tv Book Discussion on Sliver of Light CSPAN August 13, 2014 10:42pm-12:03am EDT
second hostage crisis with iran. i think here actually a thing in between that iran really doesn't test nuclear weapons manufacturing. it's a small country with limited resources that doesn't make sense. they do exactly this and how to deal with the metal base and how to embolden etc.. this is very difficult for the international community to deal with because iran has the right to do xyz and they have no proof they have violated their safeguards for mpt undertakings. the international community is a little bit -- and when i look at today, two months, three months, three months, six months, first of all when i worked at the u.
u.n., six months is an extremely small period of time if you want the international community to act. keep that one in mine. the second thing is what do we really know about the program? this is based on the numbers we know. there are also numbers which we may not know and therefore this next deal whether it's another interim deal or a longer deal actually have to address that to bring clarity, to make sure the iranian declarations are complete. as much as i like iaea -- but we can't leave it only to the iaea inspectors.
president rouhani was advocating two days ago really goes much further. it has to be the way it was the 1960s where information was provided to the other party in such a way that was able to verify the statements without going into the country. this is a new challenge which in my view should be part of whatever is the interim deal or final deal. i think it's a great book but i have not yet read it. i will do it during the weekend. >> thank you for those comments ali and thank you so much for coming. i think you raise an excellent point to get greater transparency and more than what they iaea can provide that would be great. on this challenge that you propose to iran stopping just short of the line and staying there i think that is a possible option but i think that's a not
a long-term stable option. i don't see why iran would stop short when they got that close. again if iran's major closer to the to the dfar attack having advanced nuclear facilities doesn't allow you to deter foreign attack. having nuclear weapons and the ability to retaliate with nuclear weapons does. japan has an advanced nuclear program. it's not the most, stayed in asia. my own assessment as that might be a stopping point somewhere along the way but if it gets to that point at some point iran will stop short but reasonable people can disagree. >> thank you very much matt for speaking to us today. please join me in thanking him. we really appreciated. [applause] we now invite you to join us
because whether it's an illusion or not, i don't think it is, it helped my concentration. it stopped me from being bored. it stopped other people from being boring to some extent. it would keep me awake and it would prolong the conversation to enhance the moment. if i was asked would i do it again, the answer is probably yes. i would have quit earlier possibly hoping to get away with the whole thing. easy for me to say. if i say i would do that all again to the truth as it would be hypocritical for me to say no, i would never touch the stuff because i did know. everyone knows. >> the soviet union and the soviet system in eastern europe contained the seeds of its own destruction. many of the problems we saw at the end began at the very beginning. i spoke already about the
attempts to control all institutions and control of all parts of the economy and political life and social life. one of the problems is when you do that, when you try to control everything that you create opposition and potential dissidents everywhere read if you tell all art is they have to pay for some way and one artist is i don't want to paint that way i want to paint another way you have just made him into a political dissident. >> if you want to subsidize housing in this country and we want to talk about it in the populace agrees is something we should subsidize them put it on the balance sheet and make a clear and make it evident to make everybody aware of how much it's costing. but when he delivered it to these third-party enterprises fannie mae and freddie mac, when you deliver the subsidy through a public company with a private shareholders and executives who can extract a lot of that subsidy for themselves, that is not a very good way of subsidizing homeownership.
>> now shane bauer joshua fattal and sarah shourd cover story about being captured and imprisoned in iran while hiking in kurdistan in 2009. they spoke about their book "sliver of light" at this historic synagogue in washington d.c.. this is one hour and 20 minutes. >> i would like to begin by congratulating shane bauer joshua fattal and sarah shourd on the release of their poignant memoir "sliver of light" three americans imprisoned in iran. their story begins on a warm summer day in july of 2009. the three friends who met as students at cal berkeley decides to go for a hike in the mountains of iraq.
