Eugene Weekly : Viewpoint : 5.27.10

Bring Them Home
Free Josh Fattal, free them all
By Tao Orion

Josh Fattal

Josh Fattal is an avid hiker. During the years that we lived together at Aprovecho, Josh thoroughly explored the rolling hills of clearcuts and Douglas fir plantations that comprise our backyard. One day, I remember looking up from my work in the garden to see his smiling face and dancing eyes, relating a tale of walking all the way to Saginaw on forest roads. Another day, determined to find a path from Aprovecho to Cottage Grove that does not intercept the paved road, he walked into town and back on the dirt roads that crisscross the forest between our property and town. Josh also spent the last winter he lived at Aprovecho expanding and improving the trail network on our property, creating new paths to formerly underappreciated areas. Every time I walk the trails, I think of Josh, his creativity and his love and wonder for the world.

Josh is an articulate and principled member of our community. Josh led numerous groups of interns through Aprovecho’s Sustainable Living Skills Internship Program during the three years that he lived and worked at Aprovecho. He planned hiking and biking trips for the interns and encouraged them to engage in our local area by helping on farms and participating in community events. In Aprovecho’s business and organizational structure, Josh was a strong voice for staying true to our consensus process, working hard to find ways that everyone’s voice could be heard while still making progress and not spending all of our time in meetings. 

Josh is a thoughtful and passionate citizen. Just before Josh left for his work as a teaching assistant with the International Honors Program, he helped create Aprovecho’s 100 Mile Diet Internship. Josh felt strongly that as a sustainable living education center, Aprovecho should endeavor to source its food needs locally and demonstrate our region’s potential for locally based economics. He believed that by focusing our organizational purchasing power into our local community, we could contribute to the creation of a more just, equitable and sustainable world.  

Josh is in prison in Iran. I try to imagine what life is like for Josh at this moment, where he sits in Evin Prison in Tehran, with his friends Shane Bauer and Sarah Shourd. I imagine him practicing tai chi, doing the poses that he practiced every Tuesday and Thursday morning in Coiner Park in Cottage Grove. I imagine that he is trying his best to keep centered, to keep healthy, as the days of his imprisonment continue to add up. 

Josh, Shane and Sarah were taken into Iranian custody on July 31, 2009, during a hiking trip to Kurdistan, an autonomous and peaceful region of Iraq. As of the date I write this article, the hikers have been held without charge, without access to a lawyer and with extremely limited contact with the outside world. The Swiss diplomats who represent America’s diplomatic interests in Iran have visited with the hikers three times. Their most recent visit brought news of poor physical and deteriorating mental health.

Josh is a friend of many in the Cottage Grove community, and he is known and loved by people all over the world. We hope every day for the safe and speedy return of Josh, Shane and Sarah. They have been held for far too long, and we long to see their smiling faces again, to be inspired by them again, and to welcome them back to where they make their homes so they may continue to be appreciated as the kind, intelligent and passionate people they are. Please visit to learn how you can help bring them home as soon as possible. 

Tao Orion lives and works as co-director at Aprovecho, just outside of Cottage Grove. See