There are certain crises that always loom as possibilities: a chronic illness in the family, strife in a relationship, a car accident. To have a brother detained in Iran, with no way to contact him and little information about his legal status or the conditions in which he's held, is not one of them. Never would I have imagined putting my Ph.D. research on hold to lobby for my brother's release from Evin Prison; I didn't expect to move back to my parents' house at the age of 30, either.
But that's what happened after I learned July 31 that Iranian authorities had detained Josh and his two friends Shane Bauer and Sarah Shourd on the border with Iraqi Kurdistan, where they had been hiking. Soon, TV trucks were parked in front of the house, and reporters were asking questions to which we didn't have the answers. More than 100 days later, we still don't. All we know is that they were near the Ahmed Awa waterfall, an area that's become popular with Western tourists—and that, last week, Tehran insinuated that they are being accused of espionage.
The last time I saw Josh was 5 a.m. on July 5. He had come to visit me in Stockholm after his teaching responsibilities for the International Honors Program had ended. He was traveling to Damascus, where Shane and Sarah were living, before the three of them headed to Iraqi Kurdistan. The night before, I gave him a big hug and told him, "You may be my little brother, but I look up to you."
I miss Josh terribly—but this isn't the first time I've waited for him to come home. Josh is an environmentalist. In 2001 he spurned my parents' offer of a frequent-flier ticket to bike 3,000 miles home to Philadelphia from Seattle. Josh was free to sleep beneath the stars then. He pedaled through Glacier National Park in Montana, the Lake Country of Minnesota, and the hills of upstate New York. Our mom could send care packages and know he received them; we could pick up the phone and hear his voice whenever we felt like it. We waited 42 days for him, knowing that, with each one, he got closer. Then, finally, he pulled up into the driveway—his bike seat on crooked, his handlebars loose—and we hardly let him dismount before we wrapped our arms around him. Now my family, along with Shane's and Sarah's, waits for the day when we can hug our loved one once again.