For the latest news on Kian’s detention, please visit http://www.freekian09.org/.
We will continue to update this site and the media page as long as Kian’s situation remains unclear. Recent news includes:
- The terms of Kian’s bail appear to restrict his freedom of movement. He remains in Tehran and we do not know if or when he will be able to travel.
- Ali Shakeri has been released on bail from Evin Prison and is with his family in Tehran. We are very glad he has been freed and hope he will be able to return to the United States if he wishes.
- Columbia University has announced an offer to Kian of a visiting professorship in the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation. We do not know whether or not Kian intends to take up the offer.
Please continue to check here for further information.
OSI has issued a statement about Kian’s release:
NEW YORK— The Open Society Institute is relieved that Dr. Kian Tajbakhsh has been allowed to leave Evin Prison and be reunited with his wife in Tehran.
It is our hope that the ordeal for this distinguished scholar and his family has finally come to a close.
We have just received word that Kian has been released from Evin Prison. He is finally at home with his wife. We will post more information when we have details.
Thank you to all the people who have signed the petition and sent messages of support.
OSI has issued a further statement about the delaying of Kian’s promised release. The statement reads:
NEW YORK—The Open Society Institute calls for the immediate release of Dr. Kian Tajbakhsh, who remains in an Iranian prison despite numerous promises that he was to have been set free by now.
Dr. Tajbakhsh, a renowned Iranian-American scholar, has been detained in the infamous Evin Prison for more than 130 days. He is held in solitary confinement even though the Iranian authorities have announced repeatedly that the investigation has concluded, and that he would be released soon.
We call for an end to this unjust ordeal and demand that Dr. Tajbakhsh be allowed to return to his family immediately, before the imminent birth of his first child.
There has been another wave of media coverage surrounding Parnaz Azima’s release–stories that mention Kian are available on the Media Coverage page.
According to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty,
A social scientist who specializes in urban planning, Tajbakhsh was detained in Tehran along with Esfandiari in May. Like Esfandiari, Tajbakhsh faces charges that include acting against Iran’s national security.
But unlike Esfandiari, Tehran has not allowed Tajbakhsh to be released from prison on bail. Shortly after Esfandiari’s release from Evin prison in August, an Iranian judicial official said Tajbakhsh also would be released on bail soon. But many days have gone by and Tehran still has not determined his bail or provided a date for his release.
As posted here earlier, there have been reports that Kian’s bail was set at roughly $110,000, but apparently the Iranian authorities have made no provisions to allow that bail to be posted.
This week the Daily Star (Lebanon) also published a revised version of Pamela Kilpadi’s op-ed piece about Kian, titled “The Dead Silence About Kian Tajbakhsh.”
Parnaz Azima has been permitted to leave Iran and fly to the United States. According to the Associated Press, the charges against her remain in place and her bail has not been returned.
Kian is still in prison, despite the many statements in the past few weeks indicating that he would be released soon.
Haleh Esfandiari has written an op-ed for the Washington Post telling the story of her imprisonment. She mentioned the books and fruit she exchanged with Kian, and discusses the reasons she believes she was targeted:
The interrogators….took the trouble to explain their concerns about U.S. intentions in Iran — explanations that seemed to reflect Intelligence Ministry thinking.
This is the belief that the Bush administration, entangled in Iraq and Afghanistan, no longer contemplates military action against Iran. Rather, it hopes to encourage a “velvet” revolution, like the peaceful ones that occurred in Georgia and Ukraine. To achieve this end, it uses think tanks, foundations and even universities to organize workshops for Iranian women, to invite Iranian opinion-makers and scholars to conferences and to offer them fellowships. In time, the officials believe, the administration hopes to create a network of like-minded people in Iran who are intent on regime change.
Iranian officials also seem to believe that an alert and vigilant Islamic Republic is successfully foiling — and effectively discouraging the United States from pursuing — this coordinated plan. Over many weeks of questioning and discussion, I tried to convince them that the Wilson Center is not part of any such scheme. I don’t believe I succeeded in that, but I do think that in the end they came to accept that I, at least, was not engaged in any conspiracy.
Nor was Kian–and we hope the Iranian authorities have realized that by now.
Also, the family of Ali Shakeri, the fourth Iranian-American detainee, has broken its silence. This article from The Los Angeles Times provides some information about Shakeri’s case.
Iranian news agencies have reported that a bail of roughly $110,000 has been set for Kian, and that the terms of his bail will bar him from leaving the country without permission from the authorities. No date ofrelease was mentioned in the reports, and Kian remains in Evin Prison.
Yesterday, The Washington Post carried an editorial titled “Left Behind in Iran“:
From the moment Haleh Esfandiari was arrested and imprisoned by the government of Iran in May, her friends in high places in Washington rallied to her defense and demanded that she be released. Most notable among them was former representative Lee H. Hamilton, president of the Smithsonian Institution’s Woodrow Wilson International Center, where Ms. Esfandiari is head of the Middle East program. She is known for championing dialogue between Iran and the United States. The accusation of “crimes against national security” by the Iranian Intelligence Ministry was bogus. She endured solitary confinement, endless hours of interrogation and pressure to confess to a plot to help spark a “velvet revolution” in the theocratic nation.
