Shaul Bakhash: Md. bank freezes funds of historian over controversy involving his wife
It was a hard enough day for Shaul Bakhash, as he dealt with the ongoing drama surrounding the imprisonment in Iran of his wife, noted American scholar Haleh Esfandiari. Then he found an express letter on the doorstep of his Potomac home yesterday morning announcing that Citibank had frozen his wife's bank accounts on grounds that she is now a "resident" of Iran.
In the letter, Citibank said the accounts had been frozen "in accordance with U.S. Sanctions regulations," which stipulate that U.S. banks are prohibited from servicing accounts for residents of Iran.
So began a stressful process of inquiries and appeals for help -- to the bank, financial contacts, the State Department and the press -- to finally reach a resolution.
Bakhash, a historian at George Mason University, quickly learned that his two Citibank accounts had also been closed, even though he has not visited Iran since 1980. Bakhash and Esfandiari are both U.S. citizens, but Esfandiari has maintained her Iranian passport so she can visit her family in Tehran twice a year. She was on a 10-day visit to see her 93-year-old mother when she was put under virtual house arrest for four months, after which she was jailed in Tehran's Evin Prison on May 8. Iran charged her this week with espionage and endangering national security.
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