LOS ANGELES — With their passports in tow, Iranian-Americans and expatriates trickled into polling sites across the United States on Friday, joining their countrymen half a world away in voting in Iran’s presidential election.
By midday in Los Angeles, there was no sign of the line that formed at the same location during Iran’s last election in 2009, when record numbers of Iranians voted in 41 locations throughout the U.S.
About 40 people gathered in a Westin hotel conference room, dipped their fingers in ink and voted for a candidate to succeed President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
As they tossed their paper ballots into a box and grabbed a cookie on their way out, many declined to share their thoughts on Iran’s future out of fear of reprisals.
But to vocal expatriates, the act of voting for president was a means of showing their support for democracy in Iran. For some, it was a way to come to terms with the violence and unrest that broke out four years ago.
Golnar K. was a student at the University of Tehran when the Green Movement riots began after Ahmadinejad’s re-election. She declined to give her last name because she is barred from going home to Iran. She said her participation in anti-government protests has landed her on government lists that would send her to jail.
On Friday, the Westlake Village woman was dressed head-to-toe in green, the color of 2009’s reform movement. She was brought to tears as she recalled her friends’ arrests, protesters’ deaths at the hands of military police, and what she believes was a rigged election.
Golnar said she voted for the moderate candidate, Hassan Rowhani, alongside her mother and aunt.
“They may cheat again,” she said, switching between English and Farsi. “But if I know that my vote even has one-thousandth of an impact and I didn’t do anything, I would never forgive myself.”