Experts say that Esfandiari and the other jailed Iranian-Americans have become hostages to Iran's paranoia about the U.S. administration's recent program to promote democracy in Iran. Tehran has since cracked down on human rights advocates, labor and women's groups inside the country.
As director of the Mideast Program at the Woodrow Wilson Center (which receives no government money) Esfandiari brought many scholars from Tehran to speak in the United States and offer a range of opinions on Iran. The irony is that in Washington, she was sometimes criticized for giving a platform to people who were supporters of the Iranian government. By subjecting her to this appalling treatment, the Iranian authorities are persecuting an advocate for diplomacy, moderation and dialogue.
I feel terrible about the fate of my friend, to the point of feeling guilty about my own free and privileged life in a civilized, democratic country. I think of her lying on the hard floor of an airless cell, facing interrogation, probably torture, having to draw on all her reserves of moral and physical courage. I pray for her release, knowing this must all be taking a terrible toll on her small body.
If you share my concern about Haleh Esfandiari, there is an online petition for her, which is being sent to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and to Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Log on to http://www.freehaleh.org/ It could help.