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 — five years, with eight months in solitary confinement. But ask Amir about his state of mind following his harrowing experience and he shrugs:
They broke my wrist, my knee, a 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. policymakers regarding Iran.
With mentoring from Richard Perle — former assistant secretary of defense (1981-1987) and currently resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute — and with 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 IFI, a Washington, D.C., think tank, looks to inform and educate American policymakers and the public in general regarding 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. Davoodi is a teacher and writer currently in an Iranian prison (he has been held for six years, with nine remaining on his sentence). In 1994, while in medical school (he subsequently graduated from law school), Fakhravar helped establish 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 6,200 students.
The Confederation of Iranian Students should not be confused with the Islamic Republic’s student organization, cautions Fakhravar. The latter was created by the mullah regime, paid for by them, and run by them.
One of the CIS goals is to bring down the Islamic Republic dictatorship. “We have a three-step plan,” he says. First is to 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.