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haleh-esfandiariHaleh Esfandiari, founder and director of the Middle East Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, will give the Distinguished Global Security Lecture on Monday, April 21, at the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy.

Free and open to the public, her talk—”Iran: Defender or Disrupter of Regional Security?”—will begin at 5:30 p.m. in the Toyota Auditorium at the Baker Center, 1640 Cumberland Avenue.

Esfandiari is an Iranian scholar and journalist who focuses on gender equality, women’s rights, and the Middle East and North Africa.

Born and raised in Iran, Esfandiari came to the United States in 1980 with her husband and daughter in the aftermath of the Iranian revolution. She has a doctorate from the University of Vienna, and she holds dual US-Iranian citizenship.

Esfandiari was a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center from 1995 to 1996 before founding the center’s Middle East Program in 1997.

Her most recent book is based on her time spent in an Iranian prison in 2007 and titled My Prison, My Home: One Woman’s Story of Captivity in Iran.

Esfandiari’s prison ordeal began in 2006, when she was visiting her ailing ninety-three-year-old mother. Returning to the airport, she was accosted by three knife wielding men who threatened to kill her and stole her baggage and her US and Iranian passports. When she applied for new travel documents so she could leave the country, she was interrogated at length by Iranian intelligence officers about her work at the Wilson Center. In May 2007, after refusing to confess to having taken part in antigovernment activities, she was arrested and taken to Tehran’s Evin Prison.

The director of the Wilson Center, former US Representative Lee H. Hamilton, campaigned for her release. He was aided by the US State Department and host of US government officials, politicians, academicians and others.

On August 21, 2007, Esfandiari was released on $333,000 bail after her mother handed over the deed to her Tehran apartment. Esfandiari’s passport was returned and she left Iran a few days later.

Prior to her work at the Woodrow Wilson Center, Esfandiari taught Persian language, contemporary Persian literature, and courses on the women’s movement in Iran at Princeton University. She also taught at the Institute for Mass Communication in Tehran and at Oxford University. She served as deputy secretary general of the Women’s Organization of Iran.

Her writing has appeared in numerous journals and newspapers, including Foreign Policy, the Journal of Democracy, New Republic, and the New York Times.

An award established in her name, the Haleh Esfandiari Award, was presented to Esfandiari by a group of businesswomen and activists from countries across the Middle East and North Africa region. She also has received a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation grant.

The Baker Center is a nonpartisan institute devoted to education and research concerning public policy and civic engagement. For more information, visit the Baker Center website.

MEDIA AVAILABILITY: Haleh Esfandiari will have brief media availability at 5:00 p.m. in the Baker Center.

C O N T A C T S :

Nissa Dahlin-Brown, Baker Center, (865-974-8681,

Amy Blakely (865-974-5034,