A key leader of the 1999 student uprising that shook the Islamist regime in Iran returned to Iran clandestinely this week, and plans to lead a nationwide protest on Thursday.
Roozbeh Farahanipour, 37, was jailed for several months in 1999 for his role in the protests and was tortured extensively. But that hasn’t deterred him from going to back to his homeland.
“These are momentous times,” he told Newsmax shortly before leaving the U.S. for his secret journey to Iran. “After 10 years, I am fulfilling my dream.”
The postelection protests of the past several weeks “have already succeeded in crippling half of the regime,” he said. “They can no longer work together, no longer trust each other. Our job is to help cripple the other half as well.”
If Farahanipour can successfully elude Iran’s secret police, Thursday’s protests will be the first time that a political figure who has gone into exile has ever returned to lead a demonstration against the Islamic regime.
Farahanipour, who founded the Marze Por Gohar (Glorious Frontiers Party) in 1998, wants to see a secular, democratic government emerge from the current turmoil in Iran.
“This Thursday is my demonstration,” he said. “It is not Mousavi’s event. It is the 10th anniversary of the 1999 student uprising.”
Presidential candidate (and former prime minister) Mir Hossein Mousavi is calling on his supporters to hold protests on Thursday, but has been careful to insist that they show support for the Islamic regime and to limit their protests to calls for a new election.
Farahanipour says the time for any pretense of reforming the regime is over. “People are shouting, ‘Death to the Dictator,'” he said. “The regime lost all international credibility. Only 15 countries have sent messages of congratulations to Ahmadinejad after the elections. The first to support him were Hamas and Hezbollah.”
Now is not the time to reassure the regime, but to confront it, he believes.
Already, regime intelligence agents been on the lookout for Farahanipour, and scoured the area near Busheir, where Iran’s nuclear power plant is located, when rumors circulated that he was in the vicinity earlier this week.
Iran's government is using the huge dust storm sweeping across Southwestern Iran as a pretext to shut down government offices and close businesses in Tehran, calling on people to remain in their homes because of health reasons on Thursday, the day of the 10th anniversary of the student uprising.
But while they have declared a public health emergency in Tehran, government radio bulletins hardly mention the storm where it is actually raging, in Khuzestan province.
Protests to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Tehran University uprising will be held throughout the world as well as inside Iran and can be tracked at http://protests.sharearchy.com/.
The 1999 uprising was the first time since the revolution against the Shah 20 years earlier that demonstrations against the regime erupted simultaneously all across the country.
At the time, Farahanipour, who was in Tehran, didn’t know that similar uprisings were occurring in 18 other cities, because the opposition lacked any form of secure communications.
Ten years later, the regime has cracked down on Facebook, Twitter, and cell phones, and is using sophisticated technology purchased from Nokia Siemens Networks in Germany to track dissidents.
But Farahanipour and his supporters believe they have found ways around the system, and told Newsmax they are planning to coordinate protests on Thursday in several cities at once.
“We believe there are hundreds of thousands of people who have taken part in demonstrations in recent weeks who are not Mousavi supporters,” Farahanipour said.
His MPG Party is calling for internationally supervised elections, with candidates allowed to stand without approval of Islamic authorities, and a dismantling of the religious government.
MPG members in the United States said they expected to have live video footage from some of the rallies on Thursday.
Earlier this year, MPG released an explosive report with damning excerpts from classified Iranian government documents showing that the supreme leader had ordered death squads to murder political dissidents more than a decade ago.
See “Iran's Supreme Leader Personally Ordered Death Squads” for more.
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