Wednesday, February 29, 2012

To: Josh Fattal, Subject: Wow

This morning, I watched a video of Josh, Shane and Sarah speaking outside San Quentin prison in California. I was so deeply moved by a combination of pain at hearing more details of their suffering at the hands of the Iranian regime, and pride at their incredible strength and ongoing commitment to justice for all. The best thing we can do with our suffering is channel it into compassion for others that drives us to minimize their suffering.

After watching the video, I was compelled to email Josh to express my feelings. And I am compelled to share that email here as a follow-up to my communication with him that I shared with you when I couldn't share it directly with him. Another step in my resistance to the Iranian regime's attempts to disconnect us. Because connecting with each other makes us stronger every day.

from: Farah N. Mawani
to: Josh Fattal
date: Wed, Feb 29, 2012 at 12:04 PM
subject: Wow

Hey J,

I just watched a video of your speech at San Quentin. Wow.

It pains me to hear about your mistreatment (to put it mildly) and especially to know that they withheld all your letters from friends and supporters.

BUT, most of all I feel SUCH pride knowing how strong you remained and how you fought for yourself in the most unimaginable situation.

And SUCH pride watching you speak SO strongly in front of the crowd (without reading your speech!) and engaging them so effectively.

I remember when I used to watch Alex speak with such ease in front of crowds at our vigils and protests, and think about how you were different. That you were quieter and not as confident (more like me :) - but wow, now I see you taking and OWNing your voice! It makes me emotional (sorry :) and so, so, so incredibly proud.

You continue to be an inspiration to me.

Lots of love,



See the following links for some of my communication with Josh while he was held hostage by the Iranian regime, from most recent to earliest.

Dear Josh (audio)

500 Days without FREEDOM

Fragments of bridges

Dear Sarah, Shane & Josh - My Hope for You 

DAY 330: Bowen Island Hike 'with' Josh

Josh, I hope you can hear me (video)

And here is a note Josh wrote to me during our time living and working together, before he was captured and taken hostage by the Iranian regime.

Spiraling Journey

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Five Months of FREEDOM

Yesterday marked 5 months of FREEDOM for Josh, Shane, Sarah and all of us who love them and devoted every cell of our beings to fight for their FREEDOM. I have held to my vow to only write the word 'FREEDOM' in capital letters to better represent its critical importance to life. It is an indescribable feeling to be marking months of FREEDOM rather than months of captivity. I wish we could have global celebrations to mark each of those months, as we had vigils, rallies and protests to mark the months and years of captivity. But I know that people around the world are celebrating each day of FREEDOM with us. And most importantly, I can celebrate those markers WITH Sarah, Shane and Josh. I'm still absorbing that - yesterday I texted Josh a 'Happy FREEDOM Anniversary' message. It took me the entire day to remember that I could do that. The FREEDOM to text, to communicate, is something I will never take for granted again.

The transition to FREEDOM is not an easy journey. We are all processing so much, feeling so much that we had to hold back in order to direct our focus and energy to our fight. One of the most frightening feelings I had after Sarah, Shane and Josh were freed was the uncertainty of what the next days, months and years would bring. The fear was partly due to growing accustomed to living with daily and hourly uncertainty for the 2 years and 2 months of their captivity. It was partly due to the dramatic shift in my identity that I anticipated - from a FREEDOM fighter to...I wasn't sure what.  I longed to get back to parts of my life and myself that I had to neglect while fighting for Sarah, Shane and Josh's lives but I knew that I had been transformed. I knew that I needed to somehow integrate my traumatic and transforming experience into my life's journey, but I didn't know how best to do that.

Fortunately, my journey is unfolding organically with some hard work thrown in. The way in which I spent the 5 month anniversary is a good illustration of that. I spent the morning advising two political prisoner campaigns on organizing coordinated global actions, based on my Free the Hikers experience. I then went to a conference focused on addressing access to care for individuals living in Canada without health insurance.  I brought a guest, who I met through the Free the Hikers campaign, to help expand his networks.  It was wonderful to introduce him to long-time colleagues and friends as I reconnected with them post-Free the Hikers.

