The mother of one of three American hikers detained in Iran picked up visas Wednesday that will enable her and two other mothers to visit their children.Laura Fattal held the visas triumphantly as she and her son Alex exited the Iranian interests section.
"I'm guarding these passports tight," she said. "I'm holding them very, very tight to me. I will keep them very, very guarded and I cannot wait to hand them personally to Nora (Shourd) and to Cindy (Hickey) so that they will have them in their hands."
Sarah Shourd, 31; Shane Bauer, 27; and Josh Fattal, 27, were detained last July and sent to Tehran's Evin Prison. Their families say the three accidentally strayed across an unmarked border into Iran while on a hiking trip
to Iraqi Kurdistan.
Holding the visas Wednesday, Laura Fattal thanked the Iranians, and said she presented roses, in multiples of three, to staffers at the Iranian interests section, as the rose is Iran's national flower.
"I am eager to go to Iran," she said. "I look forward to the hospitality, to the generosity of the people and I look forward to continued good will."
She said she did not know why the visas were approved at this point, but said the families have been working through a lawyer to move the process ahead.
The mothers, she said, will be leaving "very soon." She said she cried
in a taxi on the way to pick up the visas because it "was really going to happen."
"It's wonderful that the mothers will be able to go over and hug their children and to see their children," said Alex Fattal. "This humanitarian spirit on the part of the Iranian government is tremendously appreciated by all three families. We can only hope and pray that that spirit continues and that the humanitarian gesture of this visit become a wider humanitarian gesture of a release."
The hikers have been detained for more than nine months, he said. "It's taken a very difficult emotional toll on all of the families." The granting of the visas, he said, was a "glimmer of hope."
Laura Fattal said the mothers were notified Tuesday morning their requests for visas has been approved. She told CNN she's been given no reason to believe they will be allowed to bring their children home, but she remains "hopeful."
"I am constantly hopeful. I have never lost hope for one second," Fattal said.
Iran's semi-official Fars News Agency quoted Iran's foreign minister Monday as saying the decision to issue the visas was decided on a humanitarian basis prior to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's visit to the United Nations last week for a conference on nuclear nonproliferation.
The families applied for visas six months ago.
The three Americans have not been formally charged, although Tehran has said they will face trial on espionage charges.
They have had little contact with the outside world since their arrests.
They made a brief phone call home March 9 and have access to a few letters and messages sent by relatives, friends and supporters.
The Swiss ambassador to Iran met with the detainees last month and said Bauer and Shourd are in poor health and are considering a hunger strike.
The United States, which has not had diplomatic relations with Iran since 1979, has relied on Switzerland to appeal directly for the hikers' release.
- CNN's Paul Courson, Steve Kastenbaum and Susan Candiotti contributed to this report