“For to be FREE is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”
~ Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela’s wise words capture what felt so impossible to explain over the past few years; what inspired my dedication to fight for freedom for my dear friends, Josh Fattal, Shane Bauer and Sarah Shourd. When they were freed and thanked me profusely I had to try to explain, “What happened to you was so wrong, so unjust, that I had to restore balance to the world somehow.”
Ed’s Note: If you’re not familiar with the Free the Hikers campaign, you can read about it and the backstory behind Josh, Shane, & Sarah’s two year imprisonment in Iran here. You can also read Farah’s previous blogs about her personal experience during the campaign here.
I felt a kinship with Masoud Shafii (Sarah, Shane & Josh’s lawyer in Iran) from the start, because I could sense across continents and oceans that he was driven by the same conviction. I could feel his solidarity. Nevertheless he made sure to communicate it frequently, asking Josh, Shane and Sarah’s families to thank me for everything I was doing. He understands me better than anyone involved in the campaign. We share the experience of facing injustices directly resulting from our unwavering fight for justice for Josh, Shane and Sarah.
I deal with ongoing threats and harassment by Iranian agents; lack of understanding and support of workplaces; lack of understanding of some family, friends and people I interact with every day; the loss of significant relationships; and extreme financial hardships. All that is an unjust burden to bear, but Mr. Shafii faces much greater restrictions to his freedom, much greater threats to his well-being, much greater injustice. To punish him for his work to free Josh, Shane and Sarah, the Iranian regime has confiscated his passport. He cannot travel freely and is prohibiting him from practicing law. As Sarah recently wrote in the Huffington Post, “He was just doing his job.” And doing it so well.
Josh recently shared his thoughts about Mr. Shafii with me.
“Courage, integrity, and intelligence. Three words that come to mind when I think of him standing in front of the Revolutionary Courts defending me. I remember the soft persistence of his voice, the truth in his handshakes and the presence in his eyes. A true cosmopolitan and a man, like every citizen, who should be free to work and to travel in liberty–that is, Masoud Shafii.”
Josh’s reflection validated the connection we shared on the opposite sides of an insurmountable wall. Or perhaps it’s just a testament to Mr. Shafii’s courage, integrity, and intelligence – they are evident to everyone, even through impermeable borders.
Since Shane and Josh were released, Free the Hikers supporters have offered to fight for justice for the man who sacrificed so much to fight for justice for Josh, Shane and Sarah. We have been cautious, however, in our actions out of concern for Mr. Shafii, but the time has come for us to speak out and tell the Iranian regime that we will not stand by while they commit injustices to the courageous justice defender for Josh, Shane and Sarah. Please join Free the Hikers on Facebook and Twitter to build support for Mr. Shafii, and to stay informed of further actions you can take to fight for the freedom he so deserves.
This post is the first in a series of seven posts to mark 7 months of FREEDOM for Josh, Shane, Sarah and all of us who fought so hard for their freedom. Each post will feature one cause that I am currently working on and encourage you to support the cause with concrete actions. Stay tuned for the rest of the series focused on human rights and mental health issues.
Farahway Global, my initiative inspired by my Free the Hikers experience, is a non-profit organization that engages the global public in action for human rights and mental health. Now that I have spent such a significant part of my life fighting for freedom and justice, while not feeling free myself, I am compelled to continue my efforts to restore balance to the world through Farahway Global.