Three American hikers who have been detained in Iran since July 31st, including Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd, and Josh Fattal, apparently unwittingly strayed over the border from Iraqi Kurdistan, according to a fourth member of their party, Shon Meckfessel. Meckfessel, who did not join his friends on the ill-fated hike, wrote in a statement that the four were travelling in Iraqi Kurdistan on vacation, and his friends went off on a recommended hike to popular tourist destination Ahmed Awa, an area known for its lovely waterfall. Apparently unaware that Ahmed Awa was near the Iranian border, the three were detained while hiking in the area by Iranian authorities, and have yet to be released. Meckfessel writes, "I hope that people understand my friends' presence in the area for what it was: a simple and very regrettable mistake."
With the recent release of journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee from North Korean custody, thanks to a deus ex machina intervention from former U.S. President Bill Clinton, the question being asked in the Iran case is where diplomacy goes next. Have Clinton's actions in North Korea piqued the interest of the Ahmadinejad regime, perhaps empowering them to turn these hikers into pawns in a greater diplomatic game with the United States? Iran has detained many Americans over the years, most recently arresting Iranian-American scholar Kian Tajbakhsh, charged with instigating post-election violence.
The story of one of these hikers, freelance journalist and documentary photographer Shane Bauer, was featured in today's episode of Democracy Now below, which airs on Link TV. Bauer, an Arabic speaker and graduate of the University of California at Berkeley, delivered a report for Democracy Now in February 2009 on U.S. military alliances with Iraq's Sunni militias.