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 Rubin, The 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 Thrall, The 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

A letter on the related case of Dr. Kian Tajbakhsh

This Issue

June 28, 2007