Akbar Atri

From Powerbase
Jump to: navigation, search

Akbar Atri is a former Iranian student activist.

From 1997 to 2005 he served in the leadership of the Iranian student organization Tahkim Vahdat. He emigrated to the United States at the end of that time.[1]

Atri defended the principle of US backed regime-change in Iran in the Spring 2006 Journal of International Security Affairs, writing:

The Iranian regime is not a reliable and stable government to negotiate with in good faith. The main reason is that its identity, in large part, derives from opposition to the United States. “Dialogue,” therefore, is not only futile; it is construed as a sign of weakness in Tehran.
Regime change is the only answer. The Iranian people are ready to do their part, if the United States and other democratic countries are ready to stand with them.[2]

On March 2, 2006 Atri and Ali Afshari were invited to give a talk on human rights and democracy in Iran at a panel discussion organized by Rick Santorum and Senator Joe Lieberman in U.S. Capitol. The event was sponsored by The Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD)and the Iranian Students for Democracy and Human Rights. The New York Sun reported:

Student opposition movement leaders Akbar Atri and Ali Afshari urged the American Congress and the "international community" to refocus their time and resources on helping the Iranian people bring about democracy, framing Mr. Ahmadinejad's nuclear rhetoric and "warmongering" as a tactic to disguise and dispel internal discontent. "The Iranian government welcomes war," Mr. Afshari said through a translator.[3]

The event prompted hostile comment in Iran. Reformist MP Ahmad Shirzad said "political immaturity and inexperience have led two old companions of the student movement to make a historic mistake which they will certainly find very difficult to amend. I am happy other friends have not fallen into this trap."[4] Journalist Ehsan Mehrabi commented: "Requesting the foreign countries, especially America, to help the Iranian nation is something that none of the reformist groups have resorted to until this moment; even during the times when the reformists were strongly limited. The reformists have always stressed reforms from inside without any foreign help."[5]

On 18 March 2006, Akri spoke at an "Iran Freedom Concert" at Harvard University. The event was controversial within the Iranian community at the university. Two Ph.D students wrote in the Harvard Crimson:

the main guest featured at the Iran Freedom Concert, activist Akbar Atri, strongly endorsed the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq at the event. He had already discredited himself among Iranian reformists earlier this month when he appeared before Congress as a self-appointed representative of the student movement to ask for American support for regime change in Iran.
If the organizers were interested in drawing attention to Iran, perhaps they would have contacted an Iranian student organization. In fact, not a single member of the Harvard Persian Society (primarily undergraduates) or the Harvard Iranian Students Association (HISA) (primarily graduates) was asked to support the concert. Only when a translator was needed did the organizers bother to contact HISA.[6]

Muhammad Sahimi stated in September 2006 that Atri's involvement with US neoconservatives led to his dismissal from Tahkim Vahdat.[7]

In November 2007, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty cited Atri as a defender of US support for Iranian dissidents, a policy opposed by critics such as Trita Pari of the National Iranian American Council, who argued that US money undermined the opposition:

"Iranians have already benefited immeasurably from democracy funding, especially from the Persian-language broadcasts by Voice of America television and Radio Farda ("Tomorrow"), for which a majority of the $75 million at issue now is allocated," Atri, a former dissident student leader who has lived in Washington since 2005, wrote in "The Wall Street Journal" on October 15. "These broadcasts offer news and perspectives to the Iranian public that they would not otherwise have, including news regarding developments inside their own country."[8]

Atri married Mariam Memarsadeghi in October 2009.[9]

Atri is a member of the latest incarnation of Committee on the Present Danger.[10]


External Resources


  1. Mariam Memarsadeghi and Akbar Atri, Iran Issue No. 1, Washington Post, 16 March 2009.
  2. Akbar Atri, The Urge for Democracy, Journal of International Security Affairs, Spring 2006
  3. Meghan Clyne, Congress Outbids Bush On Iran Democracy Aid, New York Sun, 3 March 2006.
  4. Iran press: Reformer deplores activists' trip to US Congress, "Shirzad's criticism of Ali Afshari and Akbar Atri", published by the Iranian newspaper Aftab-e Yazd website on 11 March, BBC Monitoring Middle East - Political, Supplied by BBC Worldwide Monitoring, March 12, 2006 Sunday.
  5. Text of commentary by Ehsan Mehrabi entitled: "Reforms without foreign support" published by Iranian newspaper E'temad-e Melli on 7 March, BBC Monitoring Middle East - Political, Supplied by BBC Worldwide Monitoring, March 11, 2006 Saturday.
  6. Alireza Doostdar and Maryam M. Gharavi, Giving ‘Freedom’ a Bad Name, Harvard Crimson, 22 March 2006.
  7. Muhammad Sahimi, The Neoconservatives' Strategy for Regime Change in Iran: Propaganda, Ethnic Unrest, Godwin's Law, and Finding Iranian Curveball, Ahmad Chalabi, and Iyad Allawi, 7 September 2009.
  8. Breffni O'Rourke, Iran: Dissidents Debate Merits Of U.S. Democracy Aid, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 2 November 2007.
  9. Mariam Memarsadeghi and Akbar Atri, Iran Issue No. 1, Washington Post, 16 March 2009.
  10. Our Team, Committee on the Present Danger], 15 June 2010.