Friday, September 14, 2007

Haleh Esfandiari Speaks to Gwen Ifill on the NewsHour

Haleh Esfandiari, the director of the Middle East program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, was released after 105 days in Evin Prison (known as "Evin University," because of the large number of intellectuals who have graduated). She spoke last night to Gwen Ifill of the NewsHour. Watch the video or read the transcript here.

On why she was arrested:

To this day, I really don't know why I was arrested. But having talked to these -- having been interrogated for almost eight months by people from the ministry of intelligence, I can explain what they believe in.

They believe that the United States is now entangled in Iraq and elsewhere. Therefore, it will not contemplate a military attack on Iran, but it is planning a Velvet Revolution. And the instruments for this Velvet Revolution, like the Ukraine or Georgia, are American and European foundations and think-tanks. And I think they thought that the Wilson Center was also involved in this program.

On her treatment:
I was treated in prison with utmost respect. And I think the reason was that I always kept a barrier between myself and the interrogator. And I was always very polite to them. And they were, as a result, very polite to me.
On contact with other prisoners:
I knew that Mr. [Kian] Tajbakhsh, who is still -- both are still in prison -- was there, because one day the interrogator was carrying five, six English books. And as my eyes lit up, and I said, "Oh, English books." I said, "Who's are they?" And he said, "These belong to Mr. Tajbakhsh." And I said, "Could you ask him whether I can borrow some from him?"

So then, at night, one of the female guards -- because, in the women's ward or quarter, we had female guards -- she brought me two books, and this was the beginning of borrowing books from Mr. Tajbakhsh. And on one occasion, I sent him some fruit with the permission of the prison authorities.
On why she was released:
I think my release came mainly because the President of the Wilson Center, Lee Hamilton, wrote a letter to the [Supreme] Leader [Ayatollah Khamene'i]. And I have not seen the text of the letter because it was confidential. And the Leader reacted to the letter positively and probably ordered my release.


Nell said...

The only other Iranian prisoner whose experience I've read about was the Canadian reporter who was tortured to death.

Ms. Esfandiari's experience seems to have been different in almost every way conceivable.

So forgive my ignorance, but...

She was held in solitary confinement, but could talk on the phone to her mother almost every other day.

She was given a large room, (apparently not typical for prisoners at Evin)? She apparently exercised while in the cell, so was not given access to the outdoors.

The only 'furniture' was the eight blankets, which served as bed, bookcase, and 'steps' for exercise.

I'm assuming that the prison allows some supplies/gifts from outside to reach prisoners -- hence the fruit that she was able to share with Mr. Tajbakhsh. (And the books that he received and was allowed to share with her.)

Is this experience typical for political prisoners, wildly atypical, or...?

Anonymous said...

I attended Ms. Esfandiari's first press conference at the Wilson Center. It struck me as odd that she appeared to be very protective of the Iranian government. She emphasized that she was treated with “utmost respect” and she bears “no grudges.” The members of the press did not pay much attention to her “positive” attitude. They were just happy that she was back!!

ramparts said...

I'd strongly recommend that readers ask the question:
Considering the various "colored revolutions" which we've seen in the former Soviet Republics of Georgia, Ukaine, Belorusse, and Lebanon, which seemingly have been at the heart of the deep rift between Putin and Bush, if I were an Iranian, I'd be curious about why Ms. Esfandiari suddenly showed up in Iran.
Also, published an article several years ago on the CIA "coup d'etat machine," which formed the cadre for these colored revolutions. That means, a trained cadre within the nations cited above, who were in the streets, with peaceful protests.
President Bush signed a Presidential intelligence finding sanctioning destabilization efforts against Iran. That even, reportedly, including arming internal groups in Iran who would attack Iranian forces inside their own country.
Ms. Esfandiari should unequivocably state she is not providing information to anyone who she believes is a C.I.A. handler. I don't believe she was just randomly arrested. I suspect she was engaged in meetings with Iranians inside Iran who might constitute officials willing to work with antti-Ahmadenijad forces.

Nell said...

I'd be curious about why Ms. Esfandiari suddenly showed up in Iran.

How's this? To visit her 93-year-old mother.

She didn't "suddenly" show up in Iran. She's a dual national, who has been back and forth to Iran for years.

mistah charley, ph.d. said...

I'm very glad that Ms. Esfandiari has been released, and that she reports she was treated well in captivity.

And, on the other hand, I think it very probable that the Iranian government is correct in the opinion she attributes to them, that

"the United planning a Velvet Revolution. And the instruments for this Velvet Revolution, like the Ukraine or Georgia, are American and European foundations and think-tanks. And I think they thought that the Wilson Center was also involved in this program."

I firmly hope that the Iranian government is correct in predicting the future in the part I have excised in the previous paragraph: that the subversion of the Iranian status quo by these "velvet" means will continue, and that there will NOT be a military attack on Iran.

We'll see.

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