Mother Of Hostage Held In Iran Speaks Out
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
Ahead of today's speech, President Ahmadinejad was sent a letter asking for, quote, "A most noble act of mercy and compassion." The letter was written by the mothers of three American hikers who were arrested by Iranian authorities in July while hiking along the Iran/Iraq border. The mother's request: That Iran's president bring their children with him to New York. He did not do that.
At least two of the three detainees appear to be in poor health. And according to a lawyer hired by the families, one of the hikers, Sarah Shourd, is sick and her life is in danger. Also, all three hikers are threatening a hunger strike.
We're joined now by Sarah Shourd's mother, Nora. She's in New York.
Thank you very much for making time for us.
Ms. NORA SHOURD: Thank you.
NORRIS: How is Sarah doing? What is the last that you've heard about her condition?
Ms. SHOURD: We heard - when the Swiss visited them on the 22nd, we got new information. You know, they were happy to see the Swiss. Shane and Josh are together. But the health issues that were raised by the children left us with a lot of questions. You know, when I heard that she told the Swiss she was suffering from bouts of depression, as a mother, I'm wondering how that can be treated in a prison. And it just seems to me like the lack of information that we have in general would heighten my concern about this.
NORRIS: The attorneys noted that her life is in danger. That sounds like an absolutely dire situation. To the extent that you're comfortable talking about this, what do you know about her health problems?
Ms. SHOURD: You know, I know that Sarah has an ongoing gynecological problem. And if treated properly, she'll be okay. But they've been in prison for more than nine months now.
NORRIS: Is a hunger strike the - you know, from a mother's standpoint, is that the right move right now?
Ms. SHOURD: I hope they don't do it. You know, I can kind of understand where they're coming from right now, I think, because I think that, you know, a hunger strike is may be the only thing they see that they can have control over. And even though to us, it seems like, oh, no, please don't do that, I'm sure I understand their desperation right now. You know, this is a day-to-day thing for them. Every day, they wake up and they're still there.
NORRIS: You have some very powerful voices on your side. They include the secretary of State Hillary Clinton, retired South African archbishop Desmond Tutu. But Iran, thus far, has not budged. What do you think needs to happen that perhaps has not happened, thus far, to bring your daughter back home?
Ms. SHOURD: You know, it seems to us that the two countries are kind of at an impasse. You know, I know it's kind of maybe simple to think about this, but we feel that President Ahmadinejad has an opportunity here to kind of go beyond that impasse, and he's in the perfect place to do it too. So we kind of hope that he'll take that opportunity.
NORRIS: There was a video widely circulated of the three: Shane, Sarah and Josh, and it was a quite playful video; they're dancing to music. Is that an image that you hold on to right now - seeing them in a happier time?
Ms. SHOURD: Yeah. I've looked at that video a lot. You know, I freeze-frame it so I can see Sarah's face because she was obviously really happy. They all look very happy. And they're hardworking, young people, so a break for them was, I'm sure, just really cherished, you know?
NORRIS: You know, I have children myself. And I think about when they handle a difficult situation, they handle it in certain ways. I have one who twirls her hair and another one who tends to hum to himself. Do you think about what she might be doing to wile away the time?
Ms. SHOURD: She's a singer.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Ms. SHOURD: And she's probably singing in her cell, you know, making up her own songs. She likes to write songs and sing them herself, you know? So I imagine she's probably doing that in a kind of a healing, almost spiritual way to keep herself grounded.
NORRIS: Nora, what are you doing to keep yourself grounded?
Ms. SHOURD: I'm not always grounded. I have a lot of, you know, anxiety and fears - especially coming off this latest news. The thing that helps me the most, of course, is the other mothers. We've become a close little unit and we check in with each other so often. And, you know, you can say things to someone else who's a mother in this situation that you can't say to anybody else, and that helps me a lot.
NORRIS: Nora Shourd, thank you very much for speaking with us. All the best to you.
Ms. SHOURD: Thank you.
NORRIS: Nora Shourd is the mother of Sarah Shourd. She's one of the three American hikers detained in Iran since July.
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