Beginning in her second month in prison, Shourd also passed the time by composing songs. A month went by before she was able to share the first one with Bauer and Fattal, but when she did finally sing it for them, they learned the words and sang it with her. "When we were together in the outdoor courtyard, they would just tell me to sing louder," Shourd said. "I know they're singing those songs now."
The intellectual drills, storytelling, math problems, and singing weren't merely a remedy for boredom. "You have to really keep your mind strong and busy so that you don't get sort of swallowed up by the abyss of fear and loneliness that encroaches on you day by day in that kind of situation," she said.
Despite the time, energy, and effort spent on the campaign to free all three, no one can say for sure just when Bauer and Fattal will finally be reunited with family and friends. In November, Iranian authorities said that a trial previously scheduled for that month had been postponed, but the Free the Hikers campaign is calling for them to be released without a trial.
"They don't deserve to be there one minute longer than I was, and they never deserved to be there in the first place," Shourd said. "They should be shown the same kind of humanitarianism that they have put into action in their lives, through their work."
Amnesty International is among many of the groups that have called for the Iranian government to release the two young men. "One year after their arrest, the Iranian authorities' failure to charge them with illegal entry into Iran or more serious charges, such as espionage, has fueled speculation that the Iranian authorities are holding them as a bargaining chip," notes a statement released July 2010 by Amnesty International, an international human rights organization.
Meanwhile, Shourd has been contemplating what her experience would have been like if the U.S. and Iran actually maintained diplomatic ties, and she published an opinion piece on CNN International calling for greater communication between the governments.
"I think it's their responsibility to their people to do that, and I think it's a tragedy that there's been 30 years of practically no relationship between Iran and the U.S.," Shourd said. "It's a tragedy for countless Iranian Americans in this country who have a hard time visiting their relatives in Iran, sending them money, even just getting information about them or visiting their homeland."
She began her opinion piece by recounting the time that a prison guard brought her freshly picked roses, an uncommon gesture of kindness during her incarceration. "In the worst of circumstances, the most extraordinary acts of human kindness emerge," she told the Guardian. "They were rare. The vast majority of my experience was empty and desolate. But the times that the guards were kind to me ... will stay with me for the rest of my life." *
ART AUCTION TO FREE ALL THREE
Saturday, Jan. 29, 7 p.m.
SomArts Cultural Center
934 Brannan, SF
Musical performances by The Ferocious Few, Devon McClive and Sons, Grant Hazard and Lorin Station
THEY SING THESE SONGS IN PRISON
Featuring The Nighwatchman, Jolie Holland, Jason Webley, Ryan Harvey & Lia Rose
Thursday, Feb. 10, 8:30 p.m., $12–$18
Bottom of the Hill
1233 17 St., SF