Iran hikers: attention at last

It took a long time, but the Seattle relative of one of the hikers finally released from Iranian prison is elated.

Crosscut archive image.

Josh Fattal in an undated photo

It took a long time, but the Seattle relative of one of the hikers finally released from Iranian prison is elated.

Now that the two U.S. hikers held by Iran have finally been freed, the two men, who had been held in the notorious Evian prison, seem to be getting a moment in the media sun.

To some degree, the case of Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer had caught attention in the Puget Sound area because Fattal has a Seattle uncle, well-known marine scientist and activist Fred Felleman. In a story last week, "Hikers lost and found in Iran," Crosscut's Eric Scigliano wrote about Fattal's dedication and idealism.

Catching a little of the tense anticipation the families felt as hopes rose and fell for the men's possible release, Scigliano wrote:

Even today, I suffer a degree of cognitive dissonance (which surely rings much louder for their families) when I try to match these geopolitical and cultural spectacles with the image of the actual Josh Fattal.

I met him and his older brother Alex one happy winter evening at the home of their uncle, the Seattle marine activist and photographer Fred Felleman, whom they'd come to visit from their family home in Philadelphia. Both brothers seemed like prime examples of globe-trotting, world-bettering youthful cosmopolitanism, at once idealistic and exuberantly adventurous. The type can be found everywhere from Albania to Zimbabwe, teaching English, trekking back trails, laboring at micro-development projects, and stringing for newspapers and public radio back home. Alex was brash, even a bit swaggering; he had just returned from Peru or some other place in South America; as I recall he wore a wool poncho against the chill and spoke a slang-rich Spanish fearsomely well. Josh was quieter and more earnest in manner, with soulful, searching eyes; he was deeply involved in Aprovecho, a rural community-cum-research center dedicated to sustainable living near Cottage Grove, Oregon.

He clearly shared his uncle's passion for the environment, but seemed more concerned with practice rather than political action on its behalf. Later, just before his fateful trip to the Middle East, he embarked on a semester as a teaching fellow in the International Honors Program's Health and Community project, escorting 33 undergrads and three professors to China, India, South Africa, and Switzerland. But that night in Seattle he and Alex had other explorations in mind; after they'd enjoyed enough of our stodgy company, they left to check out the clubs in Belltown.

It took more games by the Iran clerics and judiciary before the hikers could be freed. So, Fattal and Bauer's families and friends, including previously released hiker Sarah Shourd (Fattal's fiancée), could finally celebrate. Felleman told the's Joel Connelly: "If these kids come up to the San Juans, the cabin is ready."


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