American Hikers in Iran Redux

Remember those three young Americans who were arrested for hiking in Iran?  Even though the woman was released a few months ago, the two men are still being held in captivity.  My son sent me this article by a journalist who went to the area to try to make sense of this awful predicament:

http://outsideonline.com/outside/destinations/201005/travel-pf-iran-hikers-arrested-iraq-kurdistan-1-sidWCMDEV_150386.html

Despite the author’s (Joshua Hammer) depiction of these three adventurers as political innocents actually seeking a more cooperative, friendly world, he is nonetheless very aware of their naivety.  Hammer writes about the hikers that “each is the kind of expat—journalist, teacher, activist—who is devoted to bridging the gap between the U.S. and less developed countries, even in unstable areas where anti-American feeling may be rife. These travelers are in many ways the opposite of the ugly American—learning the local language, engaging with people, and debating their country’s policies in the bistros of Eastern Europe or the refugee camps of the Middle East.”  However, he also includes: “Few people buy the Iranians’ claim that the hikers were working for the CIA. But they lack powerful media sponsors, and they suffer from a widespread perception that their predicament is their own fault.”  Additionally, Hammer does not consider these three people to be entirely blameless: “As I discovered in my own travels through the region, Bauer, Shourd, and Fattal are indeed partly to blame; they went into Kurdi­stan with a shocking lack of preparation. Even so, they were not well served by those they turned to for advice, and they fell victim to a sequence of small mistakes and misunderstandings that snowballed into a catastrophe—and turned them from innocent backpackers into pawns in a high-stakes face-off between implacable enemies.”

Blame and fault aside, the resulting situation is not good.  I still cannot fathom what made these Americans go hiking in hostile territory.  Sure — it is all well and good to view the world as a place where all human beings are welcoming and peaceful.  Unfortunately, this is just not the case.  Extremist governments will use any means to assert their beliefs.  Thus, while these hikers view the world through rose-colored glasses, many foreign regimes negate that view.

The world is still a dangerous place and the globe does not belong to all of us individuals.  The physical beauty and its access is intervened upon by the ruling governments.  These young adults should have tempered their idealism and yen to travel with a large dose of reality.  I imagine that those mountains in the Middle East are spectacular.  However, this does not signify that they are everyone’s to hike.  Sad but true.

I hope that the two remaining hikers will get their freedom soon.  I also urge all potential travelers to do their homework before embarking on an adventure.  Knowing where NOT to go is just as important as knowing where to go, for the sake of your own life as well as not enabling the lunatic fringe of governments the chance to play chicken.  The world is a beautiful place.  It is just not totally available to us.  Accept and adjust.

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One Response to “American Hikers in Iran Redux”

  1. NatalieR Says:

    When one is young one feels invincible. After about 30 years realism often takes hold and idealism wanes. One begins to realize that the power you thought you had as an individual you do not have. Climbing anywhere near Iran, like walking anywhere near North Korea no matter how beautiful should not be done by a westerner unarmed (or even armed) and most especially alone as they were.

    When I was 20 something no one could have stopped me from doing or saying what I wanted politically. Sure it was easy I grew up here where questioning everything was allowed and was in my historical repertoire. I thought everywhere was like that too.

    As a youth I used to love to argue religion with Jehovah’s Witnesses. Now when they come to the door I lock it fast realizing that they could never change my mind nor could I change theirs. I stopped trying.

    Perhaps, the young have to go through their ode to immortality or else perhaps things would never change. Youth often has a sense of hope and a can-do-despite-the-odds mentality which reflects I think their physical strength and abilities. I suppose that is good. Looking over the span of history if we all avoided confrontation with our enemies nothing could or would ever have changed.

    It is up, I feel, to the young to keep their hope alive but be realistic and prudent about it. After all, what good will it do if they lose their life or freedom in the process of perfecting that change. All that they desired to change would die along with them.

    It is a miracle the woman cyclist was released. I have a less positive prediction for her male compatriots. Maybe good will, in fact, prevail this time or at least I can still hope that it does.

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