American Haleh Esfendiyari Sent to Notorious Evin Prison in Tehran
She has been branded by the State-owned Newspaper, as the Agent of Zionists.
Iran-American academic Haleh Esfandiari, director of the Middle East program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, was taken into custody Dec. 30 during a visit to Iran and interrogated for months. On Tuesday, May 8, 2007, she was arrested and sent to Tehran’s Evin prison- Serendip.
Iranian expert and activist, Banafsheh Zand Bonazzi, sends the details behind…
“The Jailing of Iranian-American Haleh Esfandiyari”:
Haleh Esfandiyari, director of the Middle East studies center in Washington’s Woodrow Wilson Center was arrested on Tuesday, May 8th by the disciplinary guards of the Islamic regime after a 4-month forced stay in Iran due to the non- issuance of her passport; she was transferred to Evin prison.
Lee Hamilton, chairman of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for scholars, said that despite his own personal inclination, he is forced to publicly announce the arrest of Ms. Esfandiari.
Mr. Hamilton, former democratic representative to the U.S. congress who heads up the Iraq study group (Baker-Hamilton Report) and currently the Director of the Wilson center says that a few months ago, specifically on February 20th he asked president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to allow Ms. Esfandiyari to leave Iran, however President Ahmadinejad has neither acknowledged nor responded to the letter.
He said: “The Wilson Center has not spoken out about the fact that Ms. Esfandiyari is being denied her exit-permit documents and is therefore being prohibited from leaving Iran; we have hoped that there could be a quiet and amenable solution.”
Esfandiyari traveled to Iran in late December to visit her 93-year-old mother. According to her family one week later, on December 30th while heading to the Tehran airport in a taxi, 3 masked men armed with knives, stopped the taxi threatened her that if she does not look down, they will kill her. The armed men robbed Esfandiyari’s handbag and both her Iranian and American passports.
According to her relatives, Esfandiyari was then forced to apply for a new passport. Four days after submitting that application, while at the passport office she was approached by a man she did not know and was “invited” for an “interview” to the Ministry of Intelligence and Security of the Islamic Republic (MOIS). Later it turned out that the man in question was a MOIS agent. Her relatives say that, this was only the beginning of 6 weeks of interrogations; sometimes they interrogated her 4 days a week for 7, 8 hours at a time. Hamilton claims that she has been interrogated a total of 50 hours.
The interrogations were always apparently about U.S. strategy toward Iran, as well as programs related to Iran in the Wilson center, which is one of the most prominent foreign policy studies centers in Washington.
Apparently after February 17th, Esfandiyari believed that the interrogations had come to an end and was waiting to receive her permission to leave Iran but for almost 10 weeks there was no news from the Islamic regime’s ministry of domestic affairs, until last week when she was called to present herself once again to the ministry of intelligence and security. On Tuesday morning, May 8th when she appeared at the MOIS headquarters, she was immediately arrested and transferred to Tehran’s notorious Evin prison. She was only allowed to call her mother and there has been no news of her since.
Hamilton was the co-chairman of the Iraq Study Group which last year issued recommendations for ending the violence in Iraq, including engaging with long time U.S. foe Iran. Esfandiari has been among the proponents of dialogue with the Islamic regime though at times she has lightly criticized the Islamic regime.
The Wilson Center is a nonpartisan institution established by Congress in 1968 and funded through private and public funds, according to its Web site. Despite Dr. Bakhash (Ms. Esfandiyari’s husband and colleague at the Wilson center) and Ms. Esfandiari’s long-time involvement in the D.C. political circles and organizations, Dr. Bakhash argues: “She’s not involved in politics and has done nothing to justify her incarceration in prison.” In 2005, Ms. Esfandiari herself quoted her husband who spoke about the Ahmadinejad “election”, in the Wilson Center Middle East Report as saying: “The characters of relations with the U.S. would be determined not only by Tehran but also by Washington, and Bush administration policy towards Iran has been characterized by a mixture of hostility and fuzziness.”
Among other think tanks in Washington DC, The Wilson Institute has provided an arena for events that include Iranian scholars however it has finally come to light that most of the individuals (such as Siamak Namazi and Bijan Khajehpour, from Atieh Bahar Consulting & Abbas Maleki a foreign policy adviser to Rafsanjani who Esfandiari has referred to as a “pragmatic centrist”) who have appeared on panels at the Wilson Center seem to have very close ties to the Islamic Regime and Ms. Esfandiari is said to have known this and willfully ignored the matter. Esfandiari is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations whose scholars such as Zbignew Brzezinski and Richard Haas, like Hamiltion of the Iraq Study Group have pressed for dialogue and normalization of relations with the Islamic Republic.
Ms. Esfandiari is also said to have been visiting Iran as an envoy of the Baker-Hamilton group to test the waters and to open lines of dialogue with the regime in Tehran. Mr. Hamilton who is a longtime critic of the Bush Administration’s approach to Iraq and Iran wanted to prove that dialogue is in fact possible with the Islamic Republic.
One Jerusalem is joining the effort to free Haleh.