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2010-09-28

Freed American Hiker Sarah Shourd Reflects on 14 Months in Iranian Prison and Calls on Iran to Release Her Two Friends

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In July of 2009, Sarah Shourd and her now-fiancé Shane Bauer and their friend Joshua Fattal were detained and jailed in Iran after being arrested near the Iran-Iraq border while they were on a hiking trip. Earlier this month, Shourd was released on "humanitarian grounds" on $500,000 bail, but Iran is continuing to hold Bauer and Fattal. Sarah Shourd joins us today to discuss her time in solitary confinement, her political activism, how they were detained, her engagement to Bauer, and why she opposes a US attack on Iran. "I would really like to thank people and ask them to not slow down, to not wait — put my freedom on pause and wait with me, so that we can all enjoy it together once Shane and Josh are with us," Shourd said. [includes rush transcript]

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We begin today with the American hiker Sarah Shourd, who was recently freed from Iranian prison after more than a year’s imprisonment. In July of 2009 Sarah Shourd and her now-fiancé Shane Bauer and their friend Josh Fattal were arrested near the Iran-Iraq border while they were on a hiking trip. Iran accuses all three of espionage, but earlier this month Sarah Shourd was released on "humanitarian grounds" on half-a-million dollars bail. With Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal still behind bars, Sarah has repeatedly said she is only one-third free. An Iranian newspaper reported Sunday that an Omani delegation arrived in Iran to help secure the release of Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal.

In an interview with CNN’s Larry King last week, the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said there was a slim chance the two might be released but added he had no sway over the matter.

    PRESIDENT MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD: [translated] As far as the others, yes, there is a chance, but the judge has to take care of the case. I have no influence over it. But I have suggested for the lady, in her case, that it be regarded with clemency, mercy and more kindness and compassion to allow her to return to her family.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, the freed American hiker Sarah Shourd met with the Iranian President Friday, urging him to release her two friends in prison. The President told the Associated Press he hoped Bauer and Fattal would be able to provide evidence that, quote, "they had no ill intention in crossing the border" so that they can be released.

Sarah Shourd was released September 14th, after 410 days of imprisonment, most of which she spent in a ten-by-five-foot cell in solitary confinement in Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison. Well, Sarah Shourd joins us here in New York two weeks after her release.

Welcome to Democracy Now!, Sarah.

SARAH SHOURD: Thank you, Amy. It’s very good to be here.

AMY GOODMAN: It’s good to have you with us. It’s good to see you free. We have talked about your case for more than a year, with your mother, with the mothers of Josh and [of] Shane, and now you’re sitting here. How does it feel to be free?

SARAH SHOURD: Well, it’s a great improvement, but it doesn’t feel over, because it’s not over. It’s not the way that I dreamed of getting free. It’s not the way that Shane and Josh and I wanted it to happen. But it’s a step in the right direction.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you want to happen now?

SARAH SHOURD: I want everyone around the world that’s been involved in our case, that’s been advocating for us and that believes in our freedom to redouble their efforts. I want just a huge push so that we can finish this, and Shane and Josh can join us.

AMY GOODMAN: Tell us how you were freed. What happened?

SARAH SHOURD: Well, the judge said that I was freed on humanitarian grounds, because I was in solitary confinement, which is a harsher sentence.

AMY GOODMAN: And tell us how the whole thing went down, about the Omani delegation, just how the balls got rolling.

SARAH SHOURD: Well, a lot of that I wasn’t privy to. You know, I was just sitting in my cell, and there were very few intonations that anything was happening, until the last day of Ramadan, the Eid holiday. And that’s when I met with some people from the judiciary alone. And as soon as I left my cell alone, I knew there was something going on. And they told me, "You may be freed on bail, we hope." And then I spent the next two days just sitting in my cell not knowing what was happening, with very little information on the news that I got about our case. And I didn’t see Shane and Josh for those days, so I knew that there was something weird going on. And then, the third day, they took me back to the judge, and my lawyer was there. That was the first time in fourteen months that I actually was allowed to see my lawyer.

AMY GOODMAN: An Iranian lawyer?

SARAH SHOURD: Yeah, yeah. He’s a wonderful man, Masoud Shafiee. And he’s helped us a great deal in this time, and he continues to tirelessly advocate for Shane and Josh. So —-

AMY GOODMAN: What did Oman have to do with this?

