Striving for over two decades to make political strides in his homeland, Iranian political activist Roozbeh Farahanipour will have a chance to play out his political ambitions in Westwood, a region of west Los Angeles, which boasts the largest enclave of Iranians outside of Iran.
Farahanipour, founder of the Iranian political party Marze Por Gohar, or Iranians for a Secular Republic, was one of 19 elected in a late June election to the neighborhood council in Westwood. The area is also known as Tehrangeles, or Little Persia; it has a high concentration of Iranian American residents and business owners.
Currently a resident and business owner in Westwood, Farahanipour escaped Iran in 1999 after being convicted of participating in the organization of the Tehran University uprisings. As a result, he was incarcerated in the notorious Towhid Prison.
Gaining political asylum in the U.S., Farahanipour arrived in Los Angeles, and immediately began his activism from a distance. He left a large constituency of political party members in Iran, and thus maintained ties and communication with like-minded Iranians. In Iran, he helped organize local protests, boycotts, and launched a number of newsworthy campaigns.
Here in Westwood, he has attempted to build a strong following among Iranian Americans through political activism and community service. He has testified in the California State Senate in favor of divestment from Iran. He has helped unite the Los Angeles community for large-scale demonstrations. Years ago he even chartered an airplane from Los Angeles, taking members of the community to protest against Iran’s human rights violations in front of the United Nations. Most important, he says, has been his commitment to remain a staunch and devoted Iranian political activist.
“Serving in local politics will allow me to give back to this diverse community made up of Iranians and many other cultures,” said Farahanipour, who owns Delphi, a Greek restaurant in the middle of Westwood Boulevard.
Still not an American citizen, Farahanipour has dreams of going back to Iran and continuing his political goals once the current regime is overthrown. Revolution is inevitable, according to Farahanipour, whose political party is working to bring down the Islamic regime, and replace it with a secular republic.
In the meantime, he cannot return to his homeland. Although, in the midst of the demonstrations in Iran this year, Farahanipour illegally slipped back into the country after ten years to help organize protests marking the anniversary of the 1999 uprising.
While he patiently awaits the political plot in Iran to unfold, he is using his time in Los Angeles to build up his political party, and more recently, his resume.
“Although I never imagined myself entering into local politics, it will help me gain important political experience,” he said, referring to his long-term goal of toppling the Islamic Republic.
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