Former detained hiker speaks on campus

UC Berkeley alumna and former detained hiker Sarah Shourd advocated the release of her companions during her speech.
Derek Remsburg/Staff
UC Berkeley alumna and former detained hiker Sarah Shourd advocated the release of her companions during her speech.

UC Berkeley alumna Sarah Shourd recounted the details of her 410-day imprisonment in Iran’s Evin Prison to a crowded lecture hall, advocating for the release of two alumni who remain detained in the country after nearly two years.

The lecture, facilitated by the campus’s Berkeley Lecture Series, consisted of a panel discussion with Shourd and her mother, Nora, as well as a video that captured intimate details of Shourd’s experience while she was detained.

Shourd was arrested by Iranian officials in 2009 for allegedly spying while hiking along the Iran-Iraq border with UC Berkeley alumni Shane Bauer — Shourd’s fiance — and Josh Fattal.

She was released on $500,000 bail in September after discovering a lump in her breast.

“Our plans for the future, our home where we had been living … all of our possessions and even the clothes on our backs were taken from us in one fell swoop,” Shourd said. “It literally felt like being plucked out of this world.”

Fattal and Bauer have remained in Iran and pleaded not guilty in court, while Shourd pleaded not guilty in absentia. The hikers and their families have maintained that they were not spying and that if they crossed the border, it was accidental.

According to Shourd, the three were hiking in the Kurdistan province of Iraq — an area frequented by tourists — when an Iranian soldier saw them and gestured for them to step off of their hiking trail. He then pointed to the trail and said “Iraq” and pointed to the spot where they now stood, saying “Iran,” indicating that they had unknowingly crossed the border.

Bauer and Fattal have been allowed to phone home a total of three times, the most recent of which was May 22.

Shourd’s mother said she and her daughter, along with the mothers of Bauer and Fattal, have been tirelessly working to advocate on behalf of the two men since they first learned of the trio’s imprisonment.

“Time stopped for us that day, and it hasn’t started up again yet,” Nora Shourd said. “We became who we needed to be to do the work we needed to do.”

Allie Bidwell is the news editor.