U.S. Congress Passes Resolutions Calling for Immediate Release of Iranian Americans
Washington, D.C. - The U.S. House of Representatives yesterday unanimously passed a resolution introduced by Representative Chris Van Hollen (D-8th/MD) calling for the immediate and unconditional release of dual Iranian American citizens Dr. Haleh Esfandiari, Ms. Parnaz Azima, Mr. Kian Tajbakhsh, Mr. Ali Shakeri, and fifth unnamed individual. The resolution calls on the government of Iran to replace their travel documents, cease its harassment, and permit them to leave the country.
A similar resolution calling for release of Esfandiari was unanimously adopted by the U.S. Senate on May 24, 2007. Senators Gordon Smith (R-OR) and Hillary Clinton (D-NY) joined a resolution introduced by Senators Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and Benjamin Cardin (D-MD) calling on the Iranian government to drop all charges against Dr. Haleh Esfandiari and immediately release her from prison.
Haleh Esfandiari, who is a resident of the state of Maryland and the Director of the Middle East Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, was arrested in Tehran on May 8th after being barred from leaving Iran. Esfandiari traveled to Iran in December to visit her ailing 93 year old mother.
Parnaz Azima, a journalist for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, also had her passport confiscated by Iranian authorities. Like Esfandiari, Azima returned to Iran a few months ago to visit her ailing mother. Azima has posted a $440,000 bond and is being held under house arrest pending filing of charges.
On May 11th, agents of the Ministry of Information arrested Iranian American scholar Kian Tajbakhsh. Tajbakhsh is a social scientist and urban planner who has worked as a consultant in the areas of local government reform, urban planning and social policy, and has taught at universities in the U.S. and Iran.
On May 31st, the State Department announced that California businessman Ali Shakeri, who holds dual citizenship in the United States and Iran, had been arrested approximately ten days earlier. Mr. Shakeri serves on the board of University of California at Irvine’s Center for Citizen Peacebuilding, a research institution that seeks to promote reconciliation and sustainable peace in areas of international conflict.
A fifth Iranian American has also been reported to be detained. At the request of her family, the State Department has agreed not to identify her by name.