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.

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

    Not the sharpest pencils in the box I suspect....did anyone ever tell this pollyanna wannabe that Iran hates the US... " The Great Satan".... dumb, dumb, dumb

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

      Maybe just another calculated form of self ingratiation. "Oh, poor me!! Now let's get to the book, the movie, the biography, the interviews, the speeches, etc., etc.... "

      September 24, 2010 at 5:42 pm | Report abuse |
  2. User007

    We should have either left her as* over there or brought her up on charges once we brought her back to the US. The fact that she is getting media attention for being so STUPID just tells other people seeking attention that this method works. I am sorry but she needs to be brought up on legal charges, although I am not sure stupidity is a crime. She should also be responsible to pay back any money paid for her either private or public.

    September 24, 2010 at 10:50 am | Report abuse |
  3. Shak

    Have we run out of places to go hiking here in U.S.
    Maybe they were on a government mission.Even stupid
    people have enough sense to not go to war zones.

    September 24, 2010 at 10:54 am | Report abuse |
    • Redeye Dog

      Too true....

      September 24, 2010 at 5:37 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Lonnie

    Yay! Let's all go hiking in Iran. Stupid. Waste of media attention.

    September 24, 2010 at 10:56 am | Report abuse |
  5. curious steve

    three little american jews sneaking along the borders of the country that the american jews are itching to nuke.... yeah right, they are angels.

    September 24, 2010 at 10:57 am | Report abuse |
  6. stillin

    I can't imagine being that stupid, period.

    September 24, 2010 at 10:58 am | Report abuse |
  7. jainTN

    Hmmmmmm........ so they researched it and found that it was safe. This is from the international travel section of the State Department website: "While some regions within Iraq have experienced fewer violent incidents than others in recent years, violence and threats against U.S. citizens persist and no region should be considered safe from dangerous conditions, including explosions, kidnappings, and other terrorist and criminal attacks. Attacks against military and civilian targets throughout Iraq continue, including in the International (or "Green") Zone and northern Iraq."

    These people were being arrogant and stupid and frankly, I think they just wanted to be able to brag to people that they hiked in a war zone. If this was 1967 they would have been hiking along the North Vietnam/Cambodia border and claiming they were just trying to "build a bridge" between them and us. Gag me.

    September 24, 2010 at 10:58 am | Report abuse |
    • Brenda

      It is shocking someone this utterly stupid was able to make it from the US to Damascus to the Iranian border. The Iranians sent her back because they know she could do more damage to America from within...hopefully bearing many many stupid liberal nutjob children. She is an Iranian cruise missle sent home to "dumb down" America with her liberal fantasy world mind.

      September 24, 2010 at 11:11 am | Report abuse |
  8. stillin

    I can't imagine being that stupid, period. Your moderater says I have already said this, but I haven't, so why are you sending me that incorrect message?

    September 24, 2010 at 10:59 am | Report abuse |
  9. the_dude

    Someone needs to puch this chick in the face. All of the sudden she is some type of celebrity? I bet this was the plan all along. Still don't know who paid to have her released. I'd rather she just rot in prison.

    September 24, 2010 at 10:59 am | Report abuse |
  10. justuandme

    Sequel to Dodson you tube video sensation-bwahahaha? – These three are so dumb, really dumb!

    September 24, 2010 at 11:05 am | Report abuse |
  11. Brenda

    Not a single hard question in the entire interview. How about a "why would anyone with a shred of common sense go 'hiking' there?" or "Any sane person would know the Iranians would throw you in jail and use you as a poiltical tool, why would you not understand that?" or "do you think the fact you are a nutjob left wing liberal maybe prevents you from using or seeing that this action lacks any shred of common sense that others readily see??"

    September 24, 2010 at 11:09 am | Report abuse |
  12. Rackit

    If they WERE SPYS we wouldnt even know about it.

    September 24, 2010 at 11:10 am | Report abuse |
  13. michelle

    Sarah and the other two are a waste of time, resources, energy, and tv time. You would think they would know better being full grown adults but..hey. we found some people with no common sense! dont put yourselves in a situation where this could happen.. if you are in iran doing work as a journalist, do your work. dont go hiking for fun....idiots

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

      She is a liberal, fantasy world, nutjob. "why would anyone want to hurt me, i'm a peace loving liberal and I would never hurt someone, i'm sure everyone in the world is just like me...Kumbaya, Kumbaya....." What do you people expect from this type of person.

      September 24, 2010 at 11:14 am | Report abuse |
  14. Mike

    I agree with Fred that the ignorance in these comments is painful, childish, and not needed. You do not know the whole situation, unless you were right by there side when they were captured. Also you do not know what the families had to go through during this time. But I know that all your comment's probably wont stop, so continue to gossip and put people down like your in highschool. Have fun

    September 24, 2010 at 11:15 am | Report abuse |
    • justuandme

      So Mike would you like to go hiking sometime? Let see I am not sure where I want to go but I figure i am going to just wing it. The troops are starting pulling out of IRAQ so it must be safer want to go camping afterwards in the northen region?

      common sense I think would be a no - sigh
      but then again common sense might not be so common it looks like

      September 24, 2010 at 11:57 am | Report abuse |
    • The Laughing Lizard

      Americans "hiking" in Iraq or Iran = DUMB. period. Case closed.

      September 24, 2010 at 12:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mike I said before..highschooler

      And I will pass...I would not want to take you on a hiking trip...thanks for the invite anyway though

      September 24, 2010 at 12:09 pm | Report abuse |
  15. supidityofgov

    So why do we give a damn about these idiots again?....Oh, I remember they're stupid and that seems to count in this country!
    And the US Justice Dept is sueing Arizona for trying to inforce our boarders with SB1070? Oh, by the way thats stupid too!!!!

    September 24, 2010 at 11:16 am | Report abuse |
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