Iranian-American Haleh Esfandyari, who was detained last December on charges of harming Iran’s national security, was allowed to leave Tehran early this morning. Esfandyari flew to Austria, where she was to be met by her husband, Shaul Bakhash, a George Mason University historian. “I’m elated that Haleh has been freed to come back home,” Bakhash said in a telephone interview from Vienna before she arrived.
Yet, the legal status of Esfandyari, who directs Middle East programs at the Smithsonian’s Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, remains unclear. “As far as I know, she was not told whether there are any conditions attached to her release,” said Bakhash.
Iranian officials said in May that she was charged with “crimes against national security” and trying to foment a “velvet revolution,” a reference to the nonviolent upheavals that ousted communism in Eastern Europe.
In two one-hour documentaries this summer, Iranian television broadcast parts of Esfandyari’s confessions, where she admitted that she played a role in a US plot for starting a velvet revolution in Iran.
On Aug. 21, Esfandyari was released after more than 100 days in prison. She was not immediately allowed to leave Iran, however, and the bail, which was the deed to her mother’s home, is still in government hands.
Esfandyari called her husband Saturday morning to report that she had been given an Iranian passport, Bakhash said. She then had to wait a day to get a visa for Austria, where her sister lives. She will rest in Europe before returning to her Potomac home, her husband said. The family is not saying when she will return to the United States.