Wilson Center Experts
Haleh Esfandiari, the Director of the Middle East Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, has had a rich and varied career. In her native Iran, she was a journalist, served as deputy secretary general of the Women's Organization of Iran, and was the deputy director of a cultural foundation where she was responsible for the activities of several museums and art and cultural centers. She taught Persian language at Oxford University and, prior to coming to the Wilson Center, from 1980 to 1994, she taught Persian language, contemporary Persian literature, and courses on the women's movement in Iran at Princeton University.
Haleh Esfandiari is the author of My Prison, My Home: One Woman's Story of Captivity in Iran (September 2009), Reconstructed Lives: Women and Iran's Islamic Revolution (1997), editor of Iranian Women: Past, Present and Future (1977), co-author of Best Practices: Progressive Family Laws in Muslim Countries, the co-editor of The Economic Dimensions of Middle Eastern History (1990) and also of the of the multi-volume memoirs of the famed Iranian scholar, Ghassem Ghani.
Her articles have appeared in essay collections in a number of books as well as in Foreign Policy, Journal of Democracy, Princeton Papers in Near Eastern Studies, New Republic, Wilson Quarterly, Chronicle of Higher Education and Middle East Review. Her Op-Ed pieces include “Held in My Homeland” (September 2007) and “Tehran's Self-Fulfilling Paranoia” (August 2009) in the Washington Post and "U.S. Hikers and Iran's Maze" (October 2010) in the Los Angeles Times. She has also written for blogs and websites such as the New York Review of Books Blog with “Iran’s Harshest Sentence for an Innocent Scholar” (October 2009), “Iran’s Women of War” (January 2010), “Iran’s Interrupted Lives” (September 2010), and “Iran’s State of Fear” (March 2011), as well as “Why Iran Freed Roxana Saberi” (May 2009) in the Daily Beast, “Misreading Tehran: The Real Impact of the Elections” (June 2010) in Foreign Policy, “Iran: The State of Fear” (April 2011) in the New York Review of Books, and “The End of Illusion” in the blog of the New Republic (October 2011).
Haleh Esfandiari is the first recipient of a yearly award established in her name, the Haleh Esfandiari Award; this award was presented to her by a group of businesswomen and activists from countries across the Middle East and North Africa region on the occasion of a conference sponsored by the Wilson Center - Women Entrepreneurs: Business and Legal Reform in the MENA Region - held in Amman, Jordan on May 20-22, 2008. She is also the recipient of the Special American Red Cross Award (2008), an honorary degree from Georgetown University Law Center (2008), the Women's Equality Award from the National Council of Women's Organizations (2008), Miss Hall's School Woman of Distinction Award (April 2009), a recipient of a MacArthur Foundation grant and was a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars from 1995 to 1996.
Dr. Esfandiari is a member of the board for the Peace Research Endowment and on the board of advisors for the Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED). In December 2008, she became one of three first annual recipients of POMED’s “Leader for Democracy” award. She was featured in Parade magazine (May 2008), in O, the Oprah Winfrey magazine (November 2008), and in Vogue magazine (August 2009). Her memoir, My Prison, My Home, based on Esfandiari's solitary confinement in Tehran's Evin Prison, was published in September 2009 by Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins. The paperback edition was released in October 2010.
Ph.D., University of Vienna
Recipient of a MacArthur Foundation Grant
- My Prison, My Home: One Woman's Story of Captivity in Iran (Ecco, 2009; paperback 2010)
- “Tehran's Self-Fulfilling Paranoia” (August 2009) in the Washington Post
- “Iran’s Harshest Sentence for an Innocent Scholar” (October 2009); “Iran’s Women of War” (January 2010); and “Iran’s Interrupted Lives” (September 2010) in NYRblog
- “Misreading Tehran: The Real Impact of the Elections” (June 2010) in Foreign Policy
- "U.S. Hikers and Iran's Maze" (October 2010) in the Los Angeles Times
- “Iran: The State of Fear” (April 2011) in the New York Review of Books