My Prison, My Home: One Woman's Story of Captivity in Iran

Article excerpt

My Prison, My Home: One Woman's Story of Captivity in Iran. By HalehEsfandiari. New York: Ecco, 2009. 240 pp. $25.99.

Repressive regimes rule by fear. Yet these very regimes are among the most fearful. Hence, in the paranoid mind of Iran's security apparatus, Esfandiari, a 67-year-old Iranian-American grandmother and director of the Middle East Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, became acentral figure inanallegedU.S. and Zionist plot to overthrow the Iranian regime, despite her advocacy of dialogue with the Islamic Republic.

My Prison, My Home is Esfandiari's account of an 8-month ordeal that started with a staged robbery against her as she was on her way to the airport on December 30, 2006. Her robbers turned out to be security officials, who took her passports and then, when she went to the police station, subjected her to repeated interrogations, eventually taking her to Evin prison where she was held for 105 days. In her narrative, Esfandiari intertwines her own life story with the history of U. S.-Iran relations. Her love for her country of birth and a desire to see a better Iran shines through her writing.

Esfandiari's descriptions of her interrogations offer a valuable glimpse into the uninformed and often skewed reality of Iranian intelligence groups. For example, they assumed that blank wrapping paper, found during a raid in the apartment of Esfandiari's mother where Esfandiari was staying, must have liad invisible ink writing on it: "I laughed, despite the gravity of the situation," she writes.

Esfandiari withstood her ordeal with grace, never admitting any guilt. In the end, through a barrage of international coverage, enough pressure was put on the Iranian regime to free her. …