Hiker Arrested in Iran Writes for The Jewish Week (Updated) Hikers "Linked to CIA" says Iran - Shon Meckfessel "safe" at US Embassy Baghdad
The three people detained by Iran for crossing the Iran-Kurdistan border illegally are Joshua Fattal, Shane Bauer, and Sarah Shourd. Fattal lives in Eugene, Oregon, and the other two Americans are from the Bay area.
KING 5 News (Seattle) has learned that a fourth American who traveled with the group is a Seattle resident. University of Washington PhD student Shon Meckfessel appears to be the one American in the group who was not detained because he was not with the group at the time.
All three of the detained appear to be writers, as is Meckfessel, who authored the book "Suffled How it Gush: A North American Anarchist in the Balkans." In an Amazon review of the book, Meckfessel is described as "a green-haired, banjo-playing anarcho-punk journalist from Sacramento."
Fattal is described as a writer for "The Jewish Week" however, there are only 2 articles on the site authored by Fattal.
Bauer is described as a regular contributor to "New America Media." Shourd is also noted as a contributor to "New America Media."
There is only one article from Shourd at the New America Media site, and 31 from Bauer.
The Iranian state TV report claimed the four Americans were together when they crossed the border, but "only one returned (to Iraq), while the three were arrested."
Shon Meckfessel, the only member of the group not arrested, claimed he did not go on the hike but stayed at their hotel because he was not feeling well.
The discrepancy could not immediately be reconciled.
CNN reports: “My grandson has asked me not to talk to the media,” said Shon's grandmother, Irene Meckfessel of Carmichael, California, before hanging up.Eugene, Oregon, where Fattal (originally from Philadelphia) lives, is also the home of the black ski-masked anarchists who disrupted the 1999 WTO march in Seattle by using violence and vandalizing storefronts. The ex-mayor of Eugene, Jim Torrey, called it "the anarchist capital of the US".
Two of the hikers were "students in Syria."
Update 8/2/09: Hiker's Using Aliases? Or is this a case of misspelled names? How can Fattal suddenly become Steel?
Beshro Ahmed, media adviser for general security in Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region, identified the three as Shane Bower, Sara Short and Joshua Steel.
In another report: The US nationals identified as Shane Bower, Sara Short and Joshua Steel were reportedly arrested on Friday after crossing into the country via Iraq's northern Kurdish region.
They had "mistakenly" crossed into Iranian territory Friday while hiking in a mountainous area, Kurdish officials from the self-ruled region were reported as saying.
This is while reports clamed Colonel Anwar Haj Omar of the Halabja police force in northern Iraq on Sunday linked the three to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
"These three people were agents working with the CIA and were arrested near the resort town of Ahmed Awaa," Omar was quoted by Ayandeh news as saying.
Another news item states: The fourth member of the group, who took ill and stayed behind at a hotel, spoke by telephone to the group who told him they were 'being held by soldiers who are not speaking Kurdish or Arabic.
Another report from TEHRAN (FNA)- After three U.S. citizens were reportedly arrested on Friday for crossing illegally into Iranian territory, officials announced on Saturday that Iranian forces have monitored and registered frequent flights by two U.S. drones over Iran-Iraq bordering areas.
Eyewitnesses said that since last night the two U.S. spy planes have been flying over 'Ahmed Awa' area in the Iraqi region of Kurdistan, where the American tourists stayed before crossing into Iran.
Also they said that three U.S. military vehicles also arrived in the region on Saturday morning.
Ahmed named the three as Shane Bower, Sara Short and Joshua Steel, while Shaun Gabriel Maxwell stayed behind in their hotel in the autonomous Kurdish region's second largest city of Sulaimaniyah.
Ahmed said the group had originally been in Syria before going to Turkey and eventually crossing the Turkey-Kurdistan border. They stayed in the regional capital Arbil for one night before moving on to Sulaimaniyah.
The reason for the presence of these American nationals is not known. The western media, in the past few days, extensively propagated that these three U.S. personnel have been kidnapped.
OK - so "Shon Meckfessel" is now "Shaun Gabriel Maxwell", and "Joshua Fattal" is now "Joshua Steel". Help, I'm confused.
In local news (Oregon):
Joshua Fattal’s mother, Laura Fattal, of Elkins Park, Penn....A Joshua Fattal was the internship coordinator at Aprovecho Research Center (Cottage Grove, OR - south of Eugene - a "sustainable energy non-profit")...One (family member) said Fattal had left Cottage Grove about a month ago and was planning to travel to India....Fattal posted an entry on his Facebook page on July 17...wrote that he was on his way to Damascus and also that he was planning to be in Kurdistan....In Wednesday entries...Fattal wrote that he is “getting in touch with my roots between the tigres and euphrates valleys …” and that “Iraq is on my mind.”
Another report: The Americans range in age from 27 to 36, and two are studying Arabic in Damascus...Joshua Fattal's father is Iraqi...The hikers' detention will chagrin President Obama, who has been courting better diplomatic relations with Iran in recent months. In May, the American journalist Roxanna Saberi was freed...she had been convicted of spying.
Meckfessel was studying Arabic, his grandmother said: “He’s very much interested in people and languages and he’s working on a Ph.D. in linguistics.”
Meckfessel has a blog. He has also written the essay Standing Challenges to Capitalism in the Balkans in the anthology Confronting Capitalism: Dispatches from a Global Movement a book made as an outgrowth of the 1999 Seattle Anti-WTO march. Meckfessel is associated with two NGO's on his blog, Voice of Roma and Balkan Sunflowers that have to do with Gypsies. Shon Meckfessel's Facebook profile is here showing Sarah Shourd and Shane Michael Bauer as "friends."
According to a blog, "earlier reports say that Meckfessel then left his hotel unannounced, leaving luggage behind" - the luggage was taken out of the hotel by Sulaimaniya security forces - it also states that the hotel clerk saw Meckfessel leave at 4:30 p.m. - the other three hikers were detained at 1:30 p.m. the same day.
Shon Meckfessel's family say they have heard from him and he is safe inside the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.
Kurdish authorities stated that Meckfessel was picked up by U.S. Embassy officials.
Shane Bauer has written for The Nation and "lives in the Middle East". Bauer has a website, is a "photojournalist" and has shot a movie about Darfur. As of 2006, Bauer is noted as "a fluent speaker of Arabic".
Sarah Shourd is a writer for Matador Pulse and is said to be from "the Bay area." There is a Facebook profile for a Sarah Shourd from California who is a "teacher/writer at Iraqi Students Project Connections." The profile also says Ms. Shourd is "currently based in the Middle East."
Fattal was also accepted into Write On For Israel, which advocates for Israel through journalism.
The hikers' plight bears some similarity to the case of the two American journalists in North Korea for illegally crossing the border from China, who are currently due to serve 12 years imprisonment but "may become pawns of the high-stakes diplomatic game of a hostile regime bent on achieving nuclear power status."
Ain't that convenient?
Update: August 3rd
Here is a pro-Zionist blog that gives another "slant" on who these people are. It seems no one can get this information straight.