September 24th, 2010
04:24 PM ET

American hiker Sarah Shourd meets Iranian president

[Updated 4:23 p.m.] Freed American hiker Sarah Shourd and her mother, Nora, met Friday with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in New York, a family spokeswoman said.


[Updated 9:16 a.m.] Sarah Shourd is happy to be back in the United States after being held for 14 months in an Iranian prison. The homecoming, as welcome as it was, is still bittersweet. Her companions, Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal are still being held. The three were arrested last year when they were hiking near the Iran-Iraq border. Sarah Shourd talked on CNN's "American Morning" about her ordeal and efforts to get her two friends free.

Kiran Chetry: I can't imagine the emotion you're going through. How are you physically and mentally after the release?

Sarah Shourd: Well, it is hard to explain. I mean, of course, I feel grateful. I wouldn't be free if it wasn't for a huge groundswell of supports of governments and people across the world from Desmond Tutu in South Africa to a homeless woman in San Francisco donating money for us. It is incredible. I know that the same people are doubling their efforts and no one's going to give up until Shane and Josh are with us.

John Roberts: I can't imagine the experience. One moment hiking out there in the country and then the next you're in Iran's notorious Evin prison.

Shourd: Nothing in life can prepare you for something like this. The only thing that got me through is thinking about my mother suffering and loved ones and I had to come back to them. I had to walk out strong and now I have to be stronger than ever. I didn't expect it to end this way for me. I mean, it is not over but I didn't expect to have my freedom be so bittersweet.

Chetry: Because they're still there and you, as you said, you know nothing. There's no information coming out. Have you heard anything from the Iranian government or anyone?

Shourd: No. It's always uncertain. There's no guarantees, no assurances. We're hopeful. This is a good precedent. I was released on humanitarian [grounds] and I feel confident they'll extend the same to my fiance and dear friend and I hope it is soon. This is too long. Now, our pain was invisible. Everyone is seeing the pain of our families which is in many ways just as bad. And in many ways worse, you know? But no one can see your pain when you're in prison. You're invisible. The guards, streaming down tears, slamming the door in my face and walk away. Now only I know what Shane and Josh are enduring. I can see them in the cramped little cell with very little sunlight and [they] only get out an hour a day and, you know, they exercise side by side on a space like the size of a towel. And they're wonderful, wonderful people. And I want the world to meet them.

Roberts: We've certainly got an idea of what your families were going through because we had Josh's brother, Alex and mom on [the show] a lot. We had your mom on one morning and we certainly know the pain that they were enduring but people wondering about the pain that you were in and how you were treated. I know you have said that some of your captors were nice. Some of them not so nice. Did they ever physically abuse you?

Shourd: No. No. I mean, it is all psychological. And it's just the hardest thing, of course, is being so alienated from your family. I begged and cried for a phone call and i didn't get it until i think the seventh month. I'm still unclear on the chronology. But, you know, by the time I got a phone call I lost hope that it was going to happen and so many ups and downs. You think it will be over and then goes on and on and on.

Chetry: More than a year following the story every step of the way and some viewers also were wondering how it all started. Can you just walk us through or just explain that day? You guys were hiking in Kurdistan and then everything changed in an instant.

Shourd: Yeah. My fiancee Shane Bauer and I have been fascinated by the region. We wanted to immerse ourselves in that part of the world to learn more about it and to be hopefully more of a bridge between the people in that region and the people in our country. So I taught in Damascus for a year and there's not a lot of green mountains in Damascus. It's a beautiful country.

Roberts: A lot of brown.

Shourd: Yeah. A lot of beautiful desert and craggy rocks and I had two friends that traveled in northern Iraq. It's not a war zone. Americans have not been hurt there. You know? Even while all of the violence was raging in the south. It wasn't happening in the north so it was an easy place. I only had a week off of work of my teaching job in Damascus so it was an easy, quick trip to some green mountains and we'd been assured by our research that it was safe and really nothing like this happened there before. Our story was completely unexpected and tragic. We did nothing wrong.

Chetry: Why didn't the Iranians believe you? I mean, they're accusing you of espionage-like charges. What was the point of that?

