OpenID login failed.

US Hikers Were Seized in Iraq | The Nation

US Hikers Were Seized in Iraq

  • |
  • Share
  • |
  • StumbleUpon.com
  • |
  • Recommended by 0
  • |
  • Text Size A | A | A

Kurdistan province, Iran

Media

About the Author

Babak Sarfaraz
Babak Sarfaraz is a pseudonym for a journalist in Iran.

Also by The Author

A top candidate to replace the ailing Khamenei is both a clerical traditionalist and a modernizer.

Supporters of the Green Wave increasingly see negotiations with the regime as the best way out of today's crisis.

Related Topics

Recent Tweets

Reminder that I am winding down here and you need to follow me @gregmitch thanks.

@MediaFixBlog 13 hours 33 min

My blog updated, with awful SCOTUS ruling on gun rights, much more, including iPhone ad parody and Kinks videos. http://bit.ly/bZAAqD

@MediaFixBlog 17 hours 30 min

This article was reported in collaboration with the Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute. Naseh Afrani (a pseudonym) contributed reporting from Kurdistan province, and Nicholas Jahr contributed reporting from New York.

Since their arrest last July by Iranian forces near the Iraq border, three Americans—Shane Bauer, Josh Fattal and Sarah Shourd—have been at the center of a high-stakes diplomatic struggle between Tehran and Washington. Iranian authorities have repeatedly accused the three of entering Iran to conduct espionage.

Meanwhile, friends and family of the three, along with the State Department, the Committee to Protect Journalists and this magazine [Bauer has written for The Nation; see "Iraq's New Death Squad," June 22, 2009], have rejected the spying charge and suggested that the Americans accidentally crossed the border while on a recreational hike. Despite a well-publicized visit by the detainees' mothers in May, Iran has released little information about the circumstances of their arrest or the status of their case.

Now a five-month investigation by The Nation and the Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute has located two witnesses to the arrest who claim that Bauer, Fattal and Shourd were on Iraqi territory when they were arrested—not in Iran, as Iranian officials have asserted. Two additional sources report that the Revolutionary Guards officer who likely ordered their detention has since been arrested on charges of smuggling, kidnapping and murder.

The witnesses are residents of a Kurdish village in Iraq called Zalem, which lies a few miles from the Iran border; they declined to be identified, fearing retaliation from Iranian forces, who have been known to conduct missions across the border. The witnesses separately reported noticing the three Americans as they hiked up a mountain in the scenic Khormal region, which straddles the border. Part of the mountain lies in Iraq and part in Iran, but except for a few watchtowers and occasional signposts, the border here is largely unmarked, although local residents are familiar with its boundaries.

The witnesses, who followed the Western-looking hikers out of curiosity, say that around 2 pm on July 31, as the hikers descended the mountain, uniformed guards from NAJA, Iran's national police force, waved the hikers toward the Iranian side using "threatening" and "menacing" gestures. When their calls were ignored, one officer fired a round into the air. As the hikers continued to hesitate, the guards walked a few yards into Iraqi territory, where they lack jurisdiction, and apprehended them.

These witness accounts corroborate a statement Bauer made on May 20 during a televised reunion at a Tehran hotel between the hikers and their mothers. As the New York Times reported, Bauer "denied that they had walked into Iran, as they were accused of doing, before stopping himself and saying, 'We can't really talk about that.'"

Farhad Lohoni, a local tribal leader, had previously claimed that the American hikers had been snatched from Iraq in a cross-border raid by Iranian agents, as reported in the Daily Telegraph in August 2009. Lohoni said that his relatives had seen a group of men cross the border into Iraq, and he told the Telegraph that the hikers "were targeted and captured by a group that came over from Iran, ignoring Iraq's sovereignty. We know this and it means that Iran must have wanted to take Americans hostage at this sensitive time."

A State Department spokesman said that he had been unaware of evidence that the three were arrested in Iraqi territory but would not comment further.