shane and sarah were living together in syria teaching and writing and josh was visiting from the u.s.. sarah shourd recently on the cbs morning edition share there are very few moments in life where everything changes forever. and this was one of those moments. this hike was one of those moments. their capture was the beginning of a 26 month long experience of living in captivity. sarah, shane and josh were cut off from the world and from everything they knew including one another. after more than a year in solitary confinement sarah was freed in september 2010, just one year later almost to the day shane and josh were freed and released and they begin the process of healing which you will hear more about tonight. today shane and sarah who are married have both found work focusing on prisoners rights in the u.s. and around the world. shane is an investigative journalist and a recipient of
the guggenheim award for criminal justice reporting. sarah is a writer, educator and country bidding editor at solitary watch. her work as an advocate for prisoners rights has been featured in "the new york times," the "san francisco chronicle" and "cnn." josh is a historian with a background in environmental sustainability. he is a doctoral candidate at the new york state university and a new dad. at the end of tonight's program there will be a time to ask questions. we will go ahead and have you -- the microphone in the center. please make sure you are asking question. we know there are so many great statements to share tonight but we want to keep this concise so questions only please. the show is being recorded such as to be aware of the lighting in the room and at the end of the night we were going to the book signing and they will have the book signing located at the table in the back and we will have additional books for sale here as well. thank you so much and please join me in welcoming shane bauer
joshua fattal and sarah shourd. [applause] >> thank you. i am just going to kind of tell a few stories. i'm not going to try to tell the whole story and i'm going to start with a story that a lot of you probably want to hear and are wondering about which is how this happened. sarah and i were living in damascus in syria working and josh was traveling, teaching in different countries around the world and another friend was in europe. josh and her other friends came to visit us and the baskets. we decided to take a trip and we chose iraqi kurdistan. i had worked in baghdad and journalism which was a war zone in 2009 and iraqi kurdistan was not. it really never had been throughout the war. iraqi kurdistan is an autonomous
region in iraq. no american had ever been killed or kidnapped their. it has the tourist industry, 2 million people visit iraqi kurdistan every year and in 2011 it was on "the new york times" top 41 places to visit in the world. we went there and we were just there for a few days. we visited some castles and went to some museums and we wanted to get out of the city. we asked people where we could go and our hotel manager and taxi driver told us the same place this place where there was a waterfall. it wasn't a big waterfall but there are not a lot of waterfalls in the region so it was an attraction. there were hundreds of people they are. we went there and we asked if there was a trail to python and there was. they pointed it out to us. we slept at the bottom of the trail and we hiked in the
morning for about five hours. when we got near the top of this mountain we stopped and had lunch and we were deciding whether to keep going or turned back and we thought the lich -- the ridge is right there, let's go up there and see an competitive as we started walking we saw a couple of soldiers and they waved us to them. when we got to them we saw that they were iranian. we didn't know that we were close to the iranian border and so we were really shocked. they asked us for passports and they found that we were american and took us into the next town. we managed to call her friend who called the u.s. embassy and it went from there. for a few days we were driven around western iran and we didn't know what was going to happen. we thought we would be taken back to iraq relatively soon. we were taken into one city and
we were interrogated and then at nighttime we were in the countryside. i'm going to read a passage from that time. we are leaving the city. he has got a gun josh says. he just put it on the dash go. in a busy roundabout art car swerved. the pistol falls from it -- kellen scuds across a lawyer. my heart stops in my mouth goes dry. the man picks it up and sits on his lap. we turn to a road that leads out of town. the city lights were behind us. where we going sarah asked in a disarming voice. the headlights of the car trailing us light up the space revealing his cold board eyes. he turned back to face the fro front. the solitary lights of the country house stream by like media lights.
he picks up the gun in his right hand and cox it three times. sarah's eyes widened and her posture stiffens. she leans toward the man in front and with a note of desperation says ahmadinejad good, obama bad. the pistol is resting on his lap. he turns to face us and holds his hands out with palms facing each other. iran he says holding, nodding his head, america he says lifting the other problem he says stretching out the distance between them. he checks or faces to make sure his message registered and then dropped his arms. sarah turns to me. her eyes are penetrating. do you think is going to hurt us she asks. i don't know whether to respond or stare at her. i'm terrified. we walk into our fear together leading its around the softly like a fog. the immediate prospect of death seems so different than i imagined it. in my mind i see us pulling over to the side of the road and leaving the clerk quietly.
my tremulous legs will convey me over the rocky earth. i will be holding sarah's hand and maybe josh's too but i will be mostly walking flesh. we won't kiss passionately in her final moments before the trigger pull. we won't scream, we won't run, we won't utter fabulous words of defiance as we stare down the gun barrel. we will be like mice peer wise by fear limp in the slack-jawed takana. each of us will fall one by one hitting the gravelly earth with a thud. so we were -- we weren't taken out of the car in the middle of the countryside. we were taken to an empty jailhouse and held for a few days and then we were driven across the country to tehran. we were blindfolded and put in a fan and brought to a prison. we didn't know we were in a prison for several months but we were separated immediately. we were in solitary cells and
for two months we were interrogated. the time in solitary confinement was a time when i watched my mind slow down, where he i felt like i was becoming kind of more of an animal and wasn't thinking because i didn't have much to reflect back to myself. i hoped for the interrogators to come every day so i had someone to talk to. i would steal leads from outside and hide them in my room so i could smell them and have some connection to the outside. i thought about escaping a lot and there was a lock-up on the window and i thought maybe i could take something from the back of the toilet and pick the lock with that or one time a guard gave me a razor blade and i thought maybe i could keep the razor blade and use it to get out. but one day the guard left my door open. i reached through it and felt the key in my door. it was late. i waited for a long time.
i opened the door and peeked out and i saw a guard sitting down there so i waited until late at night. when i didn't hear anybody anymore i reached through an open the door and came out and i went across the hall to another cell. i open the door of the cell which was sarah's cell and we hadn't seen each other for a few weeks. we spent 20 to 30 minutes together and i want to go into the details of what happened because i am a little more shy speaking them i am writing. ..
and it was ridiculous. it was kinda scary because it is ridiculous. there is no -- it became very clear that the truth did not matter. after two months mike kerrigan had told me -- you know, i asked him. at the end of our interrogation he told me, i no you're not a spy. i know that none of your spies, but the situation is become political. it's going to be missed and the politicians and my government, the politicians and your government for you to get out, and you're going to have to wait. and then later we were told that
iran wanted to a prisoner exchange which give us some power, and a sense. it allowed us, when we have prisoners being be we would bang on the doors. we could actually get them to stop. they would not be just as some way they beat them. one surprising thing that happened was after josh and i were put together in a so after four months and sarah state in solitary confinement for a year and then was released. after release, after september josh and i had to get our hair cut. and whenever this would happen we would just ask for days to get a razor. eventually the cars brought us to this little cell that was next to about from. the cells and as prison most of the time did not actually have bathrooms in the cells breezy
had to go out. so cutting his hair. the razor was really bad taking forever. i heard the shower turn on the cell next to me. so we knocked on model and a connected these two rooms. this prisoner came to the door. shower on, naked. he said, are you the guy that is married to sarah shourd? end our surge, i'm engaged to sarah. a producer in prison. he saw this on tv apparently. he said comitia of? asset amelya. wire you here? and he says, i of canada and he said, you know, what is your religion. i said christian. and he said okay.
that's good. and he said, is on is the best. he said, if you become muslim he will sleep better at night. which is a pretty fast attempted conversion. and he said, you know, everyone knows that you are innocent and that you should not be here. and i hope you get free. the bill, and dynamic where in prison we kind of all were just prisoners. there's a sense of connection between everyone because they were prisoners. all these other identities were stripped away in that context. so he told me to my god willing to help the you will be free sent. i said, you, too.
[silence] >> one of the things that occupied a lot of my energy in prison was not becoming a prisoner. i never wanted to really accept that was of that place. i never wanted to call it home. solitary confinement this like a slow death. i was in solitary for 410 days. the world gets farther and farther away. everything that chino, everything that you are become smaller as you become smaller and shrink . the ways that i tried to find to counter the dehumanization of those white walls were important to me. after months in solitary confinement you get reduced to an almost animal-like
state where your pacing your cell. compulsively would crash down by the food slot in the door listening for a south korean myself. there were times i completely lost my grasp on reality insanity. i heard screaming and thought it was from another prisoner in another cell in another corridor. i just wanted it to stop. it went on and on. and then the door of my cells burst open and the guards came minister is shaking me and i realized that i. some of want to read you a passage. this is a few months and to my present interrogation was over. i had already been told, you are a political pawn. we don't know what will happen. things have been quiet. i was in the tebow section. one day of a sudden the guards were frantic.
there was this kinetic energy everywhere. and it was december 27, 2009, about 5 months into our captivity. crunched by the slot in my cell door are watched as a procession of new inmates and that passed myself. one woman with a bandage wrapped around her head sarah shourd but the mind of a limping, her bright red hair streaming an effort toward headscarf. all day i was desperate to know what was happening. now the streets are being brought to me. so a few months before we were captured was the green movement corruption. after the president was named president the second time reelected there were monumental protests to millions of people all over iran saying that the vote was stolen and that he was intelligent president. all of the people around us were political prisoners. human rights lawyers
combusted activists, opposition of all kinds. in the beginning i did not know that and assumed they would all hate me and believe the lies their government was telling, but i soon found out that was not the case. sarah. i suddenly here as soft whisper. the forces close, almost as if it were in my cell. my head starts to the right, that left looking for the source. and by imagining it? sarah. a louder now. please. he seems to be coming from the corner near the door. above the sink is event. the event. asset as the thought crosses my mind i leap off the mattress and climb on to the sink. who are you? howdy in one game? my name is almost the same as yours. i know you. you know me?
yes, i saw your letter on tv i'm so sorry. i'm a mother to. i run the risk to hush my voice. did you talk to her? as soon as the question is kicks my mouth i realize how irrational it is. no, but i found pictures of you on bbc. a small girl. i know it must be easy for you to stand of the sake, but for me it's so difficult . [laughter] of cape. sorry. prepare a shelves. for me it's difficult. they kicked me and tore to be. my hips heard it is difficult for me to stand. her english is almost perfect, strongly accented with a strenuous scratchy quality. i feel the tears welling up my eyes. it's a miracle. she knows me. we can talk to each other. how was it possible the guards don't know about this
i try to a imagine her being taken out every day for beatings and interrogation. so much like me in as bad as my situation is, hers is ours. what did they arrest you? how was that the protest. suddenly the door of my cells burst open. a guard, i see her voluptuous silhouette outlined in the doorway. she must have heard us talking in crept down the hallway seven would hear footsteps and pounced on us in the battle of our forbid conversations. it fell like being caught masturbating by a ruthless schoolmarm to one this covering a private secret pleasure in being exposed. this time by police have no effect. her kind face slammed shut like a steel door. she says she will tell by interrogators. immediately transferred. now there are no more smiles
, no more conversations. she hands me buy food with a cold, and focus stair. i am no longer her sweet sister. i am a planchets paid to keep alive. some of these kind of interactions with other women in the present, even though i got caught that time and it was frightening and i did not know what would happen, it only fueled my desire to connect more and give me a taste of who the women or around me and why were there. being in solitary confinement, it could not risk breaking up to the breaking the rules. the spirit of resistance permeated. and once i had been caught several times i just wanted to get smarter about how could make contact. one of the conversations that would have eventually
won i got worse and worse and my mental state disintegrated that would let me have time in the open air route. eat fresh air. a unit talk about things, philosophical conversations. as brief as the time was i would pack the men prehistoric but he is. of a talk about what makes us feel most cuban. it's still a question that i ponder to this day. is it the ability to write to back the ability to have a complex conversation with another human being. is it the human touch, being able to feel a physical connection? is it making choices about what you're going to have for breakfast, lunch? is it having a role in your community and family? when you are in prison all
these things are taken away. you realize how. so the way that i -- i had wasted interact with the prisoners. she was taken away. to transfer her. above letter she came back. there were many women i have directed with. they would push back against the guards and throw their arms around me. which arrived a calculated way of passing messages. and what dr. times of. that meant that there was no waiting. we had a shared bathroom a letter right in and out and wait until the lindsay guard was working. and if she would not be looking to the people have a little piece of metal. it and i tore it off.
it made a mark of almost like a pencil. so hard right my little nubs and tuck them in sudden accident. i would make a little bit of peace to. it didn't at that and then memorize the guards footsteps savannah knew where they were so that it that time should go into the bathroom the guy that did like would be nearby. so that is how smart prisoners get. that is how detailed and get kabyle and board did is to find a way to connect. let's see. the others, the way i resisted dehumanization is by finding ways to be creative, to really feel alive and by using that tent by 14-foot cell to the maximal. i would challenge myself to
see how many pair what's i could do across the room without falling. eventually jacket to 16. up with what, hands backwards back-and-forth. when the cards can and there would be impressed. i would recite poetry i memorized to an invisible audience. i would knock on the wall. there was one prisoner that really got into a. it went on for weeks and weeks. i was star with a few auctions she would repeat that man had something in that i would repeat that something. eventually we were composing music together. all of this is resistance. wording of dehumanization that solitary confinement and prison is designed to do a broken prisoners are easier to control. the more you pay yourself the more you accept their condition and reality. the more you are divided from other prisoners the
more passive you are. we all resisted and so many ways. and it was difficult to see two people that i loved as prisoners. never been the first time i was going down to the clinic and i happen to pass by shades hall where he was held. i saw him for a first-time walking down this hallway blindfolded stumbling and carrying a bag of trash. for me to see someone that is the most free and beautiful and vibrant person i've ever known subjected to that kind of senseless humiliation and degradation, it's painful. it was also incredibly amazing to see each other always fight back and push the limits. josh would never wear his blindfold properly. sometimes it annoyed me.
ultimately i admired him so much. he never accepted it. it was okay to be blindfolded lock in dollars. so i think that those notes of passed back and forth, the main message was that we loved each other. she would say the iranians don't hate americans. please don't hate us. we are opposed to our government and what they're doing to you. look at what they're doing gas. "max mayfield cuban the most is to love had to be loved. it makes me feel most human and alive. and that is something that can never take from us. [silence]
>> even after all these years the sun never says to the earth, you know me. look what happens to a look like that. headlights the whole sky. after nine months in prison our mothers go to visitors. are recited a poem to her, to my mother. she had read that poem to me in a letter. she often put poems and her letters from medieval persian poets thinking that perhaps the cards, the people would like her who were sensory her letters.
but it's also a powerful sentiment and mental i can. and that visit, total propaganda ploy felt wonderful. i knew that our mothers had launched and the families and community had launched an international campaign to get us out. and i was just sitting and running in a cell. i felt like there were doing so much. and i just remember when the elevator door closed between us with the session ended. mckeon had the honor would now the next time and we will see her in.
along with a share of short story. they give us letters and books and service. the event turned sharply to left. although letters and those of books and flew to a floor the vehicle comes to a stop. i stepped out and see a dozen guards standing around a volleyball net the parking lot. all -- are recognize of the guards. one of them charge over to me. for a moment i think he's going to ask me deploy. he likes me current sometimes there's leeway that allows me as. but blindfolded inside the prison wall. when we went to the courage and his see what he's doing everyone erupts and commission arguing in farsi. i have no idea what they're
saying. a senior guard. he runs over to me. he carries the volleyball on his hands to grips my forearm and pulls me out of the court in his middle. and it's so characteristic of this upside-down place that the guard jokes with me and at stuff in front of his peers, meanwhile the guard who runs his reputation by beating of a prisoner's invites and apply. i grabbed the ball in stride as confidently as i can. and bounce the ball a couple times, look around to my teammate, take a long look at my opponent. they're ready and waiting on me to watch the ball. a package of ball point pens about it the rest, his head no matter where. clouds drift above los. carson river this moment.
