In the last moments of my mom's hunger strike, she began writhing in pain. Sitting in our kitchen in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, she bobbed back and forth massaging her legs after 48 hours without food.
Today, our family marks 664 days of a form of torture no less visceral: the involuntary absence of my younger brother Josh. Josh and his close friend from the University of California at Berkeley, Shane Bauer, have been imprisoned in Iran for almost 22 months since they were arrested on July 31, 2009, on the unmarked border with Iran while hiking on vacation in Iraqi Kurdistan.
Shane and Josh have gone on hunger strike at least four times since their detention as a form of protest. On Sunday, they called home for only the third time. In Sunday's brief calls, we learned that Shane and Josh recently went without food for 17 consecutive days when they stopped receiving the letters our families send day in, day out. Josh urged us to write the date of our most recent letter in the first line of all of our letters so they can tell when correspondence is being withheld. Letters, the only thing that pierces the total isolation Josh and Shane are subjected to, even letters, are being manipulated.
Today is day four of my leg of the rotating hunger strike my mom and Shane's mom, Cindy Hickey, initiated last week. The pangs in my stomach are subtle reminders of the pain that Josh and Shane endure under lamps that light their 10x14 foot cell, even at night. Not eating is a small act, a symbolic act, intended to highlight injustice and have it corrected. My brother and Shane are living through an egregious injustice. Our families, their friends and supporters across the world plan to continue our hunger strike in solidarity with them until they are free.
On June 4, Josh will turn 29, his second birthday in jail and another painful reminder of the arbitrary punishment he, Shane and our families are being made to face for reasons not of our doing.
There are no words to describe what a great person Josh is, how selfless, how committed to causes such as the return of salmon to the rivers of Oregon's Willamette Valley and the local food movement. Josh was thinking deeply about his life and considering graduate school when he set out on the travels that took him to Kurdistan, a welcoming and relatively safe region of Iraq.
Josh has been an organic intellectual since he graduated from Berkeley in 2004, combining a deep curiosity about the world with a commitment to improve it. It's time for him to get on with his life and resume his path: through the Douglas Fir forests of Oregon, through the halls of academia, or wherever else his life takes him. His days of walking blindfolded down the corridors of Evin Prison must end now.
I urge everyone reading this post to get involved in the fight for Josh and Shane's freedom.