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Iran charges New School faculty member with spying, propaganda

Source: The Villager
By Albert Amateau
New School faculty members are calling for support in convincing the Iranian government to free their colleague Kian Tajbakhsh, a social scientist and urban planner, whose arrest was announced May 22.

Tajbakhsh, 45, is one of three prominent Iranian-Americans who have been living in Iran and who are charged with “endangering national security through propaganda against the system and espionage for foreigners.”

He taught urban policy and politics as an assistant professor at The New School from 1994 until 2001 and became a research fellow at the school in 2002. He moved to Tehran in 2003 and completed a three-year study of local government in Iran last year.

“He moved because he was passionate about Iran and wanted to contribute to the country,” said his friend, Arien Mack, a professor in the graduate faculty of The New School and editor of Social Research, a scholarly journal. “He is a lovely man, a good man. He was studying Iranian music — he made a choice to do his work there. This is such a travesty,” said Mack.

Bob Kerrey, New School president, has issued a statement denouncing the charges and joining the plea for the release of Tajbakhsh. Social Research has posted a petition for his release on its Web site, and another Web site site,, is also seeking signatures on a petition for his release.

Tajbakhsh worked for the Open Society Institute, which issued a statement saying the charges against him are completely without merit and that none of the institute’s work in Iran is funded or initiated by the U.S. government. Tajbakhsh also worked for the Association of Netherlands Municipalities and was a consultant for the World Bank. He also taught urban sociology at Allameh University in Tehran.

The Iranian government has also arrested Haleh Esfandari, director of the Middle East Program at the Smithsonian Institutue’s Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C. She had been under house arrest in Tehran since December. Parnaz Azima, an Iranian-American journalist who went to Tehran in January to see her ailing mother, has also been detained.