Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Letter-writing campaign to free Haleh Esfandiari

This follows up my post on Monday about the arrest of Haleh Esfandiari in Tehran:
The prominent Iranian-American academic Haleh Esfandiari, head of the Middle East Program at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington DC, was arrested without charge in December 2006 when she went to Tehran on a family visit. Since then she has been held under house arrest and repeatedly interrogated.

On May 8, the Iranian government escalated an already serious situation by putting Esfandiari in "Tehran’s notorious Evin prison, where Human Rights Watch has documented cases of torture and detainee abuse."
The Iranian government's persecution of Esfandiari is beginning to provoke international concern and condemnation. A new website, Free Haleh!, usefully collects news coverage and other information about the Esfandiari case and responses to it.
The “Free Haleh” campaign has been initiated by the American Islamic Congress in conjunction with the Ibn Khaldun Center in Cairo, the Initiative for Inclusive Security in Washington, and the Kuwaiti Economic Society.
One of the items on Free Haleh! is a report that Shirin Ebadi, the Iranian lawyer and human-rights activist who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003, has agreed to represent Esfandiari.

=> This website has also initiated an on-line Letter-Writing Campaign to Iranian officials calling for Esfandiari to be released from prison and allowed to leave Iran.

(You can simply sign and send their sample letter--which is carefully non-confrontational in tone, but unambiguous in its call for Esfandiari to be freed--or modify it to your own taste before sending it. If you want to customize it, the Human Rights Watch statement is a useful source to check for details.)

=> As they note, you can also e-mail a letter from the Amnesty International website to protest Esfandiari's imprisonment along with the recent arrests of a number of Iranian women's-rights activists. And an on-line petition is being circulated by Scholars for Peace in the Middle East.

To add your voice to this appeal, follow one (or more) of the links below.

--Jeff Weintraub
Letter-Writing Campaign Launched (Free Haleh!)
May 14, 2007

We have now launched a letter-writing campaign calling for the release of Dr. Esfandiari from Evin Prison. It is easy for you to join in. Simply go to the letter-writing site, edit the draft letter to Iranian government officials, and submit the text. Our system will deliver your letter and add your name to a list of people petitioning Iranian authorities.

The purpose of the letter/petition campaign is to deliver individual messages and to demonstrate an outpouring of grassroots support. Already, over 850 people have sent letters. Join the campaign - send a letter for Haleh.

UPDATED: Amnesty International has a site where you can print out a letter to send to Iranian officials about Haleh’s case.

Also, Scholars for Peace in the Middle East previously launched a petition appeal with the goal of obtaining 5,000 signatures. Follow the link to participate.