Shourd: I don't know if  I'll ever completely understand that but all I can say is we did nothing wrong. We meant no harm to the Iranian people. We did not intend to cross the border. It was unmarked. We were on a trail behind the tourist site. There were hundreds of families there - very popular spot by a waterfall and families picnic and I - I just think it's a huge misunderstanding more to do with the problems between the countries than with us as individuals.

Roberts: You said you got the idea, 'Wait a second. This is all political.'

Shourd: Yeah. Unfortunately, it's true. You know, I wouldn't be sitting here if there weren't countless people that believed in our innocence. I don't think there's a doubt in the world we didn't intend to go to Iran. We would never risk our safety in that way and put our families through this. You know?

Roberts: President Ahmadinejad is here this week and I know that you have wanted to try to get in touch with him. He was on with Larry King on Wednesday talking about whether or not Shane and Josh would get out. He said that's 'in the hands of the judge. I've made my appeal.' Do you think you will have a chance to meet with him?

Shourd: Yeah, well, I don't see why he wouldn't want to meet with us. I have no animosity towards him or the government. I want it to be resolved and I want it to be finished. And I think that it would be a really good opportunity to, you know, push this forward for us to meet each other.

Chetry: What would you say to him?

Shourd: I don't know if it's going to happen. I would just ask him to release my fiance and my friend for the same reasons he released me, you know? As a humanitarian gesture. This is not politics and governments and we don't deserve to suffer any longer and neither do our families.

Roberts: What do you think about the idea he fought for a prisoner swap? Would you support that?

Shourd: Well, you know, I'm not a politician. Honestly, this is not my area of expertise. I don't know how it should be resolved but it should be resolved and I want to continue to emphasize it's a humanitarian issue and I hope that it ends in a way that, you know, can move us forward.

Roberts: Yeah.

Shourd: Our country and Iran and create a better relationship between us.

Chetry: You know, in reading your accounts it was amazing that there were these small and few and far between moments of you that happened while you were in the prison. One was that Shane asked you to marry him there, right?

Shourd: Yeah.

Chetry: I notice you have a thread on your hand.

Shourd: Yeah.

Chetry: He made an engagement ring for you. Tell us about that.

Roberts: Hold it up. We'll get a shot.

Shourd: Oh, sure. Yeah. Shane's a romantic guy. It was just - you know, we see each other an hour a day outside and Josh stayed in the room so we could have some time alone and Shane said I have something to tell you. I said, I hope it's not bad because I'm having a really bad day and it was a beautiful moment.

Roberts: You were planning on asking him if he didn't ask you?

Shourd: Uh-huh. I was going to wait until after prison. He beat me to it. I'm glad because he said we'll be able to really believe in our future together and sustain us.

Roberts: I know you'll work hard to win their release and we'll keep following the story to the end. Great to see you this morning.

Shourd: Likewise.

Chetry: Best of luck. Such a strong person to be going through this and we wish this ends as you said very quickly. Thanks so much.

Shourd: Thank you.

Watch American Morning weekdays 6am to 9am ET. For the latest from American Morning click here.

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Filed under: Hikers • Iran • TV-American Morning
soundoff (324 Responses)
  1. Jim

    Am i the only that thinks that Sarah Shroud looks like Stephen Colberts sister...she is the female version of him!

    September 24, 2010 at 9:25 am | Report abuse |
    • The Laughing Lizard

      She IS's just an elaborate hoax!

      September 24, 2010 at 9:48 am | Report abuse |
    • bailoutsos

      It's going to be like the Jouquin Phoenix thing and Ahmadinejad was in on the whole thing. The world got punked by all four of them.

      September 24, 2010 at 10:10 am | Report abuse |
    • John

      So let me get this straight, she hiked into Iran from Iraq which is a war zone and we are esupposed to feel sorry for her? I feel sorry for how much of an idiot she is. Stop making this woman out to be a hero.

      September 24, 2010 at 10:17 am | Report abuse |
    • Dale

      It's time we stop paying attention to rich kids who wander into hostile countries and then expect us to send an ex-President to get them out! Let them rot in prison so they go on vacation in the U.S.

