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Daughter of Released Iranian Scholar Speaks Out

AFP/Getty Images
Iranian-American scholar Haleh Esfandiari spent months in an Iranian prison amid accusations that she had plans to undermine the government there.

Haleh Esfandiari is preparing to come home. The Iranian-American scholar was recently released after a dramatic ordeal that made world headlines.

It began in 2006 when Esfandiari traveled to Iran to visit her elderly mother. Once there, the grandmother of two was prevented from leaving the country and returning to the United States. Officials claimed Esfandiari was harboring plans to undermine the Iranian government. More specifically, she stood accused of involvement in a plot "against the sovereignty of the country." The accusations eventually led to her imprisonment.

In distress, family and friends of the Maryland woman refused to allow details of her detention to escape the public consciousness. Soon, Esfandiari's situation could be seen on the evening news, and read about on Internet blogs.


Haleh Bakhash, Esfandiari's daughter, recently learned of her mother's release. Word came that she would be allowed to leave Iran for Austria, and soon return to the United States to be reunited with loved ones.

After Haleh Esfandiari spent more than 100 days in prison and gained global media attention, there are still unanswered questions as to just why she was detained.

"We still aren't sure why this happened," Bakhash says.

Bakhash believes that her mother's role as Director of the Middle East program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars was likely misunderstood.

According to her daughter, Esfandiari is now safe in Austria with her husband. They are expected to return to the U.S. within days.


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