In the current issue of The New York Review of Books there is a public letter calling for Haleh Esfandiari’s release, signed by over a hundred prominent intellectuals, writers, and Middle East experts. Because Kian’s case did not become public until after Haleh’s, his name was not included in this appeal, but in the same issue the NYRB published the following letter from Aryeh Neier, President of the Open Society Institute:
To the Editors:
On May 11, a few days after the detention in Tehran of Haleh Esfandiari (see the letter on page 8 of this issue, calling for her release), another Iranian-American scholar, Kian Tajbakhsh, was also detained. On May 29, Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence charged both with endangering Iranian national security and espionage. The charges have no merit.
Dr. Tajbakhsh is an urban planning and urban policy expert who received his Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1993 and taught at the New School in New York from 1994 to 2001. He has been a consultant for the Open Society Institute in Iran for the past three years, focusing on public health —particularly, treatment for Iran’s vast number of users of injected drugs—humanitarian assistance, and urban planning. Dr. Tajbakhsh has also served as a consultant for a Dutch urban planning group, for the World Bank, and for several Iranian government organizations.
We know little about Dr. Tajbakhsh’s treatment in detention. As I write, nearly three weeks after his arrest, he has not seen a lawyer or family members. Though he may make one-minute phone calls to his wife, what they say is obviously monitored and she is understandably reluctant to repeat what he says as the only thread that keeps them in contact could be cut easily.
In seeking the release of Dr. Tajbakhsh, the Open Society Institute is eager to see that his case does not heighten tensions between Iran and the West. That would undermine Dr. Tajbakhsh’s efforts to promote a peaceful resolution of differences by his engagement in scholarly and humanitarian projects that involve collaboration between Iranians and Westerners.
Open Society Institute
New York City