My Prison, My Home: One Woman's Story of Captivity in Iran
Haleh Esfandiari, Middle East Program Director,
Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
The Residences at The Ritz-Carlton

Washington, DC—On the evening of October 14th, author Haleh Esfandiari spoke to WFPG at the home of WFPG Board Chair Maxine Isaacs. Esfandiari, Middle East Program Director at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, spoke about her 2007 detainment and the 105 days she spent in solitary confinement as political prisoner in Tehran’s Evin Prison.

Esfandiari described what happened on her usual holiday trip to Tehran to visit her mother. On her return to the airport to fly back to America, her car was forced off the road and her passport and airline tickets were taken. She quickly realized that this was no routine screening procedure. The Iranian intelligence ministry demanded details of her work with the Wilson Center, misunderstanding the role of think tanks in the American political structure. The regime believed Esfandiari to be the mastermind behind a push for a velvet revolution, a Bush Administration plot to overthrow the Iranian government.

Unsatisfied with her answers, she was sent to prison and spent months in solitary confinement, sleeping on the floor with constant light and increasing interrogations. During her four months in solitary confinement, her only human contacts were guards, interrogators and the occasional prison doctor. Esfandiari talked about the pilates exercises she did to remain sharp enough to avoid a forced coercion. She also wrote two books in her head – a biography of her grandfather and a fairy tale for her granddaughters. Meanwhile, her husband and other supporters in the U.S., including WFPG, mounted a campaign for her release.

During the Q&A Haleh responded to questions about Iran’s relationship with its Middle Eastern neighbors, and the treatment of women in Iran. She also discussed U.S. relations with Iran, the recent protests, and the mentality of the Iran government. She concluded by emphasizing her support for engaging Iran directly.



Author Haleh Esfandiari

WFPG Board Chair Maxine Isaacs and
WFPG President Patricia Ellis


WFPG Board Member Isabel Jasinowski

Haleh Esfandiari with Ambassador of
Trinidad and Tobago Glenda Morean Philip

WFPG President Patricia Ellis
introduces Haleh Esfandiari


WFPG Board member Susan Rappaport speaks with guests

Esfandiari with WFPG Board member Mary
Catherine Toker and Ambassador of
Bahrain Houda Nonoo

Amb. Nonoo during Q/A

WFPG Board member Donna Constantinople (right)

WFPG Board member Dawn Calabia
with her husband Tino