The incarceration of Haleh Esfandiari, director of the Middle East program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and a great Persianist, in the really Lubyanka-like prison of Evin in Tehran has not attracted much attention. And, to be frank, the ayatollahs will not easily be moved. They know that the pleas of people like Juan Cole, who did not become a professor at Yale, and Zachary Lockman, a schutzjude who was permitted to become head of the Middle Studies Association, are circumscribed by the fact that these academics are really fans of the regime...or at least fans of how the regime is cornering the U.S. and threatening Israel.
In a strangely titled commentary about this case, "They got the wrong woman," (published, among other places, in Middle East Times) Martin Walker, editor emeritus of UPI, has evoked something of the spirit of modern Iran under fanatic Islamic rule and something of the scholarly and ironic spirit of this detained exile.
He also makes a telling point about Lee Hamilton, and how this arrest makes hash of his view of the world. Walker writes:
Ironically, the director of the Wilson Center is former congressman Lee Hamilton, an ex-chairman of the House International Relations Committee and the co-author of last year's Baker-Hamilton report that proposed that the way to help extricate the United States from its difficulties in Iraq would be to open a dialogue with Iraq's neighbors, like Iran. This reporter has no doubt that Hamilton's views on the need to open a dialogue with Tehran were strongly shaped by our mutual colleague, Haleh.
Her continued detention is an outrage against scholarship, an outrage against human decency, and an affront to the great tradition of Persian civilization that Haleh so proudly and profoundly represents.
Like all my colleagues at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, I hope to see this splendid woman again, very soon.