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Haleh Esfandiari

(Iran – United States)

Dr. Haleh Esfandiari, the former and founding Director of the Middle East Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, is a Public Policy Fellow at the Wilson Center. She 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. Dr. Esfandiari was a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars from 1995 to 1996.

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.

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 in May 2008. Her other awards include: a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation grant (1997); the Special American Red Cross Award (2008); the Women’s Equality Award from the National Council of Women’s Organizations (2008); and Miss Hall’s School Woman of Distinction Award (2009). In December 2008, she became one of three first annual recipients of the Project on Middle East Democracy’s “Leader for Democracy” award.

Dr. Esfandiari received her Ph.D. from the University of Vienna. She is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. Dr. Esfandiari serves on the Board of the Peace Research Endowment and on the board of advisors for the Project on Middle East Democracy. She was featured in Parade magazine (May 2008), in O, the Oprah Winfrey magazine (November 2008), and in Vogue magazine (August 2009).