      September 24, 2010 at 11:28 am | Report abuse |
    • M Snow

      Mehdi the Iranian – maybe people would appreciate your point of view if you could actually communicate it... as is, it's a bunch of verbal drivel...

      September 24, 2010 at 12:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • WLS

      She and her two friends belong in a nut house. Too bad she got out.

      September 24, 2010 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • SuperDave

      I watched this. I just can't get beyond the fact that they were in a country at war, and one where most of the population hates Americans, and then hikes into the next country who really hates us! I simply can't feel any sympathy for this stupidity.

      September 24, 2010 at 1:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hi5

      Mehedi Dr Bad is hilarious.

      September 24, 2010 at 3:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • ed

      bad dream for Ahmadinejad, Iran is trying to create confusion

      when iran say 9/11 is american creation, Ahmadinejad is doing something in vain, trying to create confusion...previously Ahmadinejad tried to exploit EU racism against jews ...

      September 24, 2010 at 4:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • jack davidson

      Iran was wrong jailing them.
      But it is plenty of mountains in US,Europe,Asia to hike.
      Why go to Iran border-stupid.

      September 24, 2010 at 5:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • thanh sanjose

      Why only 14 months? you are nuts. both Iran or Iraq are not safe for hiking. playing with fire, got burn baby.
      This kind of dummy, low, stupid human being. 14 months is lucky for you. If I was the president, life in prison.

      September 24, 2010 at 5:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Matt

      "My fiance and I have long been interested in the region of the reason and wanted to immerse ourselves in their culture".
      I am really intersted in crocodile ecology, but I have this hunch it may be a bad idea to jump into a swamp full of crocodiles.

      September 24, 2010 at 6:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dogman

      What is she dating this nut job? She should be at work paying off the $500,000 we'll never see again.

      September 24, 2010 at 6:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mehdi General Dr Bad

      I am Not Iranian. Iran is Just one of Many of My Countries.
      and NO They were not working for the C.I.A.

      September 24, 2010 at 10:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • wth

      Im sorry. BUT I have been to several foreign countries but I have never been caught wandering around the border. What were they thinking? I wish them all the best and my best wishes to their families..but they brought it on themselves. On top of that..arentthey Jewish? Are they stupid? We have rea problems here in America without worrying about children of privelige. The country of Israel has been saber rattling for too long. Sink or swim. I dont care. If you look closely at this you will see that the whole thing..STINKS.

      September 28, 2010 at 9:27 am | Report abuse |
  2. Bob C

    Good Grief, just shut up and go away already!

    September 24, 2010 at 9:27 am | Report abuse |
    • The Laughing Lizard

      no doubt

      September 24, 2010 at 9:34 am | Report abuse |
    • SteveM

      Really! Why do we have to hear about her stupidity?

      September 24, 2010 at 9:40 am | Report abuse |
    • jesussays

      Amen!!!!! I am fed up with these idiots who have been captured crossing borders illegally and then cry for U.S. help. Let them rot.

      September 24, 2010 at 10:21 am | Report abuse |
    • Gui

      so people help her out of good will, because quite frankly, hiking there was stupid, and then she goes on TV for her 15 mins of fame? That is like slapping at all the people that helped her out. people helped her not because she is great or special, but because they felt sorry for her situation caused by her own stupidity. do not capitalize on the goodwill of the people that helped by going to interviews and possibly writing a book. she needs to thank them, and then shut up, and go back to her anonymous life.

      September 24, 2010 at 11:47 am | Report abuse |
    • Craig

      She's an idiot – "gee let's go hiking in Iraq"... Stupid

      September 24, 2010 at 12:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • d

      she and her stupid friends are a bunch of hippie communist activists from berkeley (no, they really's not just a slam) who think they are above the political conflicts between the US and Iran. actually, i'm sure they are more on iran's side so i'm surprised that iran is holding them prisoner for so long, but that's beside the point. these stupid liberals think that because they are all peace and love the terrorists aren't going to harm the ones who think that sept 11th wasn't a good enough reason to go after the taliban. well, you know what? terrorists kill liberals, too.

