Iran: Iranian-American academics detained under national security laws

*** UPDATE: PEN warmly welcomes the release of Iranian-American scholar Dr Haleh Esfandiari who was freed on conditional bail on 22 August 2007, and reportedly left Iran on 2 September 2007. However, PEN continues to call for all charges against her to be dropped. 

Furthermore, PEN remains seriously concerned about the continued detention of Iranian-American scholar and social scientist Dr Tian Tajbaksh, in violation of Article 19. English PEN reiterates calls for his immediate and unconditional release. ***

English PEN is seriously concerned about the detention of two prominent Iranian-American scholars, Haleh Esfandiari and Kian Tajbakhsh, arrested on 8 and 11 May 2007 respectively. Both were reportedly charged under national security laws for their links to institutions in the United States.
According to PEN’s information, Dr. Haleh Esfandiari, who heads the Middle East program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington D.C., travelled to Iran in December 2006 to visit her ailing mother. On 30 December 2006, prior to her planned departure from Iran, armed and masked men stopped her taxi and seized both her Iranian and American passports. She was then subjected to repeated and protracted interrogation sessions by Ministry of Intelligence officials until her arrest on 8 May 2007, when she was transferred to Tehran’s Evin prison. In a statement on 10 May 2007, the Wilson Center said that during interrogations, Esfandiari ‘was pressured to make a false confession or to falsely implicate the Wilson Center in activities in which it had no part.’ 

Dr. Haleh Esfandiari, age 65, has dual Iranian American citizenship. Her areas of expertise include Middle Eastern women’s issues, contemporary Iranian intellectual politics, and political developments in the Middle East. She frequently writes, lectures, and organizes symposia on these topics. Her publications include Reconstructed Lives: Women and Iran’s Islamic Revolution (1997).

Kian Tajbakhsh, an Iranian American consultant for the Open Society Institute, was arrested at his home in Tehran on or around 11 May 2007, and has since been held incommunicado in Evin prison. His pregnant wife was also believed to have been arrested with him but released the following day. Kian Tajbakhsh is a social scientist and urban planner, and has published two books and numerous articles in his field. He is said to have worked with a variety of Iranian and international organizations on research and development projects.
On 29 May 2007 it was announced that Iran’s judiciary had brought charges of ‘endangering national security through propaganda against the system and espionage for foreigners’ against Esfandiari and Tajbakhsh. Two other Iranian-Americans have also been charged under similar circumstances this year, and academic Ramin Jahanbegloo was similarly arrested and held for four months in Evin Prison in 2006.
Please send appeals:

 – Protesting the arrest of academics Haleh Esfandiari and Kian Tajbakhsh, and calling for their immediate and unconditional release in accordance with Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Iran is a signatory;
 – seeking immediate assurances of their well-being, and demanding that they are given full access to their families and lawyers.
Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic
His Excellency Ayatollah Sayed ‘Ali Khamenei,
The Office of the Supreme Leader
Shoahada Street, Qom

Islamic Republic of Iran
Head of the Judiciary
His Excellency
Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi
Ministry of Justice, Park-e Shahr,

Islamic Republic of Iran
Email via Judiciary website:

Minister of Intelligence
Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejeie
Ministry of Intelligence,
Second Negarestan Street,
Pasdaran Avenue,
Islamic Republic of Iran.
His Excellency Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
The Presidency,
Palestine Avenue,
Azerbaijan Intersection,
Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran
Fax:  Via Foreign Ministry: 98 21 6 674 790
(mark: “Please forward to H.E. President Ahmadinejad”)
via website:

It may be more effective to send appeals via Iranian representatives in London:

His Excellency Mr Rasoul Movahedian
Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran
16 Prince’s Gate
London SW7 1PT
Fax: 020 7589 4440

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