Happy birthday Shane

Shane Bauer
Today I’m fasting for my mate Shane, who is 29 today.

Together with friends across the world, I’m protesting Shane and Josh’s detention in Iran’s notorious jail for political prisoners, Evin.

Shane was captured in a cross-border raid by Iranian forces while in Kurdistan in Northern Iraq in 2009, along with another of my friends Sarah Shourd (since released) and their mate Josh Fattal.

Two years ago I was sitting in a cafe near Regents Park in London when I spotted a short paragraph in the Sunday Times about “three US hikers” captured crossing the Iraqi border into Iran.

My intial response was probably similar to that of most people who’ve spent time living and working in the region: they must be spies.

It was only when I got a call from Mazen – my friend and Arabic teacher in Damascus – that I realised what had happened.

I knew very well that Shane and Sarah had gone to Kurdistan – I’d wished them goodbye from Yarmouk, the Palestinian refugee camp in Damascus where they lived. I’d also turned down an invite to go with them, the BBC job I was working on meant I couldn’t leave Syria for long enough. But it still took a while for it to sink in that the very same mates I’d been playing backgammon and smoking shisha with were now part of a growing international news story.

My initial panic was relatively short lived. Pretty soon I relaxed, knowing that once the Iranian authorities knew who they were, they’d be out soon.

Besides, how could Iran justify holding Shane, a widely published independent journalist, openly critical of US policy in the Middle East? Not only had he just published the cover story in the Nation, on US-trained death squads, but he’d also just been to visit his close friend Tristan, who was recovering after being shot in the head by the IDF during a Palestinian-led protest against the Apartheid wall.

Shane could hardly have been more vocal about his opposition to the Israeli occupation, and – along with Sarah – had been an organiser of anti-war protests against the invasion of Iraq.

In short, I was confident that Iran would soon realise this wasn’t the kind of American it was hoping to catch.

Two years on, I now realise I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Unlike the UK navy sailors who were captured by Iranian forces and released after 13 days following pressure from the UK government, Shane and Josh are still in prison after 700 days.

Shane is a phenomenal journalist – fiercely independent, and refusing to swallow any country’s propaganda (he was an unembedded reporter in Iraq). He is a passionate defender of Human Rights. Anyone who shares these values and who cares about the course of justice should be outraged at the continued imprisonment of Shane and Josh.

That means that we must campaign for their release. By that ‘we’ I mean the ordinary people who don’t accept the binary world where the US is good and Iran is bad (or vice versa). The world is full of greys, good people and bad, who carry all colours of passports.

Shane and Sarah (and I’m sure Josh, though I’ve never had the fortune to meet him) are some of the good ones. They have dedicated a large part of their lives to fighting injustice wherever it pops its ugly head, whether in the US or elsewhere.

That’s why we have to support Shane and Josh. Because if we don’t do it, nobody will. And with them in prison, the world is being starved of two incredible activists who work tirelessly to make this little rock we inhabit a better place. We’re all poorer without them.

So happy 29th Shane – I hope you find some way in your cell to celebrate it.

PS I’m saving the birthday hug until you get out.

More info:

Sarah talking to Amnesty after her release
Sarah on BBC HardTalk
Free Our Friends (a website a few of us put together)
Free The Hikers (official campaign home)

1 Response to “Happy birthday Shane”

  • good for you james, this is an appalling injustice. i cant even begin to imagine what they are going through. have Amnesty been involved in freeing them at all?

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