Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Beirut Journal Day #37: Borders

Marivan is north of Baghdad, on the Iran-Iraq border.

Conflict as noun and verb.

Noun: Iran and the US have a conflict regarding the three US hikers arrested in the Iranian town of Marivan.
Verb: My own thoughts about this situation conflict with each other.

If you haven't heard about the three UC-Berkeley graduates who have been held in Iranian prison since July, and who are about to be tried for espionage, I'll do my best to run down the situation.

Sarah Shourb, Shane Bauer (no relation to Jack Bauer), and Josh Fattal took a vacation from their teaching and study duties in Damascus in July to hike in the Iraqi Kurdistan mountains. They ended up, one way or another, crossing an invisible border into Iran. They've been in prison since July 31. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadenijad has asked the judiciary to treat this case with extreme leniency (though exactly what leniency means is unclear, for, the maximum penalty in espionage is death). Hillary Clinton, in a bewildering statement, is claiming that
"We consider this a totally unfounded charge. There is no basis for it... They were out hiking and unfortunately, apparently, allegedly walked across an unmarked boundary."

Ms. Clinton's bumbling here could have very negative implications for the three. I mean, "unfounded charge?" "Allegedly"? Is she implying that the Iranian border guards have kidnapped these three? Imagine if three Iranians, who'd been to volatile countries recently, were picked up by INS on the US/Canada border?

Or, you don't even have to imagine this one, what of all the people who languish in INS detention facilities, for years, without trial?

Of course Iran's Foreign Minister, Manoucher Mottaki has a response:
Interrogation of the three Americans who have illegally entered Iran with suspicious aims is ongoing....They will be put on trial by the judiciary and rulings will be made."

There you have it. The Iranians have a sovereign right to secure their borders, do they not? Especially a border with a hostile population, the Kurds, not to mention US occupied Iraq. And they will, apparently, exercise their sovereignty in this case.

But there's something else about it. Something that really troubles me, especially in light of the work I'm about to engage in.

I've met Sarah Shourd. She was in LA in 2000, organizing people to demand that the Democrats stand up for the interests of regular people. We had just shut down the WTO in Seattle, and viewed the Dems as a part of the ruling elite. They have not proven us wrong. As Al Gore capitulated to capital, the people who voted for him were left out in the cold.

At any rate, Sarah was there, in LA. Working. Believing that regular folks have power. And believing in the right to use their power for justice.

Eventually she became a teacher, in Syria. She worked with Iraqis who fled the occupation. She worked with Syrians, and they are Syrians, from Israeli Occupied Golan.

By all accounts, Sarah Shourd is a righteous person. If Hillary Clinton, silent on matters of international justice for so long, is her best hope, I feel for Sarah.

I hope the matter is treated with the most extreme leniency, because people like Sarah are doing good work.

You can read about the three hikers at: freethehikers.org

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