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Who Voted for Ahmadinejad?

13 Jun 2009 04:349 Comments

Photo/David Yaghoobi

By ROBERT DREYFUSS in Tehran | 12 June 2009

I went off in search of Ahmadinejad voters today in Tehran. They are noteasy to find.

It's perfect election weather in Iran, relatively cool today with a nice breeze and clear skies, and at polling station after station, the turnout was huge. I began my day at the 7th Tir Technical School in central Tehran. It is a relatively prosperous, middle-class area, and scores of people were on line this morning, ID cards in hand, waiting patiently to vote. A dozen election officials were milling around, and when they noticed that I was a reporter, out of nowhere appeared a tray with tea. An official checks my press credentials and says, "Welcome."

The people in line were solemn, men and women, some with kids. I do a straw poll, quietly asking voters who they plan to cast their ballots for ,and why, and it's clear that at this station at least, it's Mir Hossein Mousavi country. Tarandeh, 38, a teacher with an M.A. in English, says,"I'm someone who has never ever voted before in the Islamic Republic, not once. I was the first in line today, at 8 am. And the gentleman looked at my voting book and asked me, 'Where are your other votes?' I told him, today is my first." Tarandeh's father was an admiral in the Iranian Navy,and he knows Mousavi from his days as prime minister in the 1980s. "I am sure he will not insult and disrespect the beliefs of others around the world, for instance, by talking about the Holocaust." She notes than Iran has a Jewish minority.

Further north, in the Fereshteh neighborhood of north Tehran, the turnout for Mousavi is overwhelming. Hundreds of people are waiting in line to vote at a mosque and cultural center, men to the left and women to the right. As I walk down the aisle between them, a young woman notices that I am an American reporter. "Vote for Mousavi!" she says. I tell her that I can't vote, but that I voted for Obama. A crowd is gathering. "Obama!" Three or four people applaud. Several of them say, "We like Mousavi!" Few speak English, but they are translating for each other. I say, "Perhaps Mousavi and Obama will meet soon." By now there are thirty or forty people listening to the conversation. All of them break out into cheers and applause. It's a startling, and stunning moment.

Outside, voters are eager to talk. Hessam Omidi, 24, is a student who's only voted once before. "I am here for the future of my country," he says."We have been isolated in the world, lost our connection with the rest of the world." Nasser Hakimi, 70, a doctor, says, "I am here for Mousavi, because I don't like Ahmadinejad. Actually I don't care about Mousavi, I just want Ahmadinejad out." He says virtually everyone in the neighborhood is for Mousavi, except for a handful who won't vote at all. "Mousavi can talk to Obama, and he can negotiate a compromise on Iran's nuclear program." His wife, Elly, a yoga instructor, nods her head. "We are not cattle or cows or sheep to follow orders. We live in an ancient country with a proud history." She says that nearly all women in Iran are sick of the current situation, and lowering her voice, she adds, "If Ahmadinejad wins, I predict there will be another revolution."

Last night, worried about exactly that prospect, the commander of Iran'sRevolutionary Guards issued a stern warning that the security forces will not tolerate a "Green Revolution" if Mousavi loses and his supporters refuse to accept the results.

Finding few, if any supporters of the president, I head west to the Narmak area of Tehran, well known as Ahmadinejad's neighborhood, because he lived there for years. Unlike the previous places I visited, this is a run-down working class area. But it's still hard to find a supporter of Ahmadinejad, surprisingly. "Ahmadinejad did not fulfill his promises,"says Milad Saki, 22, a student with spiky hair.

Faraz Khaveri, 25, whoworks in a publishing house nearby, says, "This is the neighborhood ofAhmadinejad, but there is massive support for Mousavi here." Mohammad Reza, 22, a student at Sadr University in T ehran, says, "The situation in Iran is critical. And all Ahmadinejad talks about is Israel!"

On the sidewalk outside, I approach a group of conservatively dressedwomen in black chadors, expecting that perhaps -- unlike the women incolorful scarves -- they might be backers of the president. "Mousavi or Ahmadinejad?" I ask, to the group of six or eight women. I am stunned, again. "Mousavi! Mousavi!" they all say, laughing and smiling. One pulls out a hidden green armband.

Again, a crowd is gathering around me, and soon two dozen people have assembled. "We are waiting for someone to revive and rebuild this country!" says someone. "We want freedom!" says another. "Freedom of speech." A woman looks at me. "And stop the hijab police!" referring to the notorious dress-code cops who prowl Tehran. Suddenly they are all talking at once. "Ahmadinejad is a liar!"

Still looking for Ahmadinejad backers, I head to south Tehran, the president's reputed stronghold. The first polling place I visit, at the Sangy Mosque, under twin towering minarets tiled in blue, white, and gold, is decidedly Ahmadinejad territory. The officials are grim and unfriendly. Guards armed with machine guns stand outside, though no such guards appeared at the other polling places I've visited. They scowl at my credentials, and tell me I can't interview voters. But in fact there are few voters to be found. Compared to the other places, where hundreds of people waited in long lines, here there are no more than half a dozen people.

A few blocks away, at another mosque, still deep in poverty-stricken south Tehran, the officials are more welcoming. About three dozen people are waiting in line. I approach Reza Zarei, 37, a taxi driver, who introduces me to his entire family: wife, brother-in-law, father-in-law, various cousins. I've approached him because he has the appearance of an Ahmadinejad guy, with a beard, conservative clothing, and a wife in fullblack chador. But no. "We are all Mousavi!" he says, and his relatives nod and smile in agreement. "Just like the Americans voted for Obama, we aregoing for Mousavi," he says.

Nearby, a young man tells me, "You are not going to find anyone forAhmadinejad here." His friend, Hamid Ghadyