To the Editors:

The arbitrary detention and confinement of Dr. Haleh Esfandiari, a prominent Iranian-American scholar and the director of the Middle East program at the nonpartisan Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C., is the latest distressing episode in an ongoing crackdown by the Islamic Republic against those who, directly or indirectly, strive to bolster the foundations of civil society and promote human rights in Iran. Over the past year and a half, this onslaught has targeted prominent women’s rights activists, leaders of nongovernmental organizations, student and teacher associations, and labor unions.

In recent weeks, scores of women’s rights activists have been harassed, physically attacked, and detained for no greater a crime than demonstrating peacefully and circulating petitions calling for the elimination of discriminatory laws and practices. University students across the country have faced expulsion, arrest, and imprisonment for peacefully protesting the erosion of the administrative and academic independence of their universities.

It is in this context that the months-long harassment, extrajudicial arrest, and incarceration of Dr. Esfandiari—which was admitted belatedly by the Iranian government on May 13, 2007 (The New York Times, May 14, 2007)—exemplify the relentless campaign by the leaders of the Islamic Republic against the most basic principles of human rights. We find Dr. Esfandiari’s case particularly disturbing because it is tinged with invidious anti-Semitic rhetoric and conspiratorial worldviews. The egregious charges leveled against her by the semi-official daily Kayhan make Dr. Esfandiari the latest victim in the Iranian government’s repeated and escalating attempts to intimidate and silence human rights activists and promoters of civil society, as well as those who advocate the path of dialogue and moderation in Iran’s foreign policy. In her capacity as the director of the Middle East program at the Woodrow Wilson Center, Dr. Esfandiari has been a staunch advocate of peaceful dialogue between Tehran and Washington in resolving their disputes.

We believe that, despite certain internal disagreements among members of its ruling elite, the Islamic Republic of Iran—as any other member of the United Nations—should be held fully accountable for its actions. Only through a clear and united stand against the many breaches of human rights and civil liberties in Iran can one hope to encourage those elements within the Islamic Republic who recognize the importance of human rights for Iran’s standing within the international community.

We call upon all international organizations, academic and professional associations, and other groups and individuals devoted to the promotion and defense of human rights to strongly protest and condemn the arbitrary detention of Dr. Esfandiari, to call for her immediate and unconditional release, and to urge the officials of the Islamic Republic of Iran to respect, guarantee, and implement the provisions and principles of human rights as specified in international conventions and treaties to which Iran has long been a signatory.