Once captured, Bauer, Fattal and Shourd were sped by car to the local headquarters of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards in Marivan, a town close to the border in the province of Kurdistan. When they arrived, according to two sources, the Americans were remanded into the custody of Lt. Col. Heyva Taab, then head of the Revolutionary Guards' intelligence unit in the region. According to these sources—a former member of the Revolutionary Guards and an official who serves in the provincial government at Sanandaj—only Taab would have had the authority to order the Americans' detention and eventual transfer to Tehran. A branch of the Iranian military with at least 125,000 personnel, the Revolutionary Guards are responsible for maintaining national security throughout the Islamic Republic.

"When I heard the news that they had arrested American hikers, I immediately thought, This is the work of the intelligence arm of the Revolutionary Guards, because they have people in this region," says Idris Ahmedi, an Iranian Kurdish exile and a regional expert who is a visiting scholar at Georgetown University. "I thought they were most likely lured into Iranian Kurdistan, where they could arrest them. It is consistent with Iran's past actions."

  • |
  • Share
  • |
  • StumbleUpon.com
  • |
  • Recommended by 0
  • |
  • Text Size A | A | A

If you like this article, consider making a donation.

Reprint this article. Click here for rights and information.

Comments

[ Post Your Comment ]
Showing 5 comments of 27 - next 5 ››
Current Sort: last to first
1. posted by: rakovsky at 06/28/2010 @ 8:25pm

I have no idea about the spy claims, and feel bad about people in jail, but still, I can't resist:

"The witnesses, who followed the Western-looking hikers out of curiosity, say that... As the hikers continued to hesitate, the guards walked a A FEW YARDS into Iraqi territory, where they lack jurisdiction, and apprehended them."

They were seized a few YARDS from an UNMARKED border with no Iraqi guards to interfere?

2. posted by: asweqd at 06/28/2010 @ 7:15pm

Enter the website.

http://www.2going.com

Free transport + free transport + free delivery service
You can find many cheap and fashion
The NBA jersey Nike bikini
We accept cash or credit card payments, PYAPAL
You don't miss it! ! !

http://www.2going.com

3. posted by: brunowe at 06/28/2010 @ 6:51pm

"Iraq was not in a position either militarily or economically to be “Gulf hegemon” as long as it had Iran on one side and the U.S.-backed Saudi Arabia and Gulf States on the other. "

Except, of course, that the ability of Iraq to annex Kuwait with impunity would've created the danger of the Finlandization of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States. They would've reacted to such a development by being more likely to align their foreign policy with his, thus giving him a considerable increase in power in the Gulf.

Further, the moral justification begins and ends with Iraq's invasion and annexation of Kuwait. Military assistance to Kuwait was an act of collective self-defense; especially given the UNSC's authorization of the use of force.

"So, you're saying it would have been okay to attack North Korea to prevent their development of nuclear weapons?"

No, just that the N. Korean nuclear weapons program can't be accounted for by US saber-rattling.

4. posted by: asweqd at 06/28/2010 @ 6:39pm

Enter the website.

http://www.2going.com

Free transport + free transport + free delivery service
You can find many cheap and fashion
The NBA jersey Nike bikini
We accept cash or credit card payments, PYAPAL
You don't miss it! ! !

http://www.2going.com

5. posted by: frankscott at 06/28/2010 @ 6:14pm

two kurdish informants? that's good enough for me...

next:

two israelis establish gaza flotilla as being boarded in downtown jerusalem...

maybe if we stopped threatening iran and got our knesset in dc to stop the vicious nonsense of sanctions and embargo these incredibly dumb hikers could be free??

hey, let;'s take a nature stroll along the 38th parallel...no wait, let's cross a checkpoint in the west bank while wearing hoods...yeah, that's it...

fs

fs

Showing 5 comments of 27 - next 5 ››
Current Sort: last to first

Post Your Comments

You must be logged in to post a comment