The Middle East Studies Association of North America, which has 2,700 members worldwide, has written to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad warning that the detention of scholars has triggered "grave concern" and that Esfandiari's imprisonment has sent a "chilling message to scholars throughout the world." Esfandiari is director of Middle East programs at the Smithsonian's Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.
The siege of the US embassy in 1979 was OK for MESA. Hanging homosexuals, raping women, Holocaust denial conferences, all of these are unimportant and no cause for concern, and neither are threats to destroy America. But the jailing of a MESA member triggers "grave concern." If the homosexuals who were hanged, and those who are "detained" now had been members of MESA, or if the women who were raped and killed had been MESA members, it would no doubt have been a different matter. Of course, no MESA members died in the Holocaust, so they are not worried about that either.