Haleh Esfandiari is the Director of the Middle East Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Dr. Esfandiari taught Persian language and contemporary Persian literature, as well as courses on the women's movement in Iran, at Princeton University from 1980 to 1994. Prior to Princeton, she served as deputy secretary general of the Women's Organization of Iran, where she was also the deputy director of a cultural foundation for which she was responsible for the activities of several museums and art and cultural centers. In Iran she also worked as a journalist and taught at the College of Mass Communication in Tehran. She has also taught Persian language at Oxford University.
Dr. Esfandiari is the author of Reconstructed Lives: Women and Iran's Islamic Revolution; editor of Iranian Women: Past, Present and Future; and co-editor of The Economic Dimensions of Middle Eastern History and of the multi-volume memoirs of the famed Iranian scholar, Ghassem Ghani. Among her other writings are chapters in In the Eye of the Storm: Women in Post-Revolutionary Iran; Iran at the Crossroads; Middle Eastern Women on the Move;, and Islam and Democracy in the Middle East. Her articles have also appeared in Foreign Policy, Journal of Democracy, Princeton Papers in Near Eastern Studies, the New Republic, and Middle East Review. Her article "The Woman Question" appeared in the Spring 2004 edition of the Wilson Quarterly. She is the co-author of Best Practices: Progressive Family Laws in Muslim Countries, a Woodrow Wilson Center and RAND Corporation publication. She is the author of "Held in My Homeland" in the Sept. 16, 2007, Outlook section of The Washington Post, and co-author of "Why 'Soft' Power in Iran Is Counterproductive," in the Oct. 8, 2007 issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education.
Dr. Esfandiari has edited the proceedings of conferences sponsored by the Middle East Program that she directs, including: "Women in Central Asia: A Turn of the Century Assessment" (2001), "Symposium on Palestinian Refugees" (2001), "Intellectual Change and the New Generation of Iranian Intellectuals" (2001), "An Assessment of the Iranian Presidential Elections" (2002), "Women, Muslim Laws, and Human Rights in Nigeria" (2003), "Post-Khatami Iran" (2004), "The Status of Women in the Middle East" (2005), "A Troubled Triangle: Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan" (2005), "Building a New Iraq: Ensuring Women's Rights" (2005), "Iran After the June 2005 Presidential Election"(2005), "A View from the Region: Different Perspectives on Israel's War with Lebanon's Hizbullah" (2006), and "Regional Strategies for Empowering Women" (2006). Dr. Esfandiari is the recipient of a MacArthur Foundation grant and was a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars from 1995 to 1996. She is the first recipient (2008) of an award named in her honor for her work in promoting dialogue and understanding between cultures in the U.S. and the Middle East, as well as for her efforts on behalf of women's rights and issues in the Middle East.