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On the morning of December 30, 2006, sixty-seven year old Esfandiari, grandmother of two, bade an emotional goodbye to her ninety-three year old mother as the taxi driver arrived to take her to the airport following her yearly Christmas visit. But what was normally a routine drive quickly turned into a nightmare when her taxi was forced off the road and her passports and airline tickets then stolen.  Distressed that she could not leave the country, she returned to the safe comfort of her mother’s apartment. She was later instructed to report to the ominous-sounding Ministry of Intelligence and Security for Interrogation. What ensued was a Kafkaesque journey through the paranoid and repressive Iranian bureaucracy that left Esfandiari a prisoner in her native country for months.

Esfandiari soon recognized the gravity of her situation, as the Iranian security apparatus tightened its grip on her. Under surveillance, Esfandiari was ordered to report to the Intelligence Ministry for a daily interrogation by Ja’fari, an intimidating government functionary who demanded details of Esfandiari’s work with the Woodrow Wilson Center. The Intelligence Ministry believed her scholarly work for the Center—organizing academic conferences on Iran—is a cover for a plot to overthrow the Iranian regime by the U.S. government.

Never satisfied by her answers, the Intelligence Ministry became more aggressive, searching her mother’s apartment, putting her through weeks of interrogation until finally she is arrested and taken to Evin Prison. Spending months in solitary confinement, sleeping on the floor and enduring escalating interrogations, she was forced to do a national television interview in which her words were twisted into state propaganda. She feared a show trial that could mean official sentencing and life in prison. Meanwhile, her husband and colleagues from the Center mounted an enormous campaign for her freedom, hiring Shirin Ebadi, Iranian lawyer and winner of the Nobel Peace prize, to lead her case.

At once a gripping account of human resilience in the face of a repressive autocratic regime, a personal memoir of growing up in Iran under Mossadegh and Mohammed Reza Shah, and an on-the-ground history of relations between the U.S. and Iran under four presidents, MY PRISON, MY HOME is an evocative and powerful memoir of how high-stakes international relations can drastically transform an individual’s life.


My Prison My Home cover








By Haleh Esfandiari
Ecco Press


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