May 21, 2007
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
Dear President Ahmadinejad:
The American Association of University Professors, which for more than ninety years has been the foremost organization in the United States defending principles of academic freedom, is alarmed by reports that Dr. Haleh Esfandiari, director of the Middle East Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C., was arrested in Tehran on May 8 on grounds that she is being investigated for "crimes against national security." Dr. Esfandiari is a dual citizen of the United States and Iran and a frequent visitor to Iran. Her arrest was reportedly preceded by her being questioned at length over several months by Iranian intelligence officials about the activities and programs of the Wilson Center's Middle East programs.
This Association cannot but view Dr. Esfandiari's arrest as inimical to internationally accepted principles of the free pursuit of knowledge. We reject the premise that displeasure with what scholars write about government policies or with scholarly projects with which they are associated are appropriate bases for their being detained, questioned, and arrested by government authorities.
We urge that Dr. Esfandiari be released from prison immediately and that she be allowed to return to her academic work in the United States, consistent with the traditional freedom of the Iranian academic community and with principles of academic freedom that are essential to independent scholarly endeavors around the world.
cc: Lee H. Hamilton, Director, Woodrow Wilson International Center for
Professor Zachary Lockman, President, Middle East Studies