SARAH SHOURD: Well, they brought me back. You know, I went to Muscat. And I don’t know exactly what they had to do with it, but I know they’ve been really helpful, and they continue to try to free Shane and Josh.

AMY GOODMAN: And who put up the bail?

SARAH SHOURD: I don’t know, and I probably will never know, who put up the bail. But there was a really amazing story about an Iranian official who, in the last, you know, moments, when they weren’t sure who was going to put up the bail, if there was going to be bail, and there was a lot of scrambling and confusion about how to get it in a timely fashion, there was an Iranian official who offered to mortgage his house, because he just believed so strongly that I should be freed, and he was concerned about my well-being. And I don’t even know who this individual is, but I think it’s a phenomenal example of, you know, people on both sides that want to get past these political disputes and don’t believe in humans, human beings, being used in these kind of political battles.

AMY GOODMAN: They say that they want eight Iranians freed in US prisons. So, sometimes they say you’re spies; other times they say this is a fair trade. Who are they?

SARAH SHOURD: I don’t know much about them. And obviously, I don’t have any power over these decisions, and neither do our families. And we really want to continue to push our case and make sure everyone sees our case as a humanitarian issue. You know, we are not spies. We committed no crime. The border was unmarked and indistinguishable. We were hiking behind a tourist site. And I think now that a lot of these questions are being answered and questions about who we are, I think that, you know, people are going to really support and exclusively see this as a humanitarian issue. But -—

AMY GOODMAN: What did President Ahmadinejad say to you, and what did you say to him, in your meeting last week?

SARAH SHOURD: Well, I gave him evidence that — the evidence that he requested about Shane and Josh and I about some of our —- about what we were doing before our arrest, about why Shane and I were living in Damascus, Syria for over a year. You know, I was teaching English to Iraqi and Palestinian refugees, as well as Syrian nationals, in part of a program to help Iraqi refugees apply to college in the United States. And Shane was doing a little journalism. Shane has long been a courageous international journalist focusing on the Middle East. And -—

AMY GOODMAN: We have broadcast his report from the Middle East, from Iraq.

SARAH SHOURD: Yeah, yeah. So I talked a lot about our politics, about who we are. And he was very friendly. He was especially gracious to my mother, concerned about her health and her upcoming surgery. And he said — you know, he made a lot of the same statements that he’s made publicly all along, that he will make a strong plea to the judiciary to be lenient with us, with Shane and Josh, and that he’s feeling hopeful.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about what happened fourteen months ago. Tell us why you were on the border, what you were doing in northern Iraq.

SARAH SHOURD: Well, in Damascus, there’s — you know, Damascus, Syria, the whole region is an extremely beautiful place, but there’s not a lot of green mountains. And a friend of mine that was also teaching in the same program that I was teaching at in Damascus, a year before, he told me about his hiking trip in northern Iraq, in Kurdistan. It’s a semi-autonomous region, established by the United States in 1991 as a no-fly zone. It’s not a war zone. And no Americans have been hurt there for a long time, or Westerners travel there frequently. So, I had ten days off work, and we decided to take my friend’s advice.

And our friend Josh Fattal, he had just come a week before to stay with us, and he didn’t know how long he was going to be staying. He was just — he had been traveling around the world, to South Africa and China, as a part of this international teaching program that he helped coordinate on global health. And he showed up, and he was very eager to take a trip with us. We’d done a lot of hiking with Josh before in Oregon, where he lived and was also teaching in a — at a nonprofit in kind of intentional community that does —- that raises consciousness about sustainable green technology. So Josh is an environmentalist. He showed up, and then our friend Shon Meckfessel also showed up, who I believe you’ve met with, a close friend of Shane and I. And we decided -—

AMY GOODMAN: He was on our broadcast also —-

SARAH SHOURD: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: —- to plead the three of your case.

SARAH SHOURD: Yeah, so we researched. We had our friend’s testimony, and we researched northern Iraq, and we decided that it was safe. There’s a lot of tourist sites about Iraqi Kurdistan. And we had all been long curious about Kurdish culture. We thought it would be exciting. A lot of my students told me about northern Iraq. You know, it’s where a lot of people from southern Iraq that believe it’s too dangerous to stay where they are, they migrate to the north, where there’s much less conflict, or really no conflict, and less violence.

