.

On Friday, the three of us will lead a protest against our children's detention outside the Iranian Mission to the United Nations in New York. The gathering is one of more than 20 events that relatives, friends and supporters are organizing around the world on a "Weekend of Action" to highlight the injustice visited on our children.

We hope these gatherings will make a difference, but it is not any one thing that we do that will help set Sarah, Shane and Josh free. It is everything we do. It is the hushed voices in quiet conversations and the more forceful voices we will raise on Friday outside the Iranian mission and at other places -- on this anniversary and at other times. It is the letters we write pleading for our children's liberty and the ears we bend to say "this is wrong." It is the emails we send and the interviews we give to the media explaining who Shane, Sarah and Josh are. It is the telling and re-telling of their story until all the people of the world know it well and Iran finally listens and does the right thing.

The leadership of the Islamic Republic of Iran knows the tenacity of mothers; we will never give up until the inhumane detention of our children ends.

Tehran, enough is enough. Shane, Sarah and Josh need to come home now!

Cindy Hickey, the mother of Shane Bauer, lives outside Pine City, Minnesota. Nora Shourd, the mother of Sarah Shourd, is from Oakland, California. Laura Fattal, the mother of Josh Fattal, resides in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania.