Shaul Bakhash: Now Tom Friedman takes up the case of his wife, the imprisoned Iran scholar

Historians in the News

[Shaul Bakhash is a historian at George Mason University. He is married to Haleh Esfandiari, the American citizen and the director of the Middle Eastern program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington who has been charged by Iran with undermining the regime.]

... Yes, big, tough President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad — the man who shows us how tough he is by declaring the Holocaust a myth — had his goons arrest Haleh Esfandiari, a 67-year-old scholar, grandmother and dual Iranian-U.S. citizen, while she was visiting her 93-year-old mother in Tehran. Do you know how paranoid you have to be to think that a 67-year-old grandmother visiting her 93-year-old mother can bring down your regime? Now that is insecure.

It’s also shameful. Haleh directs the Middle East program of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington. She went to Iran in December to visit her aging mother — a trip she’s made regularly for the past decade. According to her husband, Shaul Bakhash, himself a renowned Iran expert in the U.S., while Haleh was traveling to the Tehran airport on Dec. 30, to return home, she was stopped by three masked, knife-wielding men — Iran’s Intelligence Ministry always needs three men and three knives when confronting a grandmother — and they stole her belongings and her U.S. and Iranian passports.

This was followed by six weeks of intermittent questioning by Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence. Then, on May 7, Haleh was arrested. Yesterday, she was formally charged with “endangering national security through propaganda against the system and espionage for foreigners,” an Iranian spokesman said — apparently because of her work organizing academic conferences of Iranian and U.S. experts....
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