mercer distance the brunt of the left side and a boat the ball and out of bounds, point. and content to walk off the court to the sound of approval. inside the prison the takeover letters and froze books for me. our worst they could carry the feeling of being with my mother and my mother's arms pact with me into the soil. i want to cherish show that she gave me and to remember the want the witness. no, they took everything except for the four plants in my underwear. i wanted to read that section because it's where i play volleyball with in fact, it's the exception that proves the rule. carson prisoners don't really played together, joke together. the jokes we found funny they did of me fanfani we didn't. you know come even with us
we struggled at times to find ways to relate. we have to -- their wares just so little stimulus. we have to constantly create fixes to. after we shared all our stories and have as many philosophical conversations as we get think of we celebrated have a purpose, 81 marks, ash wednesday, paul sunday, good friday, passover. in fact, it rose the first time i ever led a seder, a passover ceremony using the car run as mine book runs where it talks about the story of moses.
put the cards did, in fact, tried to be funny at times. and so you know, they weren't. i will share with you their jokes so you get a sense. you know, we went on hunger strike immediately at the beginning with a separated us. we decided. at the end, the last year, we went on pretty regular hire strikes are to begin letters from family. and in your on a diet. very good. you'll lose weight. sign it. not funny. another guy thought it was funny to one time show up with a medical glove on saying that he would only let us outside for 30 minutes that day if he could cut off a little bit of our channels.
and then the joke there was universal thrown our time in prison was the week complained, we had this litany of complaints. a few minutes of phone calls . ec i said so many times in prison. and first this very well, what about guantanamo. i can't argue with that. well, this five-star hotel, and every card. but, of course, we weren't that funny to of them either. we would -- once when i was in the bathroom and the guard was looking to make sure we were both in the cell he asked shane. shinn said the -- suggested
that i had escaped. half-guard, alarmed. and then in a very -- you know, it was not so much a joke. it was a moment with a cards are beating a prisoner very close to our so. we could hear and queen anne, the changing, the desperation of the paris air . what is this, guantanamo. a five-star top. and he commands in stopped being a prisoner. the last moment of joke that i could think of a regular, joke, something.
when we were getting released would we thought we were getting released, it no they took us to exit interview. hermosa like, the progressive front of a camera and wanted to the last minute propagandizing. so there are saying, you have been sentenced to the years but he only served, you know, just over two. he must be grateful to ayatollah. bob, we must be grateful. senate going on and on. some of it. of course we were giving it to them. they gave up on that and said, okay. well, you must have thought that food is really geared. persians who dissented.
actually kind of stumbled. they had recently began giving us a good about the plan. how was tempted to give them the spot began the moment, but i did to. they said, okay. he must have learned so far she will you hear. you know what to me yes, i did. they know those warrants. stop. putting your blindfold them. it. [laughter] and the interviewer and the videographer just shut it down. and so such a power dynamic made its enemy are really living in the. [inaudible] and getting them was of different book. but in was a big adjustment,
as you might imagine after such a long time. and as time goes, led by i'll have to. months now. he liked me as a biblical first name in arabic last name. and be in my part and decided to get in the persian middleman. it's farsi for free. and i just want to leave you with this idea, this hell, this dream that i have that i cling to after having 26 months of my lifestyle for me. i feel that my dream is that as zale will grow up in a war of where people understand his name, an english speaking, the end of the come together, talk together, walk along a road that is not toward war and be able to laugh and joke together.
>> good evening and thank you so much for coming. it's a horrific story but it's an absolutely captivating read. both my wife and i read it continuously over the weekend. we couldn't put it down, so i commend you for your writing ability and feel sorry that you have to go through that experience. i don't want to take much time. i have a hard time formulating the question that it has to do with the timing of your release release. sarah q. were released a year earlier and just wondered if the staging of that actually helped you and then because you have been out a year and have experienced some things about the free world that the staging of that release actually helped all of you kind of assimilate back into society after your ordeal. does that make sense? >> sure, yeah.
when i first heard i was going to be released before shane and josh my reaction was hell no i'm not leaving without them. i couldn't stand the idea of being that far away from them and not knowing when i would see them again. but then it hit me that i could have an impact that this was my responsibility and i could get them out sooner and i have to believe that. i hit the ground running and for that year i lived out of my suitcase. i criss-crossed the country dozens of times and in the first two weeks i met with president obama and met with president ahmadinejad and i was on oprah. as far as the recovery shangkun speak to that more. we all experienced how difficult the transition was. i thought as soon as i got out of solitary i would never have to be alone again and i would never feel that pain but i found a really difficult to connect.
it was physically painful to try to make eye contact. when someone touched me i would jump 2 feet in the air. i kept wanting to crawl back into a box but i couldn't and that in a way helps me because i needed to keep fighting for them. >> i think it's really hard for us to compare my and josh is released as is released to sarah's release and what that was like. sarah was in a situation where she was not really able to enjoy a free moment. when i got out, when josh and i got out that moment of getting out was like no, they ruined my life. it was the most incredible thing i have ever experienced and quickly after that things got a lot more complicated. i felt like i was in this kind of cloud for a while and i had a hard time for a little while a hard time making choices. we would go to a restaurant and
i couldn't choose what to eat. i would ask sarah to do it and i couldn't read body language at first and facial gestures other than josh's so i had to tell sarah tell me exactly what you mean because i'm not getting subtleties. in that way sierra had been out for a year and she was kind of able to guide me through a lot of these stages of becoming free. but you know at the same time she had that kind of the moment of getting free taken from her so she was also getting free at that time too in a very different way because she had been out for a year. but you know there were definitely a couple of months where i just -- i just gave myself up to sarah and she just kind of guided me around.
