On the eve of the Iranian presidential elections, people are pouring into the streets of Tehran in support of the reformist opposition candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi. Mousavi is the leading candidate opposing incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and this election promises to be a close one. Should Mousavi win, it would be the first time in the history of the Islamic Republic that an incumbent failed to win a second term. But people are comparing this election to a revolution, and the enthusiasm around Mousavi has extended far beyond Iran's borders. Even Iranian-Americans are trying to get in on the action. That is, we're trying to vote.
Finding out how and where to vote in the U.S., however, is no easy task. Even dual citizens born in the U.S., such as myself, can vote. All you need is a valid Iranian passport. And of course, you need to find out where to go. It's not exactly something you can do at your local courthouse or elementary school.
You can call and ask the Iranian embassy in Washington, D.C., tucked away in a nondescript corner of the Pakistani embassy, but you won't get much help. After nearly a half-hour waiting on hold to speak with an actual human being there, I was finally directed to an effectively useless Website that was supposed to tell me where my closest voting station was. While I found out what I already knew — that there is a spot to vote in Atlanta — I couldn't find an address for the life of me.
So, I started calling all the local Persian haunts: restaurants, groceries, even the Persian Community Center. There was no word at the restaurants, although one waiter told me I could vote in Iran. I left a message at the community center but have yet to hear back. When I asked my parents where I could vote, they told me that there was a place in Columbus — that's Ohio, not Georgia.
At last, my friend's dad sent out a mass e-mail late last night with the subject "Voting in U.S. for Iranian Election." He included an attachment with a list of East Coast voting stations, and I finally found an address nearby — purportedly at a local Comfort Inn. After a laugh and a sigh, I spent the rest of the evening rummaging through files to locate my Iranian passport, only to find amid all my excitement that it was expired! So, sadly, it looks like I won't be voting this time around.
Still, I'm not entirely disheartened. In a way, I feel like I've already voted in Iran — that is, by voting for Barack Obama here, a man with the middle name of a revered Shiite martyr and a little melanin to boot. If Mousavi, my pick and that of much of my generation, does in fact win, it will have as much to do with Obama as it will with Mousavi. Without a George W. Bush on this side of the Atlantic, Ahmadinejad's rhetoric and defiance of the US government is far less appealing. And Barack Hossein Obama may be able to live up to the promise of his name among many Iranians the world over, a blessing.
By Melody Moezzi
While Iranians are a highly politically savvy lot, getting them to do more than merely talk politics is a near-herculean task. The combination of cynicism from a revolution gone bad and fear of a potentially oppressive and retaliatory government is an unlikely formula for public displays of political activism.
So, the high voter turnout and involvement in the recent presidential election represents a serious political message and achievement by the Iranian people. The enthusiasm around this election, though disguised as an overwhelming public support of the opposition reformist candidate, Mir Hossein Mousavi, had very little to do with the candidate himself. Mousavi, in fact, is a far-from-inspiring and charismatic figure. Quite honestly, he's downright boring. But his choice to involve his wife, artist and political scientist Zahra Rahnavard, in his election campaign along with his stellar timing sparked a fire in the hearts and minds of many Iranians.
Despite the huge voter turnout, with some estimates as high as 80%, holding an election is by no means the best way to get Iranians to show up en masse. Rather, the tried and true number-one means of getting high Iranian turnout anywhere is by throwing a hopping party.
Growing up amid a sizable Iranian-American diaspora in Ohio of all places and having visited my homeland on many occasions, I can assure you, Iranians throw parties like those of no other community I have yet to come across. And I have come across my fair share.
So, how did we get so many people to take part in this election? You guessed it: by turning the whole thing into one big party. High-energy music, dancing, mind-altering substances (ranging from kick-ass kabob to alcohol to even MDMA) and dressing to impress -- for cameras and peers alike -- are all stalwarts of your standard hip young Iranian party. But taking to the streets in Iran (or Ohio for that matter) isn't exactly our typical style. To take to the streets, we need some serious incentive. And the potential for positive change in our beloved homeland, the longing to regain the respect we crave and deserve, as well as the opportunity to whoop it up on an international stage has given us the nerve to take our parties public.Regardless of the winner, the Iranian people have spoken, and I highly doubt that we'll be shutting up any time soon. The outpouring into the streets of Tehran, Shiraz and other large cities throughout the country was a call for recognition. As members of Iran's baby-boomer generation such as myself start entering our 30s, we are sending a loud and clear message to our leaders: we've grown up, we're sick of your empty promises, and we've learned how to mobilize in true Iranian style. We all know that the actual power in Iran lies in the hands of the Ayatullah and the mullahs, and beyond that, we also know that their version of Islam is about as inaccurate and twisted as the KKK's version of Christianity. We have wised up. We're no longer asking for secular democracy: We're demanding it.
In my own words, you go gurl!