“Even after all this time, the sun never says to the earth, “You owe Me.”
Look what happens with a love like that. It lights up the Whole Sky.” ~ Hafiz
Today I make my way home to Toronto from California, where I attended the wedding of Sarah Shourd and Shane Bauer, two of the Americans held hostage by the Iranian regime.
Their wedding was the culmination of 2 years and 2 months of a growing global movement calling for their release, including the entire Chopra family and many members of the Intent community. Some of the key figures leading that movement were present at the wedding. Many of us worked together intensively for the duration of the campaign, some of us communicating with each other multiple times each day. During the campaign I used to dream of an epic FREEDOM celebration, with all of us together sharing the joy of the final success of our unwavering efforts. Some central figures were missing at this celebration though; figures without whom the celebration would not have been possible.
They were everywhere in spirit.
Masoud Shafii, the lawyer who took such great risks for their FREEDOM, was unable to travel to the wedding because the Iranian regime is now curtailing his FREEDOM to punish him for his inspirational work to free Sarah, Shane and Josh. He was represented at the wedding by some family members and I could feel his spirit in every word of Sarah, Shane and Josh. Alex Fattal, Josh’s brother without whom there would not have been a Free the Hikers campaign, is out of the country struggling to reclaim the entire life he had to sacrifice to fight for FREEDOM for Josh, Shane and Sarah. I felt him all around us, in the expanse of sky over us, the sun and breeze embracing us, and the crashing ocean waves below us.
As I start my journey home I think of them and all the key figures without whom I would not have been able to sustain my fight, without whom I wouldn’t even be breathing now. I think of the critical importance of peer support – informal support from peers who share our experiences. The Free the Hikers community was the community with whom I co-achieved FREEDOM for Josh, Shane and Sarah.
They were also my peer support group, who could understand my suffering and struggle like no one else could. Alex, who was there whenever I needed him for anything, even in the most traumatic crisis of his entire life; Josh and Alex’s parents Laura and Jacob who were family to me through our shared pain; Alita, our web guru, who was driven to fight for Sarah with the same fervor that drove me to fight for Josh; David Marcus, our webmaster, who put Shane’s FREEDOM before anything else, and thereby responded to my need to put Josh’s FREEDOM before anything else; Jen Miller, Sarah’s friend who was always ready to round up Bay area friends and supporters, with great compassion and skill; and my cousin Salina, my Wondertwin, who was and continues to be there for me for everything.
Former political prisoners Eric Volz, Roxana Saberi, and Laura Ling also provided me with support that no one else could, helping me to feel connected to Josh when I couldn’t communicate with him directly for such a prolonged time.
The critical importance of their support, along with that of other ‘peers’, inspired me to get involved in the Toronto-based Self-help Resource Centre (SHRC), an organization that “strengthens communities across Ontario by promoting peer support groups that facilitate positive outcomes for people who are facing diverse life transitions and challenges.” I became a Board Member partly to ensure the critical services they provide to so many are sustained, and partly to build greater capacity for them to promote peer support groups focused on trauma. I could have used a local such group when I was dealing with a workplace that did not understand or support my experience of trauma, despite being a national mental health organization. I could use such a local group now to help me make the transition from my campaign life and community to a Toronto-based life that is part of my journey forward. Given the growing diversity of Toronto, Ontario, Canada and North America, I imagine many others could benefit from peer support groups for trauma survivors.
I am making a donation to SHRC as a wedding gift for Shane and Sarah, to honor my many ‘peers’, including Intent community members, who made it possible for me to fight for their FREEDOM. Please join me in honoring them by donating here. Thank you immensely for your peer support for peer support.
This post is fourth 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 features one cause that I am currently working on and encourages 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.