Foundation for Defense of Democracies to host talk on Iran

By Will Vail

Akbar Atri, a former member of the central committee of the Iranian Student Union, will be speaking at a pizza dinner and discussion this Wednesday at the Newberger Hillel Center. The Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), a non-partisan, nonprofit Washington think tank, will host the event.

Atri, who staunchly supports a referendum that would allow Iranians to choose their government, will talk about his former life in Iran. Atri was beaten and imprisoned by the religious police, who saw him as a threat because of his call for a democratic Iranian government, a free press, and no limitations on who can run for office. Having escaped, Atri has since traveled the world in hopes of building support for a referendum for a new democratic Iran.

Since the election of current President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and American suspicion of a nascent nuclear weapons program, the state of Iran’s government has become a controversial issue around the world. The nation’s oscillations between radical Islam and secular democracy have been closely followed, worrying and giving hope to many in the Middle East and abroad.

The Foundation “seeks to educate members of [the] University of Chicago and others in the United States of the potential for democracy,” said Joshua Steinman, a fourth-year in the College and co-organizer for the event. He added that such changes could “in turn, nonviolently prevent terrorism.”