Minnesota woman confirms son missing in Iranby Nathaniel Minor, Minnesota Public Radio,
Madeleine Baran, Minnesota Public Radio
Minneapolis — The mother of an American freelance journalist missing in Iran says she is concerned for the "safety and welfare" of her son and two other Americans.
Shane Bauer's mother, Cindy Hickey, says her son is one of the three Americans believed to have been arrested by Iranian authorities last week on a hiking trip in northern Iraq.
Hickey, who lives in Pine City, Minn., said Monday she hopes the three return safely to the U.S. She refused to comment further.
A Kurdish official in Iraq has said the three Americans contacted a colleague to say they had entered Iran by mistake on Friday and were surrounded by troops. Iran's state television later said the Americans were arrested after they did not heed warnings from Iranian border guards.
Bauer, his girlfriend Sarah Shourd and his friend Joshua Fattal were hiking in a mountainous area near the resort town of Ahmed Awaa in northern Iraq. A fourth companion, Shon Meckfessel, had stayed behind because of a cold.
Bauer had been working as a freelance journalist for New American Media. He last contacted his editors in late July via email. Bauer told his editors that he planned to cover the Kurdish elections and would submit an article soon.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton appealed to Iran on Monday for information about the three missing Americans.
Clinton said today that Swiss diplomats who represent U.S. interests in Iran are asking officials from the Iranian Foreign Ministry for details but have not yet gotten official confirmation of the trio's arrest. Iran and the United States have not had formal diplomatic relations since the American hostage crisis of 1979.
Clinton asked that Iran determine the facts of the case and to "return them as quickly as possible."
"As of a few hours ago, we did not yet have official confirmation that the Iranian government or an instrument of the Iranian government were holding the three missing Americans," she told reporters at the State Department. "We asked our Swiss partners ... to please pursue our inquiries to determine the status of the three missing Americans."
"Obviously, we are concerned," Clinton said. "We want this matter brought to a resolution as soon as possible, and we call on the Iranian government to help us determine the whereabouts of the three missing Americans and return them as quickly as possible."
U.S. government officials have spoken with the families of the arrested Americans, according to Darby Holladay, spokesman for the State Department.
At this point, government officials have not entered into negotiations with Iranian officials, Halladay said.
Halladay declined to provide information about the condition of Bauer and the other two arrested Americans, citing privacy concerns for their families.
U.S. Embassy officials have met with and provided assistance to Meckfessel, the fourth companion who did not attend the trip, Halladay said.
A spokesperson for Sen. Amy Klobuchar said the senator is waiting for updates from the Swiss embassy and hopes that Bauer will be released safely back to the United States.
Bauer now lives in San Francisco. According to his Web site, Bauer is a fluent speaker of Arabic who has spent much of the last six years in the Middle East and North Africa.
His work has been published in the L.A. Times, San Francisco Chronicle, New American Media, The Christian Science Monitor and other news services. His article on the Iraq Special Operations Forces was published as the cover story in the June 22 edition of The Nation.
Bauer graduated with honors from the University of California Berkeley in 2007 with a major in Peace and Conflict Studies and a minor in Arabic, according to the university. Bauer also received a fellowship to travel to Darfur, where he interviewed survivors of the conflict.
"His work was always looking at people and how they lived," said Annette Fuentes, managing editor of New American Media. Fuentes described Bauer as "a serious, responsible person with great respect for the Arab world."
Bauer is a progressive activist who had been involved in protests against the WTO, said his friend Mikael Bouckaert. "He's just very intelligent, very versatile, very down-to-earth," he said.
Speaking about the hiking trip, Bouckaert said, "It doesn't surprise me. He has a bit of an outdoorsy streak."
The Iraqi regional government's statement said the three got lost during an excursion and were detained by Iranian authorities at the border.
Jerry Sanders, Bauer's academic advisor at UC-Berkeley, said he doubts his former student would have intentionally crossed into Iran.
"Even if he doesn't speak Farsi, he's a smart guy," Sanders, the chair of Peace and Conflict Studies at UC-Berkeley said. "If a border guard's telling him not to cross into Iran, I can't imagine him doing it."
Sanders said he expects Bauer will be released. "It's hard to imagine, even under the circumstances of U.S. Iranian relations right now, and the crisis within the country, that anybody would make anything out of this," he said. "It's just too irrational, even under the circumstances of the world today, to imagine that somebody's going to make these charges stick."
The area where the three were detained is a popular hiking destination known for a picturesque waterfall and rocky scenery, as well as a thick growth of fruit and nut trees.
Camping equipment and two backpacks apparently belonging to the Americans were found in the area, and it seemed they were hiking above the waterfall when they accidentally crossed the border, a Kurdish security official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to release the information.
Shortly before their capture, the three contacted their sick friend to say they had entered Iran by mistake and were surrounded by troops, the official said.
Iran's state TV said the Americans were arrested after they did not heed warnings from Iranian border guards. It cited a "well-informed source" in the Interior Ministry.
(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
Nathaniel Minor is an online producer for MPR News.