>> thank you so much for being here. this is incredibly fascinating. i'm not sure how to assess and an eloquent manner and come across as insensitive but i'm wondering your perspectives and your experience on prisoner releases and essentially obviously every human life is valuable but i'm wanting your perspective on what you think is worthy of sacrificing essentially. i don't know if that makes sense. sort of to what extent should a country go to get one of their citizens back. does that make sense? >> it's a good question. >> you can start. it allows me more time to think. >> it's obviously very complicated but i think you know there are a couple of things.
one is that in our situation the extent that our country had to go to at some point was not that far. after sarah was released she was getting messages directly from president ahmadinejad through an envoy and it became clear that giving a simple diplomatic gesture if iran what-ifs consider that enough of the reciprocation to release us. they said at one point they said if president obama would have written a note to president ahmadinejad saying that he hoped for better relations in the future that would have been enough enough to release us. that didn't happen and you know i think it's just characteristic of this larger situation that we are and where it was difficult because there was this kind of long-standing decade-long
hostility. that made it very difficult for us to get out. that has made it very difficult for us to resolve the nuclear issue. it makes it difficult for american iranians to go home and you know we were part of a much larger context. i was of course frustrated that i was imprisoned for two years but i think i was even more frustrated that there was this kind of larger situation, this deadlock and neither side was passive. there were hints that might happen now with nuclear negotiations. >> a month or two after we got out, israel gave 1027 prisoners swap so maybe that's where you are coming from. you know while we were in prison, there were three germans and three belgians that were held for three or four months respectively and released.
i remember hearing about them because i met one of the belgians in prison. he was in my hall and he quickly once told me that i was a hiker and that is how i learned we were one of the hikers. there seems to be some equation where it has to do with how much power is the difference between the two countries and it has to do with how deeply the two countries don't get along. i admit i was very happy but i felt a little jealous when they did belgians and germans got out after three or four months and i also saw on the television at that time that their foreign minister flew to iran and within three days was flying back with the prisoners. and of course we don't, the u.s. doesn't have diplomatic relations with iran in that way so that was an impossibility. so i think part of the question, what extent is to get prisoners out, i think the bigger issue in
the bigger context is making it so there is lessening hostility between governments and such a way that there can be communication back-and-forth so these events don't drag on. >> just briefly i want to add you have to look at every case i think separately and determine on its own merits but in our case it was particularly frustrating because the good gestures that we were asking our government to give for things that would benefit people on both sides. the letter that shane referred to, the discussion around a prisoner swap. at one point we asked to release a few that had overstayed their visas. these were not things that should have been a hard push. i don't want to make any generalizations but our argument was this will benefit iranians
and benefit americans. let's open up some discussion between our governments. >> thank you for taking the time to answer the question. obviously it's an amazing story and i appreciate you being with all of us here and i agree that yes it is in fact something that needs to be taken on a case-by-case basis. one of the smarter approaches is to explain how there are things to be learned and gained by both sides. this is a question for sara for you and then the other two. what would you point to in your opinion as being the straw that broke the camel's back or the event that led to the eventual release in both cases in which you think probably for you while was the most effective in raising awareness and i'm familiar with the amman he's asked -- act as an interlocutor and anything you could share would be greatly appreciated. >> i feel very strongly that the pressure that our families and the international campaign
exerted brought our case to a tipping point. there was enough pressure internationally. in my case my mother and with the support of all the families really stressed my medical issues, my so-called medical issues in the months leading up to my release and my solitary confinement. i had concerns about a lump in my breast but my breast that i had a clean bill of health and the iranian government data. because there were so much pressure and the media it was a convenient way for them to save face and not look weak like they were giving in to u.s. pressure and look compassionate. they were letting me go for medical reasons. that was strategically planned by their families families. tension in families. incheon and chains case diplomacy was crawling along at a snails pace and there was a lot of fear among our families would have become out and criticized criticize the reigning government and human rights abuses shame being bitten
at -- beaten and josh harassed. we decided at a certain point we were going to hold back anymore. we were very strong and very critical. i believe that put pressure on for the diplomacy to actually work. >> there were a lot of countries that were involved. iraq, venezuela, senegal, turk turkey. amman was really crucial and it's hard to point to one thing that happened that led to our release but amman was playing a unique role in our case. they are allies with the u.s. and iran and we are kind of in the middle and going back and forth. they eventually paid half a million dollars each for us bail money to get out and they actually came to iran and negotiated and brought us out. that relationship, that kind of
avenue that was created was later, we recently found out that the end of the last year was used for an actual face-to-face negotiation between the u.s. and iran. it wasn't happening in our case but it did happen around the nuclear issue in the month preceding the more formal nuclear talks. >> what kinds of questions were you asked during the interrogations and to what extent do you feel the need to be less than honest? >> a good question. >> shane gave a couple of examples and i will get a couple more. click favorite question that was asked every interrogation session was please write your full biography. then their second favorite question that they asked every time was what were you doing and why did you cross into iran was how they phrased it.
