"The Hiker Mom" Who Never Lost Hope
By Andrea Mitchell
|Laura Fattal with her son at their first meeting since his arrest.|
The trial finally did resume on July 31, and on August 20, 2011, Josh and Shane were convicted of illegal entry into Iran and espionage and were sentenced to eight years in prison. Then in September a sudden reversal occurred and word was sent via Oman that the prisoners would be released, with the Iranian government demanding $1 million bail. “We were told to come to Oman a week before they were released, but then there was an unexpected delay, so we were in Oman for eight days.” Finally, on September 21, 2011, Josh and Shane were released and arrived in Oman to the delight of their families and friends. “On our website the sound effects on the reunion video were mine. I was shouting, ‘Whoo, whoo, whoo!’ ” says Laura.
Laura Fattal’s job as “the hiker mom” is over, and last fall she accepted a full-time position teaching arts education at William Patterson University in New Jersey. “I am thrilled to have returned to my work. I am bringing my students to the new Islamic galleries at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. I hope that seeing artifacts of other countries and understanding civilizations can help to bridge political and cultural misconceptions.”
This January Josh gave a toast at the 70th birthday celebration of Muhammad Ali (who, as a humanitarian and a Muslim, was diligent in the struggle for his release). Laura recalls what Josh said about that special occasion: “It didn’t matter whether I was Jewish or Christian or Muslim. To him, I was a human being and human beings deserve justice. That is an inspiration to all of us and an urgent message to the world.” The three hikers and their families continue to speak out concerning the plight of their Iranian lawyer, Masoud Shafiei, who has been denied the right to travel abroad by Iranian authorities in the wake of his defense of the Americans. Josh recently settled in Oakland, California, to be near Sarah and Shane as the three begin writing their collective memoir and prepare for Sarah and Shane’s wedding this May. Josh is serving as best man.
photography by ben weldon (fattal, top); getty images