A Cal grad recently freed by Iran said Saturday she is still haunted by images of her friend and fiance in their cramped jail cells and won't have her life back until they have been released.
Sarah Shourd spoke at a gathering of friends and family in Oakland, where she appealed to Iranian officials to show compassion and release her fiance, Shane Bauer, and friend, Josh Fattal.
"I'm not free," she said, as she choked up with tears. "My life will not resume until Shane and Josh are with me."
Shourd reflected on her time at the Iranian jail after the event. She said she spends her days on the computer and phone, trying to be a voice for Bauer and Fattal. She says she won't rest until they are released.
"When I used to sit with Shane and Josh in the courtyard, they would ask me to sing for them and I sang many songs." Shourd told us, "Shane and Josh used to tell me, 'Sing louder. We want to hear you. We want you to sing as loud as you can possibly sing.' And that voice is still echoing in my mind. Shane and Josh asking me to speak louder to shout out, cry out for them and cry out for their freedom."
The three University of California, Berkeley graduates were near the Iran-Iraq border in July 2009 when they were detained by Iranian authorities. They were accused of illegally crossing the border and spying.
Shourd, who was freed on Sept. 14, has denied Iran's allegations and says the three were just hiking through a scenic area of Iraq's northern Kurdistan region during a vacation. She said again Saturday that like her, Fattal and Bauer are innocent.
"They've done nothing wrong and don't deserve to be there for a second longer than I was."
Shourd, 32, said she had no updates on efforts to release Fattal and Bauer and did not know how they were faring.
The U.S. State Department has said a delegation from Oman, an ally of Iran and the United States who mediated Shourd's release, has visited Iran to try to secure the freedom of Bauer and Fattal.
"I send them letters everyday, I won't know if they'll receive them," Shourd said. "I pray for a phone call, but I don't know if I'll ever get one, and I won't know until the day they are released."
About a dozen friends of Fattal, Shourd and Bauer were at the home of a friend of Shourd's in Oakland writing letters to Fattal and Bauer. Shourd grew up in Los Angeles, but her mother, Nora, lives in Oakland.
Iran's president has said Shourd was released because of her health issues. She had a breast lump and precancerous cervical cells, according to her mother. Shourd said she has been examined by doctors and does not have cancer, but has been told she needs to be monitored.
Shourd and Bauer had been living together in Damascus, Syria, where Bauer was working as a freelance journalist and Shourd as an English teacher. Fattal, an environmental activist, went to visit them last July. Shourd and Bauer became engaged to be married while jailed in Iran. Bauer is said to have given Shourd a ring he made from string and cloth from a T-shirt.
Bauer is a native of Onamia, Minnesota, and Fattal grew up in Pennsylvania.