It’s not easy to criticize Shane Bauer, one of the U.S. hikers released from an Iranian prison last week. Bauer spent over two years incarcerated in Tehran’s Evin prison, detained for “illegal entry” into the country while he was hiking along the unmarked Iraqi/Iranian border during July 2009. Washington has worked tirelessly in the interim to get the young man released.
Bauer showed his gratitude on Sunday at a press conference in New York, shortly after arriving stateside. He chose not to thank President Obama or Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who got the sultan of Oman to pay Bauer’s bail. Instead, he acknowledged Noam Chomsky, Sean Penn, and Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez.
He went on to suggest America was morally equivalent to his captors. “We sincerely hope for the freedom of other political prisoners in America and Iran,” Bauer said. The hiker also compared conditions at Evin prison to those terrorists endure at Guantanamo Bay.
I’m willing to bet Mr. Bauer (an Arab speaking, independent journalist) has never visited Gitmo. Nor did he experience the full brutality of Evin prison. As James Kirchick (an editor at the New Republic) writes in today’s Journal op-ed piece, “Evin is the world’s most notorious torture dungeon, where political dissidents (men and women) are routinely raped, beaten and subjected to all manner of physical and psychological abuse.”
Mr. Bauer never endured such horrors precisely because he’s an American. He would have never seen the light of day if he possessed another nationality.
In time, I hope Mr. Bauer will realize and appreciate this. I hope he is grateful for his free speech rights, which allowed him to criticize U.S. policy towards the Islamic Republic. Such privileges aren’t granted in Tehran.