And so, we arrived. We went to Erbil, and then we went to Sulaymaniyah, which I believe is the capital. And then, in Sulaymaniyah, we were staying in a hotel, and in the hotel there were pictures of tourists, you know, Western tourists, by a waterfall. And we asked about the waterfall. And they said, "Ah, that’s Ahmed Awa. That’s the most beautiful place around here. You should go. It’s wonderful for hiking." And then we confirmed it. We got the same recommendation from a taxi driver and then from a restaurant owner. Everyone was saying this is a great place to go. And we took a taxi there. And we passed through a checkpoint, and there was no problem. They said it’s fine. They just looked at our passports. No warning. We got there, and there were literally hundreds of families there camped out and picnicking by the waterfall. And we stayed by the waterfall, around where all these families were, overnight.

And the next morning, we asked a tea seller, who I’ve seen on some other interviews. What he said is not true. He said that he questioned us and that we said we were going to Iran, which we of course didn’t say, because we had no idea we were even near Iran. I think I just miscalculated in my mind how close it was, didn’t have a good map and was going on what people said. And we hiked for two to three hours, and that’s when we came upon some soldiers, you know, out in the middle of nowhere. There was absolutely no sign of a border, no indication, no fence or flag or building, nothing of any kind.

AMY GOODMAN: Were you afraid at the beginning? Did you feel alarmed?

SARAH SHOURD: I felt alarmed, but not — not greatly alarmed, you know. I mean, Shane and I traveled quite a bit in the Middle East, you know, in the year preceding our arrest, and I think everywhere we went people were so kind and so generous and so nonjudgmental about us being Americans. You know, once they found out more about us, they were just welcoming and curious. And I had had really one of the best years of my life, you know, and didn’t have any reason to be particularly alarmed. I felt safe when I was around people that were native to the area, that they knew the territory, and if they weren’t alarmed, I didn’t need to be alarmed either.

AMY GOODMAN: So then what happened?

SARAH SHOURD: The soldiers — we assumed they were Iraqi soldiers, because we had no indication, no idea, that we were near Iran. And so, we thought, "OK, they’re just going to ask us a few questions." And, you know, they have guns, so we can’t just refuse them and walk away. They were quite a bit — quite a ways in the distance when we saw them, and they gestured for us to come closer. And we came closer, and they told us that we —- they were Iranian and forced us to get into a car with them.

AMY GOODMAN: Were you able to make a phone call?

SARAH SHOURD: We did, yeah. We begged and pleaded with them and told them that our friend, Shon Meckfessel, was waiting for us. He was on the way to the waterfall. And yeah, thank God they allowed us to make a phone call. And we called Shon, and he actually hadn’t left Sulaymaniyah yet, so he alerted the authorities in Baghdad.

AMY GOODMAN: And where were you taken?

SARAH SHOURD: Police station. For the next three days, they drove us around Iran, and we were sort of traded off several times. And it wasn’t until the fourth day that we arrived in Tehran and were torn apart and thrown in separate prison cells.

AMY GOODMAN: What about this investigation by The Nation and the Investigative Fund, a five-month investigation that located two witnesses to the arrest who claim that the three of you were on Iraqi territory when you were arrested, not in Iran as Iranian officials have asserted?

SARAH SHOURD: I’ll probably never know exactly what happened. I read the Nation article, and it’s certainly possible. I, myself, have no knowledge of where the border is and couldn’t see the border, so -—

AMY GOODMAN: There was no marking.

SARAH SHOURD: No marking, no. We were on one trail, you know, behind the waterfall, a dirt trail.

AMY GOODMAN: Sarah, we have to break, but we’ll come back to this discussion. Sarah Shourd is with us, and she is free — well, partly free, because her two American friends, or her fiancé Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal, are still in the Evin Prison in Iran. We’ll come back to hear about her life, their lives and their time in prison. This is Democracy Now! Stay with us.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: Our guest is Sarah Shourd. She is now free. She must find it unusual to be described now as, and will forever be known as, "the American hiker." How does that feel?

SARAH SHOURD: Well, it’s accurate. I mean, we were hiking. But the first time we found out about it, through a letter when we were in prison, we were pretty amazed. We were like, "The 'hikers'? OK, well, that’s true."

