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Three Berkeley alums are reportedly detained by Iran

| 3 August 2009

Three hikers reportedly detained by the Iranian government last week are former University of California, Berkeley, students, two of whom have been working as journalists in the Middle East and Africa.

Shane Bauer, a 2007 honors graduate in peace and conflict studies, has been working in North Africa and the Middle East, using his fluency in Arabic, the language he minored in at UC Berkeley. He recently has produced stories on Iraq and Syria for San Francisco-based New American Media.

Bauer, 27, came to UC Berkeley in August 2004, and during his undergraduate years took courses in the Graduate School of Journalism. He won the campus's Matthew M. Lyon Prize in Photography in 2007 for his haunting photos of devastation in the Darfur region of the Sudan in Africa.

Sarah Emily Shourd, 30, transferred from Diablo Valley College to UC Berkeley in the fall of 2000 and graduated in May 2003 with a B.A. in English. An aspiring journalist, she reported a story earlier this year for New American Media on the Golan Heights in Israel.

Shane BauerShane Bauer

Joshua Felix Fattal, 27, attended UC Berkeley for three semesters, from fall 2003 through fall 2004, graduating in December 2004 with a B.S. in environmental economics and policy from the College of Natural Resources.

Bauer, Shourd and Fattal were hiking in the Kurdistan region of Iraq last week when they apparently crossed the border and were detained by Iranian authorities, according to news reports. Today (Monday, Aug. 3), U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asked the Iranian government to provide information about the safety of the three Americans.

A fourth American, Shon Meckfessel, was with the three but did not go on the July 31 hike, according to news reports. The 36-year-old Meckfessel took a summer course in Arabic at UC Berkeley in 2007 and is now a linguistics graduate student at the University of Washington.

Ken Light, curator of UC Berkeley's Photojournalism Center and an adjunct professor in the Graduate School in Journalism, recalled that, as a student on campus, Bauer had approached him with his photo portfolio and said he wanted to do photography in addition to majoring in peace and conflict studies. Bauer was admitted to one of Light's classes.

"He (Bauer) had a path, he had a passion, and I was impressed with what he was doing," Light said, noting that Bauer had spent time in Somalia before attending UC Berkeley.

Light said he found Bauer to be "a very bright, wonderful, intuitive photographer." Bauer's photos of the residents of a San Francisco Tenderloin District hotel were chosen by his classmates to be the lead story of the journalism school's May 2007 issue of "Realeyes" magazine.  Bauer's Tenderloin photos and others can be found on his Web site.