My worlds are colliding and merging into one land mass. There are still fissures and fractures in that land mass that I hope will mend in time to provide me with the solid ground I need to be my strongest self. I left the conference early for my weekly trauma therapy session, where I confronted and expressed some of the ongoing pain associated with Sarah, Shane and Josh's hostage-taking. While running some errands afterwards, a bright butterfly-covered scarf caught my eye.  I wear it today to honour my ongoing transformation and to remind me that Spring is coming and with it hope for new growth sprouting from the merging ground of my former and transformed self.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Put a Little Love in Your Heart

Okay, I’ll admit, I have mixed feelings about Valentine’s Day. Like many, I’m not a fan of the commercialization of love. I do, however, feel that a reminder to reflect on the importance of love in our lives, is not a bad thing. I’ve had intensive opportunities to reflect on love over the past few years. I was driven to fight for FREEDOM for Josh Fattal by love. Love for him, love for justice, love for truth.

Whenever my faith in justice, my faith in truth, faltered, I turned to this quote from Gandhi: 
"Truth triumphs over untruth. Love conquers hatred.”
It reminded me of my deeply held belief. It kept me fighting towards our goal, no matter what curve balls were thrown our way.  No matter what hatred was thrown our way – by the Iranian regime and their agents, and more shockingly by members of the general public. Even when dealing with the Iranian regime, love did conquer hatred. Truth did triumph over untruth.

My pain associated with the loss and fear of loss of Josh, though excruciating, connected me more deeply to the love behind that pain. We so often realize how much love we feel when we lose someone or are at risk of losing him or her.  I did lose the ability to communicate with Josh in any way whatsoever for 2 years and 2 months. In this world of telecommunications where we can communicate instantly and simultaneously by text, email, phone, video, Facebook, twitter, etc., being completely cut off from someone I was with all day every day for months beforehand, was like losing a part of myself. 

Now that he’s free, my heart, that broke a little bit more every day of his captivity, is slowly mending, and rejoicing in his FREEDOM, his LIFE.  My heart is gradually growing as I absorb the FREEDOM of Josh, Shane, Sarah and all of us whose hearts were held captive with them.

But as I try to recover and reconnect with my loved ones and my life outside of FREEDOM fighting, I’m facing other losses – the loss of the intensely close Free the Hikers family that formed to FREE Sarah, Shane and Josh, the loss of Alex, the other half of my campaign-self, and the loss of the Josh I lived with and the me that lived with him. Josh and I are now separated by living for 2 years and 2 months with an impenetrable wall between us, and by thousands of miles.

As all of us in the extended Free the Hikers family are going through major lifelong transformations, I’m also faced with other unexpected losses.  There are big changes in my immediate family that affect us all. And the father of two of my oldest friends is dying.  It is so difficult for me to absorb that, let alone write that.  My father left my brothers, our mother, and me when I was a child. My friends’ father is like a father to me. He consistently expresses great pride in my accomplishments, and glows with pride at my Free the Hikers accomplishments and my ongoing Human Rights work.

Knowing that someone you love is in physical and/or emotional pain and not being able to do anything about it is excruciating.  Dealing with losing them on top of that is unbearable. The next hardest thing is sharing the pain with the people closest to them. Those were the hardest parts of the Iranian regime holding Josh hostage. They are the hardest parts of Cam’s suffering.

Knowing that Alex was suffering indescribable pain during Josh’s captivity, pain that I could not alleviate, was almost impossible for me to bear.  And now I’m watching two of my closest and oldest friends deal with the threat of losing their beloved father, while I too am faced with his loss.

I can’t prevent his loss so it’s extremely difficult to know how to help him and how to help his family. Like my experience on my journey to FREE Josh, Shane and Sarah, I know that being there for the journey, in whatever way I can be, is the most precious gift of all.  That is love. Being given and received.

May you all give and receive love today, and every day.

Put a little love in your heart.

With love,