      September 24, 2010 at 1:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hi5

      The only part I feel bad is for the equally clueless "homeless person" who donated to rescue her....that is the lowest it gets.

      September 24, 2010 at 3:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ralf the Dog

      The reason she is talking about this is not to pile on some fame, but to keep the pressure on Iran to let the other two go.

      PS. They did not cross the boarder. The Iranian troops crossed the boarder to nab them.

      September 24, 2010 at 5:42 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Percy

    So then, I guess our State Department paid the $500,000.00 (tax payer money) under the table to get her released?

    September 24, 2010 at 9:29 am | Report abuse |
    • SteveM

      The government claims they made no payment, that it was from a "private" source.

      September 24, 2010 at 9:41 am | Report abuse |
    • Hi5

      Thy likely paid $500K to the Omanis, and another $500K to give to the Iranians. Nothing bad about that if you remember the Iran Contra affair.

      September 24, 2010 at 3:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mehdi General Dr Bad

      NO percy, your goeverment has been trying to block this relase.
      This money is in Violation Of americas sanctions.

      September 24, 2010 at 10:45 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Will

    Ok, seriously, if you are stupid enough to go "hiking" near a country that openly hates the United States, I have zero sympathy for you and your idiot friends getting captured. You're morons. Next time go to Grand Canyon National park.

    September 24, 2010 at 9:29 am | Report abuse |
    • Jessica

      I couldn't agree more!!!!

      September 24, 2010 at 9:35 am | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      You took the words right out of my mouth....What's next, going caving in Afghanistan?

      September 24, 2010 at 9:39 am | Report abuse |
    • SteveM

      Maybe they could go hiking in North Korea next time.

      September 24, 2010 at 9:43 am | Report abuse |
    • kahmyah

      Completely agreee with you..Even journalist who cover the news in that part of the world who don't want to be there, aren't from that part of the world; north south east or west (i don't care what part of the country it is) and they don't go "hiking" for the joy of it like u 3 idiots.your that stuck on stupid, then well you deserve what you get in a way.. Now all of a sudden the light goes off in yur head, "you know maybe this wasn't such a great idea to come over here in the first place.." duuuuh Yah think...Geez. then you go crying "could somebody please help me and get me home..I was dumb for coming here hiking in a country that does not like Americans (which by the way you all three of you guys stand out from everyone else over there just by your looks; everyone around there knows u aren't Iranian or even remotely from that part of the world) and yet u still go there..Geez..Talk about being dumb from the very beginning..I don't care how much research you do, if some places are known to have history of hate, instability or what have you against you, short of an armed escort (and even then i would not be 100% sure i would go) I still wouldn't go.. Face it lady, you got ransomed and now they (their judge, government, etc) want more money to ransom your fiance and good dear friend which they will probably use for additional political capital and who knows, maybe just maybe finance their nuclear program..Thanks a lot geniuses..geez..

      September 24, 2010 at 10:10 am | Report abuse |
    • justuandme

      Bwhahahah you had the same thoughts as I Dave. Next summer Cavvvving in Afganistan! Any takers? bwahahah you had me rolling with that comment but I share your thoughts. Dumbest 3 people on the planet - hands down.

      September 24, 2010 at 10:26 am | Report abuse |
    • Godstar

      Or if you really do work for the CIA and happened to be backpacking near Iran, which means the whole thing would make sense.

      September 24, 2010 at 11:26 am | Report abuse |
    • DrunkenDuck

      Canada not good enough for ya, EH? Friendly people, clean air, beautiful lakes and mountains. Too boring? Geez...

      September 24, 2010 at 7:20 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Dom

    I'm glad they release that SPY. Hopefully, the 2 others get released too.

    September 24, 2010 at 9:33 am | Report abuse |
    • professor of hiking

      hope she is not employed by the company–doesn't appear to have the intellectual horsepower
      clueless about what she has done and the social/political/economic costs others have had to pay.

      September 24, 2010 at 11:15 am | Report abuse |
  6. Willy B.

