Advocates for 3 U.S. hikers captured by Iran spotlight their leftwing activism

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Here is a great piece by Stephen Zunes on Huffpo about the three American hikers captured by Iran a year ago, evidently when they were on Iraqi soil, visiting a famous water fall. Zunes situates the travelers’ experience in leftwing activism. They had worked in a Palestinian refugee camp. They had visited their hospitalized friend Tristan Anderson, maimed by the Israelis. They are from the Bay Area, and  Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd, and Josh Fattal are from the Bay Area, and Bauer has published a fine investigative piece in the Nation on Bush-era sponsorship of Iraqi death squads. (He had support from the Nation Institute, too.) Zunes:

Perhaps as a testament to his own youthful idealism as a community organizer, President Barack Obama acknowledged their activism in a statement calling for their release, saying, “They are simply open-minded and adventurous young people who represent the best of America, and of the human spirit. They are teachers, artists, and advocates for social and environmental justice.” Overall, however, the Obama administration appears to place freeing them from Iranian captivity as a relatively low priority.     

After months of working unsuccessfully through official channels, some of the friends and family members of the detainees have decided to publicize their plight — along with their history of activism — in the hopes that global civil society, particularly the progressive activist community, can take the kind of initiative not yet coming from Washington.       

The fear-mongering and saber-rattling that U.S. hawks have directed at the Iranian regime make it difficult for some progressive activists in the United States to speak out against the repression of the right-wing theocratic regime in Tehran. Yet, while the military threat posed by Iran is often greatly exaggerated, the repressive nature of the regime is not. Indeed, the absurd notion that these three progressive anti-imperialist activists would be spying for the U.S. government is but one more demonstration of the moral and political bankruptcy of the Iranian regime. And, given that — despite all the extreme anti-Iranian rhetoric — Washington is not doing much in support of these American captives, it’s up the progressive community to organize on their behalf.     

Leading progressives such as Noam Chomsky, Cornel West, Angela Davis, Cindy Sheehan, Medea Benjamin, Alex Cockburn, Christian Parenti, and the late Howard Zinn have called for their release. As Chomsky put it, "These young people represent a segment of the U.S. population that is critical of [U.S.] policies, and often actively opposed to them. Hence their detention is particularly distressing to all of us who are dedicated to shifting U.S. policy to one of mutual respect rather than domination."

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