Success Story: Iranian-American Detainees Released
By Payam Sadri
Throughout the spring and summer, Amnesty International USA lent its grassroots force to an international campaign to free four Iranian- Americans, Haleh Esfandiari, Dr. Kian Tajbakhsh, Parnaz Azima and Ali Shakeri, who were detained in Iran and charged with vague security- related crimes. AIUSA issued Urgent Actions and Web actions on their behalf and organized a June 27 vigil at the United Nations that drew some 150 people and media coverage. AIUSA’s Freedom Writers network, a 3,000-strong group of dedicated letter writers, took up the case, and thousands took action online. A constant stream of letters made its way across the globe, and during August and September, the Iranian government released all four.
Tajbakhsh, a scholar who consults for the Open Society Institute, endured 131days in solitary confinement. He was released after his family posted bail worth 1 billion rials, or almost $110,000. Reunited with his pregnant wife, he remains in Iran, where he could still face charges that would result in severe punishment. Parnaz Azima, a journalist with Radio Farda, the Persian-language service run jointly by Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty and Voice of America, was permitted to leave Iran on Sept. 18. Shakeri, a peace activist, was released and returned to his home in California in mid-October.
Esfandiari, director of the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Middle East Program, left Iran on Sept. 2, more than eight months after she was detained, interrogated and jailed. Iran’s government still holds the deed to her mother’s apartment, which her mother posted as bail.
AI continues to campaign to end human rights abuses in Iran, such as the persecution of human rights defenders and executions of child offenders and political prisoners.