AMY GOODMAN: She is one of three American hikers. She, her fiancé now, Shane Bauer, and friend Josh Fattal were taken by Iranian soldiers, and they were in prison for the next fourteen months. She has been freed; Shane and Josh have not. So, you’re taken to — ultimately, to the Evin Prison. Talk about your time in captivity, where you were kept, where Josh and Shane were kept.

SARAH SHOURD: Well, the first two-and-a-half months, we were — we didn’t see each other at all. We were in complete solitary confinement. That was while the investigation was ongoing. And at the end of the second month, that’s when my investigator told me that the investigation was going to be put on hold. And I asked why, and he said, "Well, it’s come from, you know, higher up, from my boss." And he said that our case had become political. And I asked him what that meant, and he said, "Well, it means that this is something bigger than you, and it may not really matter if you’re innocent or not, because this has become political." And at that point — that was month two — they never questioned us.

AMY GOODMAN: You were kept in a cell, five-by-ten-foot cell?

SARAH SHOURD: Yeah, yeah. The first month we switched to a different area of Evin, but in both places I was in complete solitary confinement, and so were Shane and Josh. And we only saw each other a few minutes. After begging and pleading and crying constantly, they let us see each other a few minutes.

AMY GOODMAN: They were together?

SARAH SHOURD: No, no, not the first two months.

AMY GOODMAN: And how did you keep your sanity?

SARAH SHOURD: Well, my favorite quote about prison is that prison is not hell, the way that a lot of people imagine it, you know, fire and brimstone, but there’s very little heaven there. And I don’t know what’s worse — a place, you know, like hell or a place with no heaven? And I think the constant struggle of staying sane in prison and in solitary confinement and keeping your hope alive is just to find enough heaven inside yourself or inside each other to get through the day. And that’s what Shane and I and Josh, we did for each other as much as possible. You know, I’ve never — never had to tap into my internal resources as much as I did there.

AMY GOODMAN: Did you have books?

SARAH SHOURD: In the beginning, no, but they slowly increased. Towards the end, we had enough.

AMY GOODMAN: And then you saw them, what, an hour a day in a courtyard?

SARAH SHOURD: Yeah, half an hour increased to an hour. In the last month it was two hours.

AMY GOODMAN: And you got engaged there —-

SARAH SHOURD: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: —- to Shane.

SARAH SHOURD: Mm-hmm.

AMY GOODMAN: How did that happen?

SARAH SHOURD: It was a surprise. Sometimes Shane would come out to the outdoor area alone, and Josh would stay in his cell so we could have time alone together. And he did that. And I remember I was having a particularly bad day, and he said, "Oh, there’s something I want to talk about." And I said, "I hope it’s good, because I can’t handle much today, you know?" And he said, "It’s pretty good." And he asked me to marry him, you know, made engagement rings out of string. And it was, in the circumstances, quite romantic.

AMY GOODMAN: Are you wearing it now?

SARAH SHOURD: Yes, I am. I won’t take it off until Shane is free and we get maybe other ones to replace them.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about how you came to be in Syria and then taking that hike. Where did you grow up, Sarah?

SARAH SHOURD: I was born in Chicago. And then my mother and I, we moved to LA. And then, after high school, I moved up to Berkeley and later went to college at UC Berkeley.

AMY GOODMAN: And that’s where you met Shane?

SARAH SHOURD: Well, he’s a little younger than me, so he went later. We weren’t in college at the same time. But we met even before we started dating. We were both peace activists, and we were organizing protests and different actions against the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

AMY GOODMAN: Where? In Berkeley?

SARAH SHOURD: San Francisco, Berkeley, yeah. And so, Shane and I always had a lot in common politically. And several years later, after he came back from studying in the Middle East, in Yemen and in Syria, we met again and started dating. And all throughout our relationship, he always told me stories about the Middle East, about what an amazing place it was and how generous and kind and accepting people are, and persuaded me that it would be a good — that I couldn’t really understand the beauty and diversity of cultures in the Middle East without immersing myself in it. I was very willing to do so.

AMY GOODMAN: What was Shane doing in Yemen and Syria? What was he studying?

SARAH SHOURD: Arabic, yeah, so that he could become a journalist. When he was eighteen, he was traveling in Europe, and he decided kind of spontaneously to go to Turkey and just fell in love with the region. And ever since, he’s been going there.

AMY GOODMAN: And so, you decided to come to the — to go to the Middle East?

