Amir Abbas Fakhravar, 35, is a “graduate” of the infamous Evin prison in Tehran. His friendly and youthful exterior hides a painful period of torture and isolation for five years – including 8 months in solitary confinement. When you ask Amir about his state of mind following his harrowing experience, he shrugs his shoulders saying “they broke my wrist, my knee, and few bones, but never broke my spirit.”
Fakhravar arrived in the U.S. four years ago and found no coherent voices speaking for the Iranian opposition movement. “I thought that the Iranian opposition had an organization here, but nothing existed in 2006.” And when he gathered some of the opposition figures, he quickly learned that they had little information about the real situation in Iran. Even more dismaying, according to Fakhravar, was the ignorance of U.S. policy makers regarding Iran.
With mentoring from Richard Perle, former Assistant Secretary of Defense in the Reagan administration (1981-1987), and currently a Resident Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and critical help from Philadelphia’s Craig Snider, who has dedicated himself to fight for freedom and democracy for the Iranian people, Fakhravar established the Iranian Freedom Institute (IFI).
The Iranian Freedom Institute – a Washington DC based think tank, has set its goal to inform and educate American policy-makers, and the public in general, on the real state-of-affairs inside Iran. Utilizing the latest technology, the IFI hopes to influence U.S. policy towards Iran, and simultaneously, educate the freedom-loving people of Iran who are living under a brutal dictatorship.
Affiliated with the IFI is the Confederation of Iranian Students (CIS) – created by Fakhravar and Arzhang Davoodi, a teacher, writer and the co- founder of Confederation of Iranian Students (who also spent six years in Islamic Republic jails and still has nine more years to serve). Earlier in 1994 while he was in medical school (he subsequently graduated from law school), Fakhravar helped in establishing the Independent Student movement in Tehran. Fakhravar and Davoodi proceeded to form the nucleus of an independent worldwide student organization. In 2002 they organized a student conference and three-years later, they launched CIS, which today has a membership of 6200 students.
The Confederation of Iranian Students should not be confused with the Islamic Republic’s student organization cautions Fakhravar, which was created by the mullah regime, paid for by them, and run by them, according to Fakhravar.
One of the CIS’s goals is to bring down the Islamic Republic dictatorship according to Fakhravar. “We have a three step plan,” he says. 1. Show the Iranian people and the world that the ruling Iranian regime is not democratic but rather a brutal dictatorship. “We have already succeeded on that part of the plan,” Fakhravar added.
The second goal is to “cut the lifeline of the mullahs in power” by pushing for a worldwide embargo on Iranian oil. The $83 billion Iran earns from its oil sales is the only revenue that enables the Islamic Republic of Iran to pay for the nuclear program and provide the Revolutionary guards (RG) – the regime’s praetorian guards- with high incomes, which in turn insures their loyalty to the regime.
According to Fakhravar “if the regime fails to pay the RG salaries – which are three times the average, the RG, who have long lost their revolutionary fervor and have gotten used to the ‘good life,’ are more than likely to abandon the regime.”
Oil revenue is also used by the Islamic Republic to fund Hezbollah and Hamas operations against Israel, to subvert the Sunni-Arab Gulf regimes and, to build cells in Latin America. “Our aim is to request that the governments of the U.S. and Canada impose sanctions on North American and European companies who buy oil from the Iranian regime,” Fakhravar stated. He added, “We also plan to present such proposals to the G-8 and the G-20 to place sanctions on their respective companies.”
The third part of the plan, as Fakhravar sees it, is to build a free, democratic, and secular Iran. “We need in addition to our existing website to set up Internet, satellite TV, and radio stations in order to educate the Iranian people inside of Iran, and the opposition parties outside of Iran. “
According to Fakhravar, the Iranian opposition groups “are confused and they don’t know what they want.” He quickly added, “We wrote a manifesto or call it a constitution for a new Iran.” Fakhravar recruited lawyers from the Green movement as well as a number of judges to draft a new constitution for Iran.
The Green Movement in Iran brought 4.5 million demonstrators into the streets of Tehran last June and Fakhravar is confident that the people of Iran, especially the younger generation, want a change. He reminds those he speaks with that, “The Iranian people have been repressed for over 30 years, and they want freedom.” Many of the young people in Iran are turned off by Islam as a result of the corruption and abuses by the Islamic regime. In Iranian schools, Shiite-Islam is presented as superior to all other religions and they are taught that killing Jews, who are presented as sub-humans, is permitted. Fakhravar has no doubt that the Khamenei/Ahmadinejad regime would test a nuclear bomb on Israel.
Iran is, however, a nation of young people. 70% of Iranians are under the age of 35 and these young people respect Israel and love America. In recent demonstrations the young protesters used posters with a modification of the regime’s slogans – instead of “Down with Israel,” they crossed out the word Israel and replaced it with Russia.
During last year’s demonstrations in Tehran following the sham elections which gave Ahmadinejad a second term as President of Iran, the Green Youth shouted “Obama, are you with them (the regime) or with us.” Obama’s decision to continue to negotiate with the Khamenei/Ahmadinejad Islamic regime gave this evil regime legitimacy, according to Fakhravar.
Asked about where he sees Iran in five years, Fakhravar replied, “We will have a free, democratic and secular Iran. It will be a friend of Israel and an ally of the U.S. ”