    How about some airtime for the thousands of men and women serving our country in that region, rather than slobbering over someone who used questionable judgement, at best, in going there. She calls their story "tragic".......please. How about arrogant, spoiled, and imbecilic?

    September 24, 2010 at 9:36 am | Report abuse |
    • The Laughing Lizard

      Agreed...there are countless people with more deserving stories than this. These people are just selfish fools.

      September 24, 2010 at 10:27 am | Report abuse |
    • MrSleeve

      EXCELLENT! On target. This woman is about as vapid as any I've ever seen. Not a clue. She needs to just go away . . .

      September 24, 2010 at 10:30 am | Report abuse |
    • Bill

      I could not agree more, she insists she did not break any laws to be put in jail... over there you don't have to break a law to be put in jail, how stupid can a person be.

      September 24, 2010 at 10:51 am | Report abuse |
    • Mehdi General Dr Bad

      Your Kidding right?

      September 24, 2010 at 10:46 pm | Report abuse |
  7. SteveM

    Only a moron would go to an area of the world that is at war, full of terrorists and one of the most dangerous places ever. If they're that stupid. I have no sympathy for them.

    September 24, 2010 at 9:37 am | Report abuse |
  8. Ed Hoover

    She is CIA. Open your eyes folks.

    September 24, 2010 at 9:38 am | Report abuse |
    • John

      Agreed. I lived in and taught in Damascus... people who live there are clued in to the situations of the region well enough to know that you don't just jump the Iraqi-Syrian border to go for a friendly hike in the Kurdish mountains... that's complete rubbish. Going into Iraq from Syria raises enough eyebrows from local Syrian officials, let alone taking hiking equipment. Furthermore, the Syrian border and wilderness are well watched by the Syrian authority – getting out of or even roaming inside the country is not a happy go lucky experience. Checkpoints, interrogations, etc.

      People here say she is not in the CIA because she is clearly stupid... hello, that's a game. Stupid people don't travel half way around the world, live in a foreign society, learn about different cultures and languages, and also go hiking in relatively dangerous terrain just for fun and to experience the beauty. These spies were trained. The only mistake they made as spies is that they clearly underestimated the Iranians counterespionage abilities.

      September 24, 2010 at 2:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dan

      This woman IS NOT CIA! If so, she'd be in Iran. You act as if, Iran doesn't have intelligence (Intel)

      September 24, 2010 at 2:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dan

      BTW – Stupid people are in colleges around the world and they travel too.

      Sometimes "common sense is not so common."

      September 24, 2010 at 2:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • John

      If so, she'd be in Iran? She tried... and failed. Why would CIA not also be in Syria? Voltaire was clearly right.

      September 24, 2010 at 3:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mehdi General Dr Bad

      Not C.I.A = Reporter (worse)

      September 24, 2010 at 10:47 pm | Report abuse |

      Nor are her companions. Sarah is an English teacher. Shane is a journalist. Josh is a farmer. They're all pro-Palestine peace activists like their friend Tristan Anderson, who was shot in the head without provocation by an Israeli soldier.

      Their incarceration has all just been a stupid mistake. They should have had better maps and GPS, and been more cautious, but it's adventurous, curious, risk-taking passport-holding young people who are America's best representatives in the world outside the "safe" U.S. borders.

      The Iranian army should not have made an illegal incursion into Iraqi Kurdistan to capture them. The US should not be threatening Iran by encircling it with hostile military client states (Turkey, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan). Iran should not be run by election-stealing, saber-rattling, conspiracy theory-believing, theocratic nutjobs. Neither side should be using these good people as political pawns.

      September 30, 2010 at 8:52 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Pete

    they are fools who dont deserve the publicity....

    September 24, 2010 at 9:39 am | Report abuse |
  10. the moi

    Typical American behavior. Go break the law in another country by doing something stupid and end up in jail then make the rounds of EVERY show on TV (including Oprah FIRST!) to talk about it. I suppose the book deal with that tour to promote it then then a reality show and DWTS. I'll even start a betting pool on this. Any takers?

