Hiker Talks of Year in Iran Prison

Associated Press + More

The first indication they were near the Iran border was three hours into their hike when they met Iranian officials on a trail leading from the waterfall. By then, it was too late.

Shourd tried to resist her imprisonment at first. She constantly yelled, cried or begged her captors for a phone call. She was confined to her 10-foot-by-5-foot cell. At night, the bit of sunlight from the window would dim, but the lights stayed on.

Eventually, the interrogations ended. The two men were moved into a cell together. The three Americans were allowed to see each other, at first for 30 minutes each day, then for an hour, then for two.

The trio had local TV, including 15 minutes of English-language news every day. They received a bundle of letters from their parents and siblings about once a month. And they had books in English. Shourd read the Quran, using her basic Arabic to communicate haltingly with some Farsi-speaking guards about religion.

Shourd would spend all day saving up details to tell the other two. At first, the three went over what they called "reruns" — reviewing every memory of their lives in tremendous detail. When those ran out, they started to dream of the future and what they would do on the outside.

Some plans were bigger than others.

On one evening, Bauer asked Fattal to stay in their cell during their allotted time outdoors, so that the couple could have a moment alone.

The two sat on a rough wool mat, cockroaches skittering around them and dust filling the air. They held hands, and Bauer asked her to marry him. He made them engagement rings from two thin pieces of string.

"It's not what every person thinks of as romantic, but it was romantic for me," Shourd said.

And now, she is back on the outside, appearing on "The Oprah Winfrey Show," preparing for a tour of TV studios, a bit of string tied around her finger.

She feels some guilt, she said, but she pushes that aside. She learned in prison how to ignore negative emotions.

She thinks of the men, of the strong, supportive faces they put on when they learned only she would leave. She still doesn't know who paid her $500,000 bail, though she said an Omani official told her of an Iranian citizen who attempted to mortgage his home to pay it.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has told the AP that he hopes Bauer and Fattal would be able to provide evidence that "they had no ill intention in crossing the border" so that they can be released. Iran has issued espionage-related indictments against the three of them, which could bring trials for the two men and proceedings in absentia for Shourd, although she says she hasn't ruled out returning to face trial.

She wants the world to see Bauer and Fattal, who are passing long days in a cramped space not much larger than a towel.

Shourd said they exercised to stay sane. There were days she would force herself to run or do jumping jacks despite the tears streaming down her face.

The men got even more inventive. They would lift their beds. They would stockpile water bottles, fill them with water, pile them into bags and lift them. They were intent on staying strong.

Part of her wishes she were still with them. Out here she can't protect them. She doesn't know that the books are still available or whether the guards are still being kind.

"The only thing that gives my freedom meaning is that I have this work to do, because honestly if I felt like there was nothing to do out here, if I wasn't needed in so many ways, I would have rather stayed with them," she said.

But out here, she can be their voice. She can do her best to make sure the world doesn't forget. She will be tireless, she said.

And until they're at her side, "my life will not resume."

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