SARAH SHOURD: I got a job teaching English. I was an English teacher before with immigrants in California for several years. So I was able to get a job. And we really had the experience of our life. We were welcomed into a very diverse community in Damascus of artists and intellectuals, people from all over the world and all over the Middle East, Palestinian refugees, Iraqi refugees. And it was just an incredible experience. I really never felt safer or more welcomed anywhere in my life than I did in Damascus. Like, sometimes I’d be walking home at night, and a man would follow me, and if I yelled out, twenty people would come out of their houses, you know, to help me, even if it was late at night — something that wouldn’t happen in my city, you know? And there’s just like an incredible generosity.

AMY GOODMAN: Did Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, when you met him, ask about your past, ask about your activism, Shane’s and Josh’s?

SARAH SHOURD: Yeah, he did, and it was part of the evidence that I gave him, that he promised to hand over to the judiciary, of our innocence. And yeah, he already knew a bit about our past, about our friendship with Tristan Anderson, the young man that was shot by the Israeli military while protesting. And —-

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about Tristan for a minute. In fact, when we had your mother Nora on, she also talked about, because she came with you and Shane to visit him -— is that right?

SARAH SHOURD: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: — once in Israel.

SARAH SHOURD: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: We have done a number of programs on Tristan Anderson, the California activist who was photographing one of the protests in the West Bank and was shot by a tear gas canister.

SARAH SHOURD: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: You saw Tristan afterwards? You visited him in the hospital?

SARAH SHOURD: Yeah, we did. Shane and my mother and I, we were all in Damascus. My mother had only arrived a few days before, for her first trip to the Middle East. And when we heard about Tristan, we just knew we had to go. And it’s a difficult trip to take from Damascus, but there was — you know, there was no hesitation. And that was the first time I had ever been to Israel-Palestine. And we were only there for four or five days. We spent the whole time in the hospital with Tristan. And it was a very scary time, and we were very grateful that he pulled through. And in prison, it was one of the most difficult things for Shane and I not knowing how Tristan was doing, because his health was still very precarious before we were arrested. And once on the Iranian news there was actually something about Tristan, and we were so grateful just to see that he was OK.

AMY GOODMAN: So, is Tristan able to speak?

SARAH SHOURD: Yeah, yeah. I haven’t had a chance to speak with him yet, but I hope to soon.

AMY GOODMAN: The President knew about all of this, the Iranian president?

SARAH SHOURD: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: Tell me a little about Josh, your friend.

SARAH SHOURD: Yeah, Josh and Shane were really good friends for a long time. They lived together in Oakland. And I — when I started dating Shane, we went to Aprovecho. That’s the intentional community NGO that Josh was teaching for.

AMY GOODMAN: Which is where?

SARAH SHOURD: Southern Oregon. And we went there several times. It’s in the middle of the forest. It’s a beautiful place. They have chickens and ducks and an amazing garden. Josh is just a phenomenal person. I cared a lot about him before prison, but in prison we became, you know, best friends for life. And Josh helped me through prison in just so many ways. He’s a beautiful, selfless person.

AMY GOODMAN: How do you help each other through prison?

SARAH SHOURD: We came up with a million ways to try to, you know, brighten our days and maximize our — the little time we had together. I would often come out to prison in a very bad state of mind.

AMY GOODMAN: Out to the courtyard where the three of you —-

SARAH SHOURD: Oh, yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: —- could see each other.

SARAH SHOURD: Yeah, out to the — yeah, the outdoor space. I would be waiting for hours, you know, pacing and just like desperately in need of human contact. And when I would come out and see them, I would often just have just tears streaming down my face, or sometimes I would be really withdrawn and not very communicative. And they were always able to draw me out and get me to talk about what was going on. You know, I’d just be like, "I’m having a bad day. Everything, every day is bad." And they came up with so many ways. We sang songs together. We always held hands and, like, looked into each other’s eyes. And we constantly talked about our future and all the things that we wanted to do with our lives. I really have just never had such a close bond with two other human beings. I mean, with Shane, I was already — he was already my closest friend and my partner, but now Josh is in the same position.

AMY GOODMAN: How did you leave them? And was it hard to make that decision to go, if in fact you were making any decision? What did they say to you? What did you say to them?

