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.