If American hikers Sarah Shourd was my daughter, or if Shane Bauer was my son, and was stashed away in the terrifying Evin prison in Tehran by the Iranian government, I would advise them to announce their engagement, since they have been lovers for some time now...long before being arrested for breaching the Iranian border from Iraq. Being held in an Iranian prison is no longer news, but a love story is. Everyone loves a love story, maybe even Mahmoud Achmadinejad. Update: 9-15-10: Sarah was released from Iran yesterday, September 14th and reunited with her mother, Nora Shourd, in Oman, Jordan. She will receive a medical checkup in Oman.
Of course there were the security concerns, westerners being kidnapped and sometimes even killed, but I decided that it was more likely I would get hit by a car while riding my bicycle at home, and bought my plane ticket.
The separation of the sexes is widely understood as an attempt to protect women, and I have to admit, the streets do feel safe. Men leave you alone as long as you are covered; in a bizarre way it is less of a hassle being a woman here than anywhere I've ever been.
In Damascus, Shourd teaches English in the Iraqi Student Project. She is reportedly learning the Arabic language. Sarah is a writer. A bio on one of her articles says she is a "teacher-activist-writer from California currently based in the Middle East."
The mothers of Shourd and Bauer, along with Laura Fattal, the mother of Josh Fattal who is held in Iran with his friends, were granted a visa to visit to their children. Of course, they hoped to bring the three back home with them, but predictably, that didn't happen. Instead, they brought back the news that Sarah and Shane will marry as soon as their freedom is granted. Josh will be the best man.
The best way to get these three home is to talk of the love story. I hope it works. I hope these three return safely to the US and their families soon. When that happens, I hope they pay their respects to the many, many Americans who have prayed for them, and worried about them by re-examining the meaning of freedom, democracy and decency. This unmarried western woman who lived with her boyfriend in an Arab country, must know that she is despised there; and outside of the American program she works for, she has no respect. Islam frowns on western women, let alone unmarried western women living in their midst with any man. Her shame for her country will gain her no favor in the eyes of Iranians. At the tender age of 31, Ms. Shourd and her friends are learning the difficult lesson that no matter where their sympathies lie, they are blessed to be citizens of the greatest and most benevolent country ever on the face of the earth, but...they are still infidels.
Related and Background:
Sarah Shourd is American Held in Iran
Shane Bauer is American Held in Iran