Monday, July 02, 2007
Protest in front of United Nations-NYNews Release FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Press Contact: Sharon McCarter
Phone: (202) 691-4016
Release No. #57-07
June 27, 2007
Hundreds Gather for Vigil in New York
Calling for the Immediate Release of Haleh Esfandiari and
Other Detained Iranian Americans
WASHINGTON—Today, more than 150 people gathered at the Dag Hammarskjold Plaza in New York City for a vigil calling for the immediate release of Dr. Haleh Esfandiari, director of the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Middle East Program, along with three other Iranian-Americans being held in Tehran: Kian Tajbakhsh, Parnaz Azima, and Ali Shakeri.
The vigil was jointly sponsored by Amnesty International, the American-Islamic Congress, Human Rights Watch, Vital Voices Global Partnership, the Near Eastern Studies Department of Princeton University, and several other organizations. The purpose of the vigil was two-fold: to urge that all charges be dropped against Haleh Esfandiari and the other three Iranian-Americans, and that the Iranian government immediately release Dr. Esfandiari and the other three detainees.
Speakers at the vigil included Shaul Bakhash, Haleh Esfandiari’s husband; Clarence J. Robinson, professor of history at George Mason University; Zainab Al-Suwaij, executive director of the American-Islamic Congress; and Sheila Dauer, director of the Women’s Human Rights Program at Amnesty International USA.
“In coming together today, our purpose is solemn, but our aim is simple: We call for the freedom of the detainees. They are innocent. The charges against them are baseless. Their incarceration violates Iranian law,” said Shaul Bakhash.
Senators Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and Barbara Mikulski sent letters and issued statements of support for the vigil and the immediate release of the detainees. (Copies of the senators’ statements, as well as a statement from Wilson Center President and Director Lee H. Hamilton, are included at the end of this release).
“I am extremely saddened by the continued imprisonment of Dr. Haleh Esfandiari and the other Iranian-Americans being held in Tehran. I call upon the Iranian government to free Haleh and the other Iranian-Americans immediately, and allow them to return safely to their families and loved ones," said Hamilton. "I ask the Iranian government to end this nightmare for Haleh and the other imprisoned Iranian-Americans on humanitarian grounds, on legal grounds, and on the basis of common dignity and decency. Let her return to her family. As I have said many times before, Haleh is a scholar. She is not a spy. Let Haleh go.”
On May 8, Iranian officials arrested and imprisoned Dr. Esfandiari in Tehran. The government of Iran has subsequently arrested the three other Iranian-Americans, Kian Tajbakhsh, Parnaz Azima, and Ali Shakeri, and has simultaneously engaged in a widespread crackdown on civil society in Iran.
All four of the detained Iranian-Americans face serious charges and could be sentenced to long prison terms. Dr. Esfandiari has been in Tehran’s Evin Prison for over 45 days, after having been prevented from leaving Iran since the end of December. To date, she has been denied access to her family, her lawyers, and international organizations like the Red Cross.
For up-to-date information regarding the situation of Dr. Haleh Esfandiari, please visit the Wilson Center’s media update center at www.wilsoncenter.org/halehnews. Media with questions may reach Sharon McCarter at firstname.lastname@example.org or (202) 691-4016. For information on how to assist current efforts to release Haleh, please visit http://www.freehaleh.org/.
The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars is the living, national memorial to President Wilson established by Congress in 1968 and headquartered in Washington, D.C. The Center establishes and maintains a neutral forum for free, open, and informed dialogue. It is a nonpartisan institution, supported by public and private funds and engaged in the study of national and world affairs.
Statement of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton on Continued Detention of Iranian-Americans (issued June 27, 2007):
“I am saddened and dismayed by the continued detention of Dr. Haleh Esfandiari and Parnaz Azima, and the recent arrests of fellow Iranian-Americans Dr. Kian Tajbakhsh and Ali Shakeri. I have joined the fifteen women Senators in writing to Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon urging him to intervene on behalf of Dr. Esfandiari and Ms. Azima, and I am gravely disappointed that the situation in Iran has been allowed to escalate. It is an unconscionable violation of human rights to detain and imprison individuals without just cause, and we cannot let this situation stand.
