Washington, DC, May 25, 2007—PEN American Center has expressed alarm over the arrests of two prominent international scholars in Tehran.   

On Wednesday, PEN American Center sent a letter to Iranian authorities protesting the arrest and detention of Kian Tajbakhsh, a social scientist and urban planner who holds dual U.S. and Iranian citizenship. Mr. Tajbakhsh, who is a senior research fellow at the New School in New York and who has worked on projects with the World Bank and Open Society Institute, was arrested at his home in Tehran on or about May 11, 2007. He is being detained in Evin prison, a facility notorious for its documented cases of torture and mistreatment of political prisoners. The letter follows a similar letter the week before in response to the jailing of Haleh Esfandiari, Director of the Middle East program for the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and also a dual U.S. and Iranian citizen. Ms. Esfandiari was prevented from returning to the U.S. after visiting her mother in Tehran in December and was arrested without warrant or explanation on May 8, 2007 and transferred to Evin prison. There are reports that at least two other dual-citizen Iranians have been detained, interrogated, and prevented from leaving Iran in recent months, Parnaz Azima, a journalist for Radio Farda, and Mehrnoushe Solouki, a French-Iranian journalism student.

 “We are deeply troubled by these arrests, which appear to target colleagues who have been devoted to promoting a peaceful exchange of information and ideas between Iran and the world,” said Larry Siems, Director of Freedom to Write and International Programs at PEN American Center. “Not only are such exchanges protected under international law, they are also essential to promoting mutual understanding and respect between nations and cultures. We believe the arrests of Mr. Tajbakhsh and Ms. Esfandiari are clear violations of their internationally guaranteed rights to freedom of expression and due process. We fear for their safety and well-being in detention, and we are seeking the support of organizations and governments around the world in pressing for their immediate and unconditional release.”

>> Learn more about Kian Tajbakhsh
>> Learn more about Haleh Esfandiari

Please take a moment this week to add your name to petitions on behalf of these two Iranian-American scholars who have been imprisoned in Iran. 

Petition campaigns have been set up for each of our colleagues:

>> Sign the petition for Kian Tajbakhsh
>> Sign the petition for Haleh Esfandiari

Larry Siems, (212) 334-1660 ext. 105