Haleh Esfandiari, an Iranian-American scholar who has worked extensively for women’s rights, has now been held in Iran for 100 days on charges that she was conspiring to overthrow the government and committing espionage. The Iranian Judiciary has announced that their investigation of Dr. Esfandiari has concluded, though no decision has been announced as to whether she will be placed on trial. Dr. Esfandiari’s lawyer, Nobel Peace Prize winner and noted feminist Shirin Ebadi, has appealed to the United Nations Human Rights Council, asking for her immediate release.
Dr. Esfandiari, an expert on the Middle East, is the director of the Middle East program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, DC. Before the Islamic Revolution, she served as the Deputy Secretary General of the Women’s Organization of Iran. A dual citizen, Dr. Esfandiari made frequent trips between her home in the US and Iran to visit her ailing mother. On her most recent visit, masked men carrying knives ambushed her car as she made her way to the airport in Iran. Her passports were stolen, and, upon trying to replace them, she was subjected to repeated interrogations by the Iranian Intelligence Ministry. She was under house arrest until May 8, when she was sent to the notorious Evin Prison.
Feminist Majority Foundation, along with the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Human Rights Watch, the 16 women US Senators, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the International Herald Tribune, and other have called for the immediate release of Dr. Esfandiari.