All of these individuals have taken steps to promote peace and understanding between Iran and the United States. Dr. Esfandiari is head of the Middle East Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, where she has worked to raise awareness of international women's issues. Ms. Azima is a journalist for Radio Farda, the Persian-language service of Voice of America/Radio Free Europe, where she has presented unbiased information on current events. Dr. Tajbakhsh is an urban planning expert who has consulted on behalf of the World Bank on development projects, and Mr. Shakeri is a founder and board member of the Center for Citizen Peacebuilding at the University of California Irvine. Allegations that their activities - activities that are in the public's interest, and a public service - are attempts to overthrow the Iranian government are unfounded and baseless, and must not go unchallenged by the international community.
It is imperative that these Iranian-Americans be able to return unharmed to their families and homes, where they can continue to carry out their work of promoting international understanding. I call upon the United Nations to work with international partners and its member states to secure their release, and I pledge to do all I can with my partners in Congress to ensure that no harm comes to these individuals.”
Senator Barack Obama’s Statement On Human Rights In Iran (issued June 27, 2007):
“I am sorry that I cannot be here in person to speak out on behalf of Haleh, Kian and the other dual citizens being held against their will in Iran. I stand with those who demand the immediate and unconditional release of these scholars and experts who have long argued for building bridges between the U.S. and Iran.
The time is now for them to be allowed to come home to their families, friends and colleagues. I appeal to the Government of Iran. Please release these people. They are innocent of any wrongdoing.”
Senator Barbara Mikulski Continues Call for Release of Imprisoned Iranian-American Scholar (issued June 27, 2007):
“I wish I could be with you today during today’s important vigil at the United Nations Plaza. I want to thank Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Vital Voices and others for bringing us together – know that I stand with you as you fight for the freedom of the four Iranian-Americans being detained by the Government of Iran.
Our hearts go out to Haleh Esfandiari, Kian Tajbakhsh, Parnaz Azima, and Ali Shakeri – and our prayers are with them and their families at this difficult time. All four have been unjustly targeted by Iran’s government. I am personally very concerned about Maryland’s own Dr. Haleh Esfandiari, who has been unlawfully imprisoned for more than a month. She has been denied legal representation and family visitation. Her family and I are very concerned about her health and well-being. That’s why all of the women Senators sent a letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon urging him to ask Iran for Dr. Esfandiari’s release. It’s also why I joined my colleague from Maryland, Senator Ben Cardin, in passing a unanimous Senate resolution condemning her arrest.
Your efforts today are so important. We know the government of Iran is watching what we do, and we want them to know we will not relent. We want all four Iranian-Americans released immediately and allowed to travel outside of Iran. In the meantime, these prisoners must be allowed to consult with lawyers, to be visited by international humanitarian organizations, and to see their families. I stand in solidarity with Dr. Esfandiari’s family, and will do everything in my power to secure her immediate release and safe return home.”
Statement from Lee H. Hamilton on Vigil in New York (issued June 27, 2007):
“I am extremely saddened by the continued imprisonment of Dr. Haleh Esfandiari and the other Iranian-Americans being held in Tehran. I call upon the Iranian government to free Haleh and the other Iranian Americans immediately, and allow them to return safely to their families and loved ones.
Haleh is a dear and close colleague, a renowned scholar—and one who has been consistently a strong supporter of an Iranian-American dialogue. For almost six months, she has been prevented from returning home. And for more than 50 days, she has been incarcerated, without anyone being able to see her—not her mother, not her lawyer, not the Swiss Government, not the International Committee of the Red Cross. We are extremely concerned about Haleh’s physical and mental state, and also the physical and emotional toll this has taken on Haleh’s 93-year old mother.
Prior to her imprisonment May 8th, Haleh, under more than 50 hours of intense interrogation spanning several weeks, answered all of the questions about her work for the Wilson Center posed by the Iranian Government’s interrogators. Neither Haleh, nor the Wilson Center, have anything to hide. Neither she, nor the Wilson Center, are involved in any activities to undermine the Iranian Government.
I again ask the Iranian Government to end this nightmare for Haleh and the other imprisoned Iranian Americans on humanitarian grounds, on legal grounds and on the basis of common dignity and decency. Let her return to her family. As I have said many times before, Haleh is a scholar. She is not a spy. Let Haleh go.”