Ervand Abrahamian, City University of New York
Janet Afary, Purdue University
Gholam Reza Afkhami, Foundation for Iranian Studies
Mahnaz Afkhami, Women’s Learning Partnership
Reza Afshari, Pace University
Shahrough Akhavi, University of South Carolina
Kazem Alamdari, California State University
Abbas Amanat, Yale University
Hooshang Amirahmadi, Rutgers University
Jahangir Amuzegar, independent scholar
Ahmad Ashraf, Columbia University
Muriel Atkin, George Washington University
Bahman Baktiari, University of Maine
Kathryn Babayan, University of Michigan
Robert Badinter, Sénateur des Hauts-de-Seine, France
Ali Banuazizi, Boston College
Sohrab Behdad, Denison University
Nasser Behnegar, Boston College
Maziar Behrooz, San Francisco State University
Sheila Blair, Boston College and Virginia Commonwealth University
Jonathan Bloom, Boston College and Virginia Commonwealth University
Mehrzad Boroujerdi, Syracuse University
Laurie A. Brand, University of Southern California
L. Carl Brown, Princeton University
Nathan Brown, George Washington University
Daniel Brumberg, Georgetown University
Ian Buruma, Bard College
Charles E. Butterworth, University of Maryland
Houchang-Esfandiar Chehabi, Boston University
Noam Chomsky, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Shahram Chubin, Geneva Centre for Security Policy
Juan R. Cole, University of Michigan
Miriam Cooke, Duke University
Kamran Dadkhah, Northeastern University
Mark Danner, University of California, Berkeley, and Bard College
Natalie Zemon Davis, University of Toronto
Ronald Dworkin, New York University
Sadreddin Elahi, independent scholar
John L. Esposito, Georgetown University
Farideh Farhi, University of Hawaii at Manoa
Ali Ferdowsi, Notre Dame de Namur University
Willem Floor, independent scholar
John Foran, University of California, Santa Barbara
Francis Fukuyama, Johns Hopkins University
Amir Hossein Gandjbakhche, National Institutes of Health
Timothy Garton Ash, Oxford University
Mark Gasiorowski, Louisiana State University
M.R. Ghanoonparvar, University of Texas at Austin
Ahmad Ghoreishi, Naval Postgraduate School
Jürgen Habermas
Fatemeh Haghighatjoo, Harvard University
Sondra Hale, University of California, Los Angeles
Hormoz Hekmat, Editor, Iran-Nameh
Stanley Hoffmann, Harvard University
Kashi Javaherian, Harvard University
Suad Joseph, University of California, Davis
Tony Judt, New York University
Mehran Kamrava, California State University, Northridge
Mehrangiz Kar, Harvard University
Ahmad Karimi-Hakkak, University of Maryland
Farhad Kazemi, New York University
Nikki Keddie, University of California, Los Angeles
Laleh Khalili, SOAS, University of London
Mohammad Mehdi Khorrami, New York University
Dina Rizk Khoury, George Washington University
Azadeh Kian, University of Paris
Hans Küng, University of Tübingen
Charles Kurzman, University of North Carolina
Stephen N. Lambden, Ohio University
Anthony Lewis
Robert J. Lifton, Harvard University
Mark Lilla, University of Chicago
Zachary Lockman, New York University
Margaret MacMillan, Oxford University
Ali Akbar Mahdi, Ohio Wesleyan University
Irshad Manji, European Foundation for Democracy
Lenore G. Martin, Emmanuel College and Harvard University
Rudi Matthee, University of Delaware
Ann Elizabeth Mayer, The Wharton School
Tadeusz Mazowiecki, former prime minister of Poland
Adam Michnik, Editor, Gazeta Wyborcza, Warsaw
Abbas Milani, Stanford University
Farzaneh Milani, University of Virginia
Ziba Mir-Hosseini, SOAS, University of London
Valentine Moghadam, Purdue University
Haideh Moghissi, York University
Roy P. Mottahedeh, Harvard University
Azar Nafisi, Johns Hopkins University
Rasool Nafisi, Strayer University
Vali Nasr, Naval Postgraduate School
Aryeh Neier, Open Society Institute
Farhad Nomani, The American University of Paris
Augustus Richard Norton, Boston University
Saeed Paivandi, University of Paris (VI)
Misagh Parsa, Dartmouth College
Samantha Power, Harvard University
William B. Quandt, University of Virginia
Sholeh A. Quinn, Ohio University
Nasrin Rahimieh, University of California, Irvine
Ali Rahnema, The American University of Paris
Saeed Rahnema, York University
Balakrishnan Rajagopal, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Tariq Ramadan, Oxford University
Eugene Rogan, Oxford University
Elizabeth RubinThe New York Times Magazine
Sharon Stanton Russell, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Robert M. Russell, Tufts University
Ahmad Sadri, Lake Forest College
Mahmoud Sadri, Texas Woman’s University
Tagi Sagafi-nejad, Texas A&M International University
Karim Sadjadpour, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
Ali Schirazi, The Free University of Berlin
May Seikaly, Wayne State University
Avi Shlaim, Oxford University
Sussan Siavoshi, Trinity University
Stephen Spector, Stony Brook University
Ray Takeyh, Council on Foreign Relations
Kamran Talattof, University of Arizona
Richard Tapper, SOAS, University of London
Mohamad Tavakoli-Targhi, University of Toronto
Charles Taylor, Northwestern University
Majid Tehranian, Toda Institute for Global Peace
Mark Tessler, University of Michigan
Mary Ann Tetreault, Trinity University, San Antonio
Nathan ThrallThe Jerusalem Post
Chris Toensing, Editor, Middle East Report
Nayereh Tohidi, California State University, Northridge
A.L. Udovitch, Princeton University
Farzin Vahdat, Vassar College
Sanam Vakil, Johns Hopkins University
Lucette Valensi, École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris
Stephen Van Evera, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Stephen M. Walt, Harvard University
John Waterbury, American University of Beirut
Lawrence Weschler, New York University
Jenny White, Boston University
Judith S. Yaphe, George Washington University
Elisabeth Young-Bruehl
Said Yousef, University of Chicago
Hossein Ziai, University of California, Los Angeles
Marvin Zonis, University of Chicago

This Issue

June 28, 2007