Monday, November 09, 2009
New York City is a good place for raising public awareness on any issue. The large populace and spotlight cast on it means that any reasonably sized gathering will garner some attention - if organized well enough, perhaps with TV and media coverage. Union Square has a long history of being a place for demonstrations (see here as well). Washington Square Park has also been a venue for public gatherings, demonstrations, marches and vigils.
The story of Shane Bauer, Josh Fattal, and Sarah Shourd was new to me. The three young Americans, all graduates of the University of California at Berkeley, have been detained in Tehran, Iran, since July 31, 2009, when they accidentally crossed an unmarked border during a hiking trip in a scenic area in the mountains of Iraqi Kurdistan. Swiss diplomats, who represent U.S. interests in Iran, were permitted to visit Shane, Sarah, and Josh on September 29, 2009 for the first time. The hikers’ families have not been able to speak with them.
The press reports appear to make it clear that the three were on vacation with no malintentions and were simply lost in the mountains. A report from the Associated Press says:
Their case has become the latest source of friction between Washington and Tehran, with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, above, appealing for their release. American officials and authorities in Iraq's Kurdish region say the hikers crossed the border by mistake. But Iran's state television has said they disregarded warnings from border guards, and an Iranian lawmaker has said they may be charged with espionage.
The Vigil of Hope took place in Washington Square Park on Sunday afternoon, sponsored by FreeTheHikers.org. It was followed by a fundraiser at Town Tavern. The vigil marked the 100th day that the hikers have been detained in Iran. I find it deplorable that individuals like this are used as pawns in a larger game. I love chess, but I prefer when it's played with real pawns, not people...