SARAH SHOURD: Well, it was really very difficult and disappointing, because all of our fantasies about our liberation were together, you know, holding hands, walking out with our heads held high. And now, for me, just knowing that they’re still there and that their pain in a lot of ways is invisible — you know, everyone sees me looking pretty good and together, because I’m 10,000 times better than I was when I was in prison. You know, as soon as I walked through those doors, I just felt better than I had in — you know, since before this happened. There’s kind of this instantaneous rebirth, you know, that happens. But at the same time, what’s going on inside of me is extremely painful, because just the way that I felt that my pain was so invisible, that no one ever sees what prisoners actually endure — you know, there’s never a camera or, you know, media inside the prison walls —- I know that only I can really see what Shane and Josh are going through. You know, they’re still in this cramped cell. They have no idea when they’re going to get out. They have very little sunlight, very little time where they actually leave the room. And -—

AMY GOODMAN: So what are you doing now to try to get them released? How are you leading your life? What are you calling on people to do?

SARAH SHOURD: Well, I’m doing everything that I can to not allow them to separate us. You know, all throughout prison, that was one of the most difficult things, is we fought so hard to stay together. And we eventually won more and more time together. And this, to me, in a way, is like the greatest separation. They have, by freeing me first — of course, I’m grateful for it, but at the same time it’s very painful to be separated from them. And the only reason that I can — that I can enjoy this, my freedom, is that I know that everything that I’m doing can contribute to theirs. So I’m just tirelessly advocating for them in the media. And, you know, I write them every day. And I can only hope that they get my letters. I’ll never know until they get out if they actually get my letters.

AMY GOODMAN: Why were you held in solitary confinement?

SARAH SHOURD: They said because there was no other prisoner that was right for me, a good fit. I never really got a good explanation. But I think it’s because I was American, and they said there were no other Americans.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you have any regrets?

SARAH SHOURD: Regrets, no. You know, in prison, those kind of emotions torture you, if you don’t let them go. And so I really had to find peace in myself that something bad happened to me, something unfortunate, and it wasn’t my fault. You know, people get in car wrecks, and they’re the victims of the situation, you know? I don’t find it productive to regret what I did, because I really had no indication that what I was doing would in any way put me in danger.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you think would most possibly secure their freedom? What do you feel people can do? What makes a difference?

SARAH SHOURD: Everything that people have been doing has made a difference. I can’t — every day I learn more about what’s been going on and how many people around the world really support and believe in our freedom and our innocence. You know, I heard about this homeless woman in San Francisco who has been doing vigils and has donated money, because she saw some of the photojournalism that Shane did in San Francisco. People should really look at Shane Bauer’s website and his photojournalism.

AMY GOODMAN: And his website is?

SARAH SHOURD: Shanebauer.net.

AMY GOODMAN: And we’ll link to it at Democracy Now!

SARAH SHOURD: OK. There’s a photography project that he did on SROs, people that live in hotel tenant housing in San Francisco, and it’s a very invisible poverty in San Francisco that Shane was able to highlight and bring from, you know, the margin to the center, which he does with a lot of his work, stories that people don’t know about and need to know about. So I’m just so touched by that, and, you know, from Desmond Tutu to my nephews. My sister’s children have, like, made T-shirts and told everyone in their school to sign the petition. And I mean, it’s just endless. And all of those things contribute. And I really think right now there is an opportunity for — a potential for improvement between US-Iranian relations. I don’t think it has to be what it is. I think there’s always a window of opportunity for change and improvement.

AMY GOODMAN: And when you come here and hear threats of war?

SARAH SHOURD: I can just — I can only pray that’s not true, that that’s not going to happen. I really don’t believe it has to happen in any way. I think it would be a huge, huge mistake. And I’ve always been a peace activist and advocated against aggression or even sanctions against Iran.

AMY GOODMAN: Is there anything else you’d like to add? It’s great to have you here, Sarah.

SARAH SHOURD: Well, I would just really like to thank people and ask them to not slow down, to not to wait — put my freedom on pause and wait with me, so that we can all enjoy it together once Shane and Josh are with us.

AMY GOODMAN: Sarah Shourd, thanks so much for being with us. We will link to your website at freethehikers.org.

SARAH SHOURD: Thanks.

AMY GOODMAN: And also to Shane’s website, as well, Shane Bauer. Sarah Shourd is now free, the American hiker arrested along with her now-fiancé Shane Bauer and friend Josh Fattal. They remain in the Evin Prison in Iran. She just came out after fourteen months.

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