and those i actually felt pretty honest about the big thing that i felt nervous about was saying that i was jewish and my dad is israeli and born in iraq. he was putting those pieces together as i could see them leaving a story that i did not want them to leave and i have been to israel to see my family several times in the past 10 years. again i first told them i was christian and that lasted 10 days or something like that. and then, and then for me it was like trips to israel. there were then asking what do you do? i would go to aunt lilly's house and have tea and be humus and goes to aunt alice's house and do the same thing. they were waiting to hear the thing that just didn't exist.
a certain point i let go of it and said look, they have had my e-mail and thanks to gmail everything is stored so they know what happened in the past few years. and i just stopped hiding things from them. >> hi. first off i want to thank you from sharing your incredible resilience and the question i have is really seeing if you would flood -- reflect a little bit on what it was like to return after this experience to the united states where we have the highest incarceration rate in the world and over 2.2 million incarcerated in over 80,000 in solitary confinement on any given day. if you could speak to how your experience there are in particular in solitary has been a resource for connecting with survivors and also working to
confront this human rights crisis ongoing? >> well it was amazing coming back to this country. it has continued to feel great to be here and when i got back my mind was still in prison and it took a long time. i still connected to prison and when i came here that led me to really pay attention to what was happening in prisons in this country. there was a big hunger strike that happened shortly after i got out in california. they were protesting long-term solitary confinement. after six or seven months of readjusting and reconnecting with family, i went back to my
work and decided to investigate this issue of solitary confinement. i went to a prison, pelican bay prison in northern california and went inside a cell that was 7 feet by 11 feet, no window. people lived in those cells that were identical to that one for 10 years, 20 years, 30 years, 40 years. i dug into some of the cases of the people that were in and i found many of them had not committed acts of violence in prison. they were there because they had unpopular political beliefs. they had black panther books. they had a picture with a gang member. and you know i think it's something that as a society i think anyone you ask believes in human rights in the judicial process and this is something we need to look at. we have more people in solitary
confinement than any country in the world and more people in prison than any country in the world. >> similarly for me when i first got out one of the most difficult things in my recovery was not understanding what happened to me all those months, what happened to my brain. and solitary confinement, there are scientific studies that have shown just two or three days your brainwaves shift towards super or delirium. i was in 410 days. the u.n. says 15 days can cause lasting permanent psychological damage and constitute torture. a shane said we have people in this country for years and decades. i work with solitary watch now and i collect oral and written histories, stories of people that are living in solitary confinement. through in-depth letter correspondence or i visit them in prison for interview people on the outside. some of the stories i told you a pali state human and how i
resisted and kept myself alive, everyone that i write to and correspond with has these incredible stories. as devastating as it is the suicide rate is 50% higher for prisoners in solitary than the general population. a lot of people give up. a lot of people find no reason to keep fighting. the ones that do have incredible stories to tell so i want to bring them out. i'd been publishing an anthology in writing a play called opening the box. >> i too want to say thank you for coming. i'm amazed at your ability to take this kind of experience and try to make something good out of it. i'm traveling with a group of eight high school students from california, many of whom are foreign nationals and so they were very interested to hear your story. i am curious to know what this experience did for each of you in terms of your relationship
with your god? [laughter] >> thank you for asking that question. it's a profound question and one that, while i was in prison, i had radical changes in my relationship with god. i went from being a sort of mischievous, kicked out of hebrew school to an observant one and then i went from an observant one back to just a secular guy. and i really took on god's most stirring solitary. i took on god and they opened up
to god. because i needed something beyond me. i needed someone to relate to what the world beyond my cubic area the size of this platform that i was living the whole time. but the ritual part of it, i like the ritual and i continued doing all sorts of rituals and i stopped observing the sabbath strictly and i stopped keeping kosher and i stopped doing these things in prison because i realized i don't take the bible as the literal thing. but you know i too feel stronger and i guess i feel stronger in the belief that there are forces
that are unknown to us or are barely knowable and definitely unable to be spoken about that are around us. >> this isn't as deep a question but it is a serious question. you all are all obviously very intelligent people say you had to known where you were hiking was near iran and iran is a special and friendly to americans. did you not have a map or any sense of how far you have gone? >> no maam. >> but beforehand. >> i remember we were in solomon nia and i remember seeing it on the map. it's on the eastern part of ir iran -- of iraq but it's not on the border. some people said go to this waterfall so we went to the waterfall. i remember thinking we are near
the eastern side. at one point during hiking and this is one of those thoughts that plague me in solitary confinement, i remember mentioning we are heading to iran totally without any notion that we were near it but just feeling like well we are heading east and near east and we talked. we talked about it for a moment and we were like no is probably a far better way more miles than you can hike in a day or a week. so we were very surprised. >> is one of those things when something really terrible happens to you of course we all went over 10,000 times. if we had taken less time eating breakfast and spending more time at the internet café and printed out the map and if the internet hadn't gone down, a million things contributed to what happened but mostly our guards were down because we were in a safe part of the middle east.