    September 24, 2010 at 9:40 am | Report abuse |
    • James

      Totally AGREE

      September 24, 2010 at 9:42 am | Report abuse |
    • Madge

      Moi, I wouldn't take that bet on a dare.

      September 24, 2010 at 11:06 am | Report abuse |
  11. BillyG

    WHY in the world would she accept marriage to an idiot that she followed to Iran?
    Seriously, call it off. Consider prison time in Iran as "a warning".

    September 24, 2010 at 9:40 am | Report abuse |
    • The Laughing Lizard


      September 24, 2010 at 9:46 am | Report abuse |
    • justuandme

      HAHAHAHA !– omg! so many hilarious people in here

      September 24, 2010 at 10:47 am | Report abuse |
    • MAKU

      Haha! Billy- you're hilarious! They expect us to feel sorry for her? She didnt even go through any torture. If it was the other wa around you know the US prisons would have tortured.

      September 24, 2010 at 4:27 pm | Report abuse |
  12. lblanch

    Will, you said what I was thinking. Why would any American citizen hike in northern Iraq close to the Iranian border? Iran and North Korea have shown they care little of a persons rights, especially, if you are an American. All political.

    September 24, 2010 at 9:41 am | Report abuse |
  13. Telly B

    This chick...and her constant use of the phrase "you know?".

    September 24, 2010 at 9:44 am | Report abuse |
    • Mehdi General Dr Bad

      do you prefere "whatever " ?

      September 24, 2010 at 10:49 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Chris

    Come on, she's so CIA! "It was unmarked. We were on a trail behind the tourist site. There were hundreds of families there – very popular spot by a waterfall and families picnic...". How can a "very popular spot" and "tourist site" sith "hundreds of families" be unmarked????

    September 24, 2010 at 9:44 am | Report abuse |
    • Matt P.

      Uhh... she said the BORDER was unmarked, not the trail.

      September 24, 2010 at 10:33 am | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      I know she said the border wasn't marked, but with all of the other things going on where they were the had to know where they were on a map and how close to the "unmarked" border they were.

      September 24, 2010 at 11:28 am | Report abuse |
    • mike

      they said there were hundreds of others there camping and hiking how come they where the only three captured they must have had some unruley conducts going on to stand out from the others i think they are cia and they are useing everyday people to do there dirty work and when they get caught they try to play on american symphony and try to make it look like they are everyday people good job osoma oboma hussain just like he thinks we beleave he is american or a christan thats funny

      September 24, 2010 at 12:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ralf the Dog

      1. They were on the correct side of the boarder in a relatively safe place (Safer than many places in the USA).

      2. The reason they were captured was a worker at the hotel they were staying at sold them to Iran (All it takes is one quick email and a photo and the busboy makes more money than he could in 10 years.)

      September 24, 2010 at 5:52 pm | Report abuse |
  15. The Laughing Lizard

    This story of three fools who went "hiking" in Iran is undeserving of any media attention whatsoever. These people should not be rewarded for their idiotic decision. There are countless people around the world who are imprisoned and enslaved for political reasons that are more deserving of this media attention. These people are just plain stupid.

    I'll wager that this woman skips her trial and leaves her friend and "fiance" to rot in Iran!

    September 24, 2010 at 9:45 am | Report abuse |
    • Don

      These three are not to smart and i dont feel sorry for them they sound like educated idiots just like Lisa Lees sister in n. korea . then our secretary of state has to get involved unreal they should be flogged by our own country for stupidity. What were they thinking. Oh thats right college does not teach common since your born with it BOO HOO

      September 24, 2010 at 2:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gary

      I have to repost these two posts because I feel exactly the same way:

      So let me get this straight, she hiked into Iran from Iraq which is a war zone and we are esupposed to feel sorry for her? I feel sorry for how much of an idiot she is. Stop making this woman out to be a hero.


      It's time we stop paying attention to rich kids who wander into hostile countries and then expect us to send an ex-President to get them out! Let them rot in prison so they go on vacation in the U.S.

      These three 'hikers' have a secret that needs to be exposed; something is not right with this story.

      September 24, 2010 at 5:54 pm | Report abuse |
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