House Resolution Calls for Immediate Release of Dr. Haleh Esfandiari
xWashington, D.C. - Representatives Chris Van Hollen (D-8th/MD), Tom Lantos (D-12/CA), Elijah E. Cummings, (D-7th/MD), Wayne T. Gilchrest (R-1st/MD), and Gary Ackerman (D-5th/NY) introduced resolution, H.RES. 430 on May 22nd. The resolution calls for the release of Iranian American scholar Dr. Haleh Esfandiari.
Like the resolution introduced last week by Senators Gordon Smith (R-OR) and Hillary Clinton (D-NY), H.RES.430 calls on the government of Iran to immediately release Esfandiari and all other individuals being detained for participating in the free exchange of scholarship and ideas. The resolution also calls on the U.S. government to work with its allies throughout the Middle East, as well as with other governments and international organizations, to secure Dr. Esfandiari's release.
Esfandiari, who is a resident of the state of Maryland and the Director of the Middle East Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, was arrested in Tehran on May 8th after being barred from leaving Iran. Esfandiari traveled to Iran in December to visit her ailing 93 year old mother.
“Dr. Esfandiari’s imprisonment shows a gross disregard for the rule of law and belies statements by Iranian government officials that Iran would like to improve relations with the United States,” said Representative Van Hollen. "We want to send a strong message to the Iran government that her release is a priority."
Meanwhile, Iranian authorities have reportedly detained two other individuals, bringing the total number of Iranian Americans who are believed to be incarcerated, detained, or put under house arrest in Iran to five.
On May 11th, agents of the Ministry of Information arrested Iranian American Scholar Kian Tajbakhsh. Tajbakhsh is a social scientist and urban planner who has worked as a consultant in the areas of local government reform, urban planning and social policy, and has taught at universities in the U.S. and Iran.
Friends and family members of Ali Shakeri, who recently traveled to Iran to visit his ailing mother, have told Human Rights Watch that he has also been detained by Iranian authorities. Shakeri is on the Advisory Board of the Center for Citizen Peacebuilding (CCPB) at the University of California, Irvine (UCI). CCPB activities aim to prevent violent conflict and, if violence occurs, to promote reconciliation and sustainable peace.
Two other Iranian American women, including Parnaz Azima, a journalist for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, have been prevented from leaving Iran since January. Azima has posted a $440,000 bond and is being held under house arrest pending filing of charges. The identity of the other woman has not been revealed by the State Department at the request of her family.