Thursday, May 31, 2007

Free Kian and Haleh

Sign the petition to free them here and here.

About Kian and his detention:

Kian Tajbakhsh is an internationally-respected scholar, social scientist and urban planner. He is a dual citizen of the United States and Iran, and has taught at both American and Iranian universities. Dr. Tajbakhsh is also an international expert in the areas of local government reform, urban planning, public health, and social policy. He has consulted for several Iranian government organizations, including the Municipalities Organization, the Social Security Organization, and the Ministry of the Interior, and with international nongovernmental organizations such as the World Bank, the Open Society Institute, and the Netherlands Association of Municipalities. His work in Iran has included evaluating humanitarian relief and rebuilding projects in the aftermath of the devastating 2003 earthquake in Bam.

Dr. Tajbakhsh’s academic research examines the evolving nature of Iranian state institutions and the policy-making process in Iran. In 2006, he completed a three-year study of the local government sector in Iran. He is the author of two books, The Promise of the City: Space, Identity and Politics in Contemporary Social Thought (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press 2001), and Social Capital: Trust, Democracy and Development (Tehran: Shiraze Publishers 2005, in Persian). He has also published numerous scholarly articles, as well as non-academic writings on cinema and culture.

From 1994 until 2001, Dr. Tajbakhsh taught Urban Policy and Politics at the New School for Social Research in New York City. He received his BA from Imperial College, London in 1983, his M.Sc. from University College, London in 1984, and his Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1993. He is a member of the American Sociological Association and the Iranian Sociological Association.

Kian Tajbakhsh was arrested at his home in Tehran on May 11, 2007, and has been held without charge in Evin Prison since.

About Haleh and her detention:

Haleh Esfandiari is the Director of the Middle East Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, DC. She is a 67-year-old Iranian-American who came to the US over 25 years ago. A recipient of the MacArthur Foundation Grant, she is an expert on Middle Eastern women’s issues and Iranian affairs.

Dr. Esfandiari is held in high regard by academics and civil society professionals across the Middle East. She has organized many seminars in the region bringing together diverse Middle Eastern thinkers, particularly women’s rights experts. She is known for her kind demeanor, academic integrity, and enthusiastic networking.

Dr. Esfandiari regularly travels to Iran to visit her elderly mother. On December 30, 2006, she was in Iran heading to Tehran’s international airport to return to Washington. Masked gunmen ambushed her taxi and stole her luggage, including her Iranian and U.S. passports.

When Dr. Esfandiari went to replace her passport, she was sent to the Intelligence Ministry for interrogation. For four months she was held under effective house arrest and repeatedly interrogated. In February, Lee Hamilton, the director of the Wilson Center, wrote to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad asking that Dr. Esfandiari be allowed to leave Iran. He received no reply.

In early May, Dr. Esfandiari received a call from the ministry suggesting she “cooperate” (i.e., confess), an offer she declined. On May 8, security forces took her away to Evin Prison, though she has not been formally charged with any crime. Evin Prison is notorious its harsh treatment of political prisoners. In 2003, Iranian-Canadian photo-journalist Zahra Kazemi was killed during her interrogation in the prison.

The arrest of Dr. Esfandiari has been condemned by the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the International Herald Tribune, and Human Rights Watch. Her colleagues from around the world fear for her health and her safety. They call on the Iranian government to correct the mistake that has been made and free Haleh at once.

The “Free Haleh” campaign has been initiated by the American Islamic Congress in conjunction with Ibn Khaldoun Center in Cairo, the Initiative for Inclusive Security in Washington, Freedom House and the Kuwaiti Economic Society.


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