Shannon Bauer, from Boulder, Colorado, is the sister of Shane Bauer, one of the three American hikers who have been detained in Iran for almost four months.
When I first heard that my brother, Shane Bauer, had been detained in Iran I felt my heart sink deep in my chest. More than 100 days later, I still get that sinking feeling when I wake up every morning knowing that Shane, his girlfriend Sarah Shourd, and their friend Josh Fattal are still in Evin Prison. On July 31, it was reported that Shane, Sarah, and Josh mistakenly crossed the unmarked border into Iran while they were hiking in Iraqi Kurdistan. When I heard that, all I could think about was the email Shane had sent me the night before.
Shane wrote: "We are in Northern Iraq now (don't worry, it's autonomous and totally safe.) Sarah had time off so we took a trip with Josh and Shon. It's fun being a tourist. Today or tomorrow, we will head up into the mountains, which one friend told me is the most beautiful place he's ever seen in his life. We should be back Tuesday night. When can you meet [on skype] after then? I love you."
Shane's words have not left my head since I got the call that they had been detained. It was only because their friend Shon Meckfessel, who was on the trip with them, didn't go on the hike that we found out their fate. Shane and Shon had both bought Iraqi SIM cards for their cell phones and Shane managed to call Shon briefly to say the three of them had been detained.
I never got to make my call to Shane on that Tuesday, Aug. 4, when they had been due to return to Damascus, Syria, where Shane and Sarah had been living. We have had no contact with our loved ones for almost four months and, while we know they are accused of illegal entry, there's not much more we do know. Now I wait for the phone call that Shane was never able to make. I wait for the day that our families will be reunited. Until then, I write to Shane in a journal I'm keeping about our efforts to draw attention to the case with vigils, our website (freethehikers.org), the mail brigade, and an endless stream of tasks we take on every day to try to make even the slightest impact.
Shane, Sarah, and Josh were on vacation, nothing more. I know some people wonder, why Iraq? Aren't there safer places in the US to go hiking? The reality is that Sarah had only a few days off from work and they wanted to get out of Damascus, a big city that can be suffocating in the intense summer heat. They had heard wonderful things from friends about Iraqi Kurdistan, where they could enjoy beautiful scenery, hike, and relax for a few days. Their goal was to hike to the Ahmed Awa waterfall. It's 600 miles from Damascus but I can see how it was an appealing destination for an extended weekend get away. After all, I travel 1,000 miles from Colorado to visit my family in Minnesota. I have traveled those 1,000 miles several times in the past 100 days, and each time someone has been missing: Shane.
So what happens now? My dream, of course, is for that phone to ring and for it to be Shane on the line saying he is free and is on his way home. I still believe every time the phone rings that it's going to be him. Our hopes shot sky high when President Ahmadinejad of Iran said he would ask the judicial authorities to expedite the case and show maximum leniency. But that was two months ago and we're still waiting for movement. If Iran charges Shane and his friends with illegal entry, I know they'll be able to explain that if they crossed the border it was a simple mistake. So we hope that the Iranian judiciary will take on board what President Ahmadinejad said and resolve this case quickly and show compassion. After all, it's been more than 100 days and we want Shane, Sarah and Josh to come home.