Ms. Esfandiari was released last month and arrived back at her home in Potomac last week. We celebrate her return and can imagine the relief and joy her family must feel. But our concern remains with the three people who have yet to return. Ali Shakeri, a California businessman, and Kian Tajbakhsh, an Open Society Institute consultant and social scientist, are being held in Evin Prison, where Ms. Esfandiari was jailed. And missing since a March visit to the Iranian duty-free zone of Kish Island is former FBI agent Robert A. Levinson.
Their plight must not be forgotten. Their imprisonment is further evidence that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad isn’t as desirous of the world’s respect as he persistently claims to be. If respect is what he wants, he’ll release Mr. Shakeri and Mr. Tajbakhsh immediately — and he will end the mystery regarding Mr. Levinson’s whereabouts.
Kian was interviewed briefly by a group of reporters allowed to visit Evin Prison, and told them that he expects to be released soon. According to an AP report:
Iranian authorities invited media Tuesday to visit the Evin prison, notorious for conditions in which it holds political prisoners. During the tour, reporters were allowed to briefly speak with Tajbakhsh. Although it is unusual to get inside Evin, the government sometimes organizes visits to such sites.
Tajbakhsh, who wore a gray T-shirt and dark pants, spoke to reporters while standing under a tree in the prison compound. Sporting his usual beard and glasses, he appeared relaxed and spoke mostly in Farsi but also in English when asked questions in English. A prison official stood by his side.
He appeared healthy and said he is held in solitary confinement, but that he has access to television and a private bath.
“I have weekly visits with my wife, and have telephone conversations with her every night,” said Tajbakhsh, 45. He declined to say anything more about his circumstances “until formal charges are raised.”
We are heartened by this news and call on the Iranian authorities to live up to their promises and release Kian immediately.
Dr. Haleh Esfandiari gave a press conference yesterday at the Wilson Center and spoke about her time in Evin Prison. In this NPR story, she mentioned that although she did not see Kian in prison, he was able to send her books:
“We must have shared the same interrogator,” she said. “I saw the interrogator carrying five or six books and my eyes lit up and I said ‘Oh, English books! Whose are these?’ And he said, ‘Mr. Tajbaksh.’”
She said that Tajbaksh started lending her books — passing them through the guards — though she said she never talked to the guards about his case. Tajbaksh’s colleagues at the Open Society Institute say Iranian authorities have indicated he might be released soon on bail.
Today marks the fourth month since Kian’s arrest. He has now been in Evin Prison for 124 days.
The International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, for which Kian serves as a corresponding editor, has written a second letter to the Iranian authorities calling for his release. The full text of the letter is available below the fold.
Chandana Mathur and Dermot Dix, friends of Kian’s, sent this clip filmed at their home in Ireland. In it, they speak about their long friendship with Kian and their dismay at his imprisonment.
Dr. Ira Katznelson, the renowned Ruggles Professor of Political Science and History at Columbia University, served as Kian’s dissertation sponsor and has been a friend and colleague of his since. In this clip, Professor Katznelson speaks about Kian’s “luminous” intelligence, his devotion to academic inquiry, and his moral commitment to the Iranian people.
Rasmia Kirmani, a doctoral candidate at the New School of Social Research, speaks in this clip about her memories of Kian and her hope that he will be released without delay.
The BBC Persian service has a lengthy piece about Kian. A translation is available here at the ICGA blog. The article repeats the suggestion that Kian will be released on bail, but gives no further information about when that will occur:
State television of Iran quoted Hassan Hadad, prosecutor for the national security court in Tehran, reported that the investigation of the special court into Mr. Tajbakhsh is ongoing, and that after completion of the investigation, he will be released on bail.
The article also mentions the state television ”documentary” in which Kian was forced to appear. However, it neglects to point out that Kian and Haleh were filmed in prison and under duress, and that any accounts given of their activities in the extensively edited propaganda film cannot be taken at face value.
The Open Society Institute released a new statement about Kian today. It calls for Kian’s immediate release, and says that Iranian government officials had promised his family that he would be freed by last week:
Dr. Tajbakhsh continues to be held in solitary detention despite claims from the Iranian government that his release is forthcoming. In many public statements, Iranian officials said their investigation had concluded and that Dr. Tajbakhsh would be released. They have assured people close to the case—including family—that he would be freed to be with his wife during the last month of her pregnancy. We are mystified at his continued imprisonment.
It is unconscionable that Iranian authorities continue to hold Dr. Tajbakhsh in light of the release of other Iranian-American detainees. OSI welcomes news that Dr. Haleh Esfandiari was allowed to leave Iran and be reunited with her family.
Dr. Tajbakhsh is a humanitarian and a gifted scholar who has devoted his career to helping the Iranian people and to building bridges between Iran and the international community. As the 120th day of his detention approaches this Friday, we demand that Dr. Tajbakhsh be released so that he can return home to his wife before the birth of their first child.
The full statement can be found here.
