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. Zebula

    She look psychotic.

    September 24, 2010 at 6:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • bbnx

      Most spies do................

      September 24, 2010 at 8:06 pm | Report abuse |
  2. splasher6

    you can't fix stupid but you can take its passport

    September 24, 2010 at 6:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mehdi General Dr Bad

      Read These Comments REAL Good.
      Some One, Needs to Explain to these spoiled Rottten snots,
      Courts in our Countries are not the BIg Joke as They are in America.
      Sarah, Her Mother and Her Lawyer have les then 72 HOurs now to Return to Iran.
      I Sugesst They Get Up And Go.
      This is Your " Compssion".
      YOU do all YOU cna to keep ME From Even Speaking.
      While YOur Liar Leaders and generals hide from me.
      and you have this girl beg.

      September 24, 2010 at 6:22 pm | Report abuse |
  3. TPF

    I don't feel for her one bit, she shouldn't have been there in the first place. Maybe if the government would make these idiots pay for whatever costs were involved, they would learn a lesson and grow up. She sounds like she's not too bright anyway. Anyone that going in to a dangerous area like that should be on their own, too bad if you wind up in prison. She is for sure not a hero of any kind,she is a trespasser if anything. Just goes to show you YOU CAN'T FIX STUPID!!!!

    September 24, 2010 at 6:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mehdi General Dr Bad

      Mehdi General Dr Bad

      so much for Nice.

      Mehdi General Dr Bad

      IN form Sarah ,Her Mother, and HER Lawyer Ther Bail Is now revoked.
      and they Both are now charged as well.
      Thye now have 72 hours to Return To iran Inshallah.

      September 24, 2010 at 5:30 pm | Report abuse | Reply

      September 24, 2010 at 5:32 pm | Report abuse | Reply

      Appeal = Denied.

      September 24, 2010 at 6:24 pm | Report abuse |
  4. dr perry fisher

    She is nuts and is now screwing her boyfriends brother

    September 24, 2010 at 6:22 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Ari

    I cant understand why anybody in the world would ever want to go anywhere near either of these two countries. They dont like Americans over there. Whats the big surprise? The Iranian president is nothing more than a Subhuman non grata, and most of the animals in his country are not much better. U.S. military should drop his plane into the ocean on his way home.. He shouldnt even be allowed to govern the local pig farm with his religious garbage for sense.

    September 24, 2010 at 6:27 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Mark

    I think those who go hiking anywhere near Iran must lack intelligence or any common sense. I think people who get captured by Iran when they go hiking there should get ZERO publicity. I am sorry this person was put in one of their horrible jails but it was madness to go anywhere near Iran.

    September 24, 2010 at 6:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      More than likely, they never crossed the border into Iran. They may have been convinced they did by Iranian authorities, but this is nothing more than Iran's usual nonsense. It's a pathetic attempt by the Iranian government to get a political bargaining chip. Instead, it just removes even more of their credibility.

      The people of Iran need to rise up and remove the corrupt leadership that's currently in power.

      September 24, 2010 at 6:37 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Ed Coleman

    I find these three "hikers" to be totally stupid enough to be in the region–any region, for that fact. Remember when it was reported that she had medical issues" Well, now we know that it was a big lie to garner sympathy. Look for the book to come out soon

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

      Maybe if they Dyed Thier Hair Blonde ,

      September 24, 2010 at 7:08 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Dan

    Keep the fiance in Iran. This keeps them from reproducing.

    September 24, 2010 at 6:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ari

      Something should be done to keep the people in Iran from reproducing..

      September 24, 2010 at 7:27 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Mehdi General Dr Bad

    Im Looking To See What I have Open For Women.
    I do not really want or neeed more women.
    i have an Opening for a H.oo.ker, I have an Opening for a Maid, and One of My wives Needs a Hand Maiden.
    Have " Sa.rah and J.ill " Chat and let me know.
    Are They V.irgins? (YOU Brought It up).

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

    CNN strikes again. This headline should have read, "American hiker meets Iranian president-real news to follow at a later date". Total waste of my time.

    September 24, 2010 at 7:31 pm | Report abuse |
  11. warning

    Sorry people she is not a spy but idiot american.she does not deserve to be in the news and we dont care about her or her idiot friends in jail.warning americans stay out.

    September 24, 2010 at 7:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mehdi General Dr Bad

      She is a " Reporter ".
      And " I " care.

      September 24, 2010 at 8:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mehdi General Dr Bad

      Why did ALL You women Jump IN The H.O.O.Ker Line?
      No ? Maids?

      September 24, 2010 at 8:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mehdi General Dr Bad

      O.k. What if WE Dye Her Hair Blonde AND Get Her Breasts? hmm Which reminds me,,,,What Time is it?

      September 24, 2010 at 8:38 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Mehdi General Dr Bad

    Mehdi General Dr Bad
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    Mehdi General Dr Bad

    Sallam wr wb = Peace,
    This Womans Mother Lied to get her released for " Female Medicial Conditions". It was a LIe.
    Once again americas coward leaders hide while they have this Woman beg and they play games.
    You all also forget " Jill carrol".

    INshallah IT is up TO " I " What happens with this Woman.
    Here is YOUR Chane to give YOUR reason's why I Should NOT revoke her Bail as WEll as Charge her MOther and Lawyer for LYING.
    "Sarah " needs to Find " Jill ", and have a " Chat".
    oh, and YOU Smarted off to the Wrong Man.

    September 24, 2010 at 11:52 am | Report abuse | Reply

    September 24, 2010 at 11:53 am | Report abuse |

    September 24, 2010 at 8:39 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Collin

    Well I do feel for them but why on this earth do people do such stupid things? There's a reason why we're not supposed to be near those countries, Iran is a sanctioned country to begin with and hiking right along the borders is like playing with fire, they got burned. We think because we're 'Americans" we're invincible and can do whatever we want but you have to have a little common sense, she's just lucky to be alive

    September 24, 2010 at 10:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mehdi General Dr Bad

      Good Point.

      September 24, 2010 at 10:54 pm | Report abuse |
  14. shellski

    Hey lady – before considering your next hike in another blatently, politically charged "could die if you go there" war zone, you should really take a look at Banff Canada. No militants or or suicide bombers up here man (not yet cause our immigration policy is shocking). Maybe do some research or consult you travel agent – cause hiking out there is !@#$#@!$# $tupid

    September 25, 2010 at 3:30 am | Report abuse |
  15. abby

    The simplest explanation is that these three young Americans were not CIA and DID NOT go hiking in Iraq or Iran...they were hiking in their own cotton-candy world of lollipops and unicorns. A world where they are recognized for the peace and love that resides in their earnest little humanitarian hearts and not judged by their nationality or the foriegn policies of their governments.

    On a less sarcastic note, I've acually clocked about 3 years over the last 6 living in practically every region of iraq...and I have to say that not even iraqis would go hiking in their country, especially up north. Everything else being equal – only someone utterly clueless would hike without a guide where there are likely to be unexploded ordinances to step on, many long forgotten after the Iran/Iraq war, right there on that vey border.

    The smartest thing she could have done in these interviews was come out and admit how stupid and naive their actions were. Problem is, I don't think she gets it even after 14 months in prison. Blame it on the gumdrops and buterflies.

    September 25, 2010 at 8:02 am | Report abuse |
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