Iranian-American scholar Haleh Esfandiari was released from prison in Iran on bail today, the ISNA news agency reports. Dr. Esfandiari had been detained for over 100 days on charges that she was an alleged threat to Iranian national security. Her bail was set for 3 billion rials (approximately $333,000). She still may be required to remain in Iran until further notice. Mohammad Shadabi, an official at the capitol city’s prosecutor’s office, told the Associated Press, “I can’t say for now that she will be allowed to leave the country or not.”
Dr. Esfandiari, 67, directs the Middle East program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, a prominent think-tank in Washington, DC. Twice a year, she would return to Iran to visit her ailing 93-year-old mother. She was prevented from leaving Iran in December 2006 when three masked men carrying knives ambushed her car on the way to the airport. Her belongings, including her passports, were stolen during the attack. When applying for a new Iranian passport, she was subjected to interrogations lasting as long as eight hours and was eventually placed on house arrest, the AP reports. She was jailed on May 8 in Iran’s Evin prison, which is notorious for its treatment of political prisoners.
An expert on the Middle East, Dr. Esfandiari is the author and editor of numerous books and publications addressing women’s rights in the Middle East, especially in Iran. Prior to the Islamic Revolution, Dr. Esfandiari served as the Deputy Secretary General of the Women’s Organization of Iran. Thousands of online activists took action with the Feminist Majority Foundation to demand the release of Dr. Esfandiari, who has worked tirelessly for peace and women’s rights.