shane and i both traveled and more dangerous parts and it was word-of-mouth. >> i'm sure you guys are told this often but you are brave for reliving this over and over again. >> those are the kinds of comments we will allow you to say. [laughter] >> i have a question, a two-part question but related on your perspective of the media and you were watching while you're there because you mentioned you had television. i was wondering if you had this international campaign going at home and did you see the news that was being said about you from the united states or were you seeing the iranian and persian media and without question were you seeing skewed information? well-wisher complete perspective on what was being said about you? >> the news was absolutely absurd. some examples of pairs and english-language ticker that was all eyes on and there were times that it said israel commits the
most crimes in the entire world or the earthquake in haiti was caused by the united states exploding a nuclear weapon on the ground, like this kind of stuff. totally off the wall. we didn't get a lot of information about our case. we mostly got it from letters from family that everyone saw something would come up. it was like state tv. it wasn't satellite and it satellite and i was given press tv if you have seen that. it was a lot worse amount. but sometimes there would be a story from the outside like "cnn" that would be spliced ends of the first time we had television, the day that we had a tv we turned it on and there was a christian -- christiane amanpour and pictures of us in the background. it was this really crazy feeling because it felt like those kinds of shows wanted some kid that
went missing and died and i was watching myself as a memory. but you know we did get things like you know one of the three american spies to be tried separately so that made us think we could talk at nottingham about who would it be that goes first? might sarah get out and we would get these snippets that we would obsess about. >> let me just clear on the christiane amanpour thing. we didn't have that channel but within the iranian state television within their news program they would show a 22nd clip of "cnn" or abc or something. >> so they weren't showing the guards beyond the prisoner's? they weren't watching american media? >> a lot of them like abc farsi on satellite. they told us they had it in prison.
>> pretty much every prisoner that gave me information from the outside was from bbc. a lot of iranians have satellite so they watch it religiously. >> the way we figured out the story around the world was the news we would see would be a reaction to western media usually and they wouldn't give what they were reacting to so we were trying to figure out what the tea party was through the iranian reaction are the arab spring. they didn't say anything about syria and they wouldn't talk about bahrain. i remember when osama bin laden was killed, there was a lot of conflicting narratives that happen and an act example they said that they had a lot of people in pakistan that were angry that the u.s. had intervened and killed osama bin laden and the next day there was a story, what was that?
>> the newscaster was like osama bin laden has been killed and dumped into the ocean and that has nothing to do with the islamic burial rites. people realized that there must have been some media in the western media saying that they threw him in the ocean. >> then there would be the pictures. there was one picture they would show up him and it was probably in the media here too. they were casting doubt on it being him so it sounded like anger at the u.s. killing him but there was a conspiracy and he was actually alive. >> media was wild. >> we spent a lot of time trying to figure out what the hell was going on around the world and we have no idea. >> we will take these last two questions. >> i too want to thank you for your courage and recounting your stories especially as an iranian jewish woman i want to thank you
for shedding light on some of the horrific experiences that are live day-to-day in the prisons. two questions, one serious someone lighter question. thank you for sharing your experiences with the gentleman who declared himself as al qaeda. and i'm wondering if you experience other women and minorities who pretend -- perhaps were treated differently in prison and whatever you can tell us about them and then on a lighter note, are you still hiking? [laughter] ..
interrogation we knew who commensurate to dawn on us as things progress that we had a certain power that they cannot physically hurt as because we were valuable to them and that they were going to eventually catch us in and did not want to look to or applicable. they're wanted camino, to have happy endings. and that is something was a difficult thing and also give us power is stand up costs clearly in the beginning average just cry and plead for anything from the guards, another method of their time. toward the end i realize they could not mess with me that much that was one guard that told me
i could not go out to sea shane and josh. i was yelling at her and arguing she slapped me. and i just reached up and slapped back. and it's kind of established a certain level of respect. not hard to make you know, but established a certain level of respect. we became the closest i think you can become to france. i don't think you can be a friend of theirs that kind of power dynamic, but i used to give her shoulder rubs. she had four kids come of working-class woman. i told her i would miss her and meant it. >> and about people who, you know, there, detained after our release. there are other people. and just to let you know, our lawyer was detained. and when he tried to leave the country he was stripped of his passport. now he can't practice anymore.
and that is just for defending us. so, you know, the tactics continue. >> i figure change would take that one. >> whenever there is time. >> it was where to find out that we were -- we were called hikers in prison. that was our name. not something i ever identified with the for this morita remember after we got out. traveling around the country seeing family. i remember being in colorado on night. i was realizing that you know, i kind of wanted to turn away from that identity. and i realized, that's the kind of -- i hike a lot. and i like to hike. i have to either do it in secret or own it. maybe it can be simply returning -- the note of my ca