Families Beg Iran to Release Detained Hikers

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Three Americans are still being held hostage in Iran, essentially for walking in the wrong place, at the wrong time.
    
The three are California college students who were on vacation in Kurdistan.  Their families are doing everything they can to get them released.

'We Want Them Home'

On July 31, Shane Bauer, Josh Fattal and Sarah Shourd were arrested by Iranian authorities when they crossed the border from Iraq.

Iran's state television said that the Americans ignored warnings from border guards.

Family members insist the three Americans entered Iran by accident while backpacking near a popular tourist spot in Iraq's Kurdistan region.

"Our kids are innocent," said Nora Shourd, mother of hostage Sarah Shourd. "They made a mistake. We want them home."

Now more than a month after their capture, a campaign is underway to raise awareness about their detention.

A new Web site launched earlier this month gives background information on the three students. 

All of them graduated from the University of California Berkeley. Members of the faculty have also called for their release.

Hikers 'On Their Own'

Meanwhile, the families have repeatedly asked the Iranians to let them see their loved ones, but to no avail.

"They are definitely on their own. This government cannot help them," said Robert Baer, a former CIA operative who has written extensively about Iran and the Middle East. 

Baer says the current controversy over Iran's nuclear ambitions make it challenging for America to negotiate.

"They are not worth a compromise with Iran, but they do not deserve what is going to happen to them," he explained. "They could be there for years. They could be tried as spies. They could be convicted."

The United States severed diplomatic relations with Iran in 1979 when Iranian students breached the U.S. embassy in Tehran and held the American staff as hostages.

The U.S State Department, working with the Swiss government, has been trying to get some details about the condition of the three Americans. So far, the Iranians have refused.

And so, for now, the waiting continues for the family.

"Each day feels like it could be a month," one family member said. "And a month feels like two and a half years."

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