Barnett R. Rubin of New York University has an excellent post about the detainees at the Informed Comment: Global Affairs blog. He writes,
According to the New York Times on August 23, a judge told Kian Tajbakhsh’s wife, Bahar Malek, that he would be released in 10 to 15 days (between September 2 and 7) so that he could spend the last month of his wife’s pregnancy with her. But such promises have not been honored in the past.
The Government of Iran created a special section of the Intelligence Ministry to suppress efforts at a “soft revolution” funded by the U.S. At the administration’s request, Congress appropriated $75 million for “democratization” efforts in Iran, which Tehran of course sees as a complement to the administration’s push for regime change. When the intelligence ministry could not find any programs in Iran actually supported by this money (Iranian spies are apparently unaware of how ineffectively and slowly money for such programs is disbursed), they arrested a number of Iranian-Americans, including Esfandiari and Tajbakhsh, who have been openly and legally carrying out activities in Iran with the knowledge and consent of the government for years.
Whatever may or may not be happening in the confrontation between the Ahmadinejad and Bush governments, these people have nothing to do with it, except that they have been working to promote engagement between the two countries for years. We need such people with us now more than ever. Let’s hope that the Iranian government will cease treating these innocent people as hostages to its official relations with the U.S.
Haleh Esfandiari has been allowed to leave Iran and is now recuperating in Austria with her family. We are deeply glad that she is free. The Washington Post carries an account of her imprisonment here. News reports also indicate that Parnaz Azima has been told that she will be allowed to leave Iran.
We are still awaiting Kian’s release from prison. According to the International Herald Tribune:
The other scholar who was arrested with Esfandiari in May, Kian Tajbakhsh, an urban planner with ties to the Open Society Institute of the Soros Foundation, was still being held despite promises of his release to his family.
“There is no news about his release yet,” said his wife, Bahar Malek. “Every time I have asked the judge, he told me in a week, but I am still waiting.”
Today, Judge Hossein Haddad told the Iranian state broadcaster IRIB that Kian would be released on bail when the “investigation” was complete. We have no information on when this might be. There is also no word about the status of the fourth detainee, Ali Shakeri.
In the wake of Haleh Esfandiari’s release, there has been an increase in media coverage about the detainees. Updated links to these stories can be found on the media coverage page.
The Daily Times of Pakistan has published another op-ed by Pamela Kilpadi about Kian’s continued detention. She writes,
There are many things I had hoped to discuss with Kian—about research, books, music—during our reunion in Lahore. I speak for Kian’s scholars in Pakistan and around the world as well as myself when I say that Kian and his family are constantly in our thoughts. Dr. Esfandiari has finally been released on bail. We sincerely hope that Kian will also soon be free.
The full text can be found here.
Today’s Washington Post carried this editorial calling once more for the release of all the detainees:
Let Them Go
Iran should immediately release the U.S. citizens it has detained.
After spending months in solitary confinement in Iran’s infamous Evin prison, Haleh Esfandiari was released on bail on Tuesday.
Ms. Esfandiari, 67, is one of four American citizens being held by Iranian authorities: Parnaz Azima, a correspondent for U.S.-funded Radio Farda, is also out on bail, but like Ms. Esfandiari, she is forbidden to leave the country. Kian Tajbakhsh, an Open Society Institute consultant and social scientist, and Ali Shakeri, a California businessman, remain in prison. Last month Ms. Esfandiari and Mr. Tajbakhsh appeared on an Iranian television show during which it was claimed they had taken part in a U.S.-backed plot to foment a velvet revolution.
A respected academic, head of the Middle East program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and an advocate of dialogue with Iran, Ms. Esfandiari has braved weeks of intensive interrogations about unfounded charges. The exact status of Iranian authorities’ investigation into her alleged “crimes against national security” is unknown, according to her husband, Shaul Bakhash. Mr. Bakhash and other family members and friends said that in her interview with state-run television immediately after her release, Ms. Esfandiari looked tired and thin, and that they hoped she would be allowed to return home to Potomac, Md., for the sake of her mental and physical well-being.
It appears that Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, may have intervened in her case after receiving a letter from former U.S. representative Lee H. Hamilton, president of the Wilson Center and co-chair of the Iraq Study Group. Mr. Hamilton says he made an appeal based on humanitarian grounds and on the good work Ms. Esfandiari has done in promoting peace and understanding between the two countries. Countless other scholars, political figures, students, nongovernmental organizations and others have appealed for her release and the release of the other Americans being held by Tehran.
These passionate appeals from around the world should demonstrate to the Iranian government that if it truly wants the world’s respect, it should immediately drop all charges against these innocent Americans and release them without conditions.
The Open Society Institute has issued a statement on Haleh’s release on bail and Kian’s continuing ordeal. It says:
We welcome the long-overdue release of Dr. Haleh Esfandiari from Evin prison and eagerly expect news that Dr. Kian Tajbakhsh will also be set free. Dr. Tajbakhsh, a distinguished scholar who committed no crime, has now been unjustly imprisoned for more than 100 days. We hope he will soon be reunited with his family, and we remain concerned for his well-being.