The mothers of the three American hikers jailed in Iran returned to the US today, saddened that they were not able to bring their children home, but gladdened to find their children in reasonable health and are being treated well.
“The pain is almost more than we can bear,” one mother said. “ (we) hope and pray that the Iranian authorities will now find it in their hearts to resolve our children’s case and release them without further delay.” Mother Nora Shourd said, “(it) was a tremendously emotional day for them and for us; it was very difficult for them to leave, an extremely difficult departure after a very emotional goodbye.” One mother said, “the emotional strain on them and the loneliness is very difficult and they told us they just cannot understand why they’re still in jail.”
The Americans, all Cal Berkeley graduates were hiking in Iraq’s mostly peaceful mountainous northern Kurdish region when they were arrested for crossing the Iraqi border. Iran has accused them of espionage and has held them since July. They are allowed books, TV, letters from home and exercise and get to see each other for one hour every day.
The women were able to spend a total of 10 hours with their children over a two-day period but failed to secure their release. Mother Laura Fattal said the women especially thanked the Iranian people and said, “their sympathy and their understanding and the warmth of their welcome are blessings we will always cherish.”
According to AP, Iran announced Friday that two of its nationals held in Iraq by U.S. forces for years were freed, raising the possibility that a behind-the-scenes swap was in the offing or that their release was a gesture of goodwill in an attempt to free the Americans. The Iranians’ release “may have some diplomatic effect on this case,” the Americans’ lawyer, Masoud Shafii.
The U.S. has said it is not offering a direct swap, and Iranian officials made no public connection between the freed Iranians and the Americans.