The New York Times reports that Iran is releasing Sarah E. Shourd, 32, an American hiker captured along with Shane M. Bauer and Joshua F. Fattal, both 28. The hikers had accidentally wandered across the Iraq-Iran border in July 2009, and were accused of espionage by the Iranian government.
Iran’s Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance informed reporters that Shourd is going to be released on Saturday morning, September 11. There has been no word on what will happen to Bauer or Fattal in the meanwhile. According to the BBC, Iran has hinted that the release is part of a marking of the Muslim celebration of Eid al Fitr.
There is a lump in Shourd’s breast, her mother suggests, and this may be a factor in her being released. The White House has stated that Iran needs to release all of the hikers, who are being held as negotiating chips and in retribution for the U.S. leading efforts to tighten sanctions on the state for its reported pursuit of nuclear weapons.
Iran may also wish to improve its image in the Islamic world, particularly when contrasted with recent news of a Florida Pastor and his Gainesville flock planning a Quran-burning event. Pastor Terry Jones had intended to mark Sept. 11 by holding a Quran-burning event, a plan widely denounced by politicians across the spectrum, according to USA Today. He has since canceled the event, though Westboro Baptist Chuch in Topeka, Kansas, intends to go ahead with the burning and with burning an American Flag.
Jones claims that, despite the denouncements of President Barrack Obama, General David David Petraeus, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Sarah Palin, it was a personal call from Secretary of Defense Robert Gates that persuaded him to call off the event.
“He encouraged us not to continue,” Jones is reported to have said in USA Today.
Jones also claimed that a meeting with Imam Muhammad Musri, president of the Orlando-based Islamic Society of Central Florida, had led to a plan to cancel construction of a mosque near the World Trade Center site in New York City. However, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf and backers of the mosque suggest they are aware of no such deal.
Tensions and misunderstandings between the Muslim world and Christian-majority nations in Europe and America have escalated, in particular since the mosque controversy. It could be because it’s an election year, or it could simply be the fact many events are transpiring near the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, but it does seem that rhetoric and grandstanding are on display with an increasing tempo.
Kim Ghattas, “Iran to release one of three captured US hiker” BBC News
Robert F. Worth, “Iran to Release Detained U.S. Hiker” New York Times
Larry Copeland and Rick Hampson, “Pastor Terry Jones says imam lied to him” USA Today