Mothers of the Wrongfully Imprisoned: 7 Causes in 7 Days

My mother, Credit: Farah N. Mawani

Yesterday I celebrated Mother’s Day with my mother, my aunt (a ‘bonus’ mother as my friend puts it), my brothers, and my niece and nephew. We had a barbecue on a sunny deck overlooking a tree-filled park. It was a beautiful day with my family that I will always remember. Only a few years ago, we feared losing our mother when she was diagnosed with breast cancer just before Mother’s Day.  Last year we were able to celebrate the milestone of 5 years of remission with her. This year she looked stronger and healthier than ever, and in less than a month, my brother Zohrab is doing an epic two day bike ride to raise funds for the Princess Margaret Hospital, where she received treatment.

In the midst of our joy at simply being able to be with our mother, I couldn’t help reflecting on how I spent Mother’s Day last year and the year before: fighting for FREEDOM for my precious brother Josh Fattal, and my friends Shane Bauer and Sarah Shourd, held hostage by the Iranian regime for two years and two months. It was heartbreaking to be working closely with their mothers, Laura Fattal, Cindy Hickey and Nora Shourd, who were at the forefront of our Free the Hikers campaign but unable to even speak to Josh, Shane and Sarah over the phone on Mother’s Day.

On the first Mother’s Day during our campaign, Josh’s brother Alex sent this message:

“Hi Friends and Supporters of Shane, Sarah and Josh,

Today is a particularly tough day for our families as we are passing Mother’s Day without Shane, Sarah and Josh. We are shocked that over five months after their mothers applied for visas to visit them those visas have still not been issued.  Prisoners around the world are entitled to visits from family members. This egregious delay in issuing the visas is just one more right that Iran is denying the hikers.”

Credit: AP Photo/Richard Drew

I sent this message to Laura, Cindy and Nora:

 Hi Laura, Cindy and Nora,

When I last wrote to you I almost addressed you ‘Hi Moms’.  So of course I’m thinking of you today and wishing that your biggest Mother’s Day wish could be granted.  The CNN video is great and getting good circulation on twitter & facebook.

I do have a couple of positive support stories to share.

1. One of our twitter supporters wrote this blog post for you: Sad Mother’s Day for Families of Hikers Detained in Iran

She’s working hard to disseminate it on twitter and especially to urge people to take action.

2. You may already know that Safe World has decided to feature us on their home page. They have also created a ‘Film’ page for the two (soon to be three) films they’ve created about us.

I hope these supportive gestures provide you with some added support to reassure you that you are not alone in this. Many many supporters’ thoughts are with you today. I’ll keep letting you know of their supportive messages directed at you. I know that Sarah, Shane and Josh are sending you much love while feeling and admiring your strength across the miles. I share their admiration.

Love,

Farah

I expected very low traffic on our social media sites. It was a Sunday, generally a lower traffic day, and I assumed that most of our supporters would either be spending the day with their mothers or with their children.  Instead, it was one of our busiest days to date.  We were flooded with messages like these:

@fire_girl: @freethehikers celebrating the strength, resilience, courage & tenacity of #SSJ‘s moms this mothers day. you encourage & inspire many! #SSJ

@majorhissyfit: I have learned much abt motherhood from Nora, Cindy and Laura @freethehikers. Please keep them and their children in your hearts and prayers

I have no doubt that the immense support we received on Mother’s Day was largely responsible for Iranian authorities granting visas to Josh, Shane & Sarah’s mothers just two days later on May 11 2010 and enabling them to visit them on May 19, 2010.

Last year, the Iranian regime scheduled a trial session for Josh and Shane on May 11th. When Iranian authorities failed to bring Josh and Shane to court for that hearing, without any explanation, Laura Fattal and Cindy Hickey began a hunger strike in solidarity with their sons. People around the world, including the entire Chopra family, joined them in a solidarity fast.

No mother should have to go through what Laura, Cindy and Nora did. Unfortunately many continue to do so. This Mother’s Day I am working with the family of Jason Puracal, an American citizen wrongfully imprisoned in Nicaragua. His mother’s pain and loss intertwined with love and hope is evident in her words:

I had so hoped that having my son with me would be my Mother’s Day present.

It will be two years in a row now that I will not hear my son’s voice wishing me “Happy Mothers Day” or feel his warm bear hug.

A line from one of Deepak Chopra’s books comes to mind — “in our lives there is somebody out there.” Yes, there are more than 86,000 people plus the 43 members of our powerful legislative body that are showing love and support for my son, Jason. I can’t help but believe in the power of the collective consciousness and that this focused intention from so many has to trigger a transformation. I know my son shares this belief and is counting on it for his freedom. My heartfelt thanks and gratitude goes out to all of you.

I keep the hope that we will be reconciled by Nicaraguan Mother’s Day which occurs on May 27th. May that day come soon.

I hope that the support and action of people around the world buoys the spirits of Jason’s mother and family as they did over the holiday period. I hope even more that the collective intent, support and action triggers the transformation that Jason and his family need and deserve.

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Farah N. Mawani

About Farah N. Mawani

Kenyan-born Canadian global mental health policy researcher, FreetheHikers Co-founder/Social Media Director, and Founder Farahway Global. Farahway Global is a non-profit organization that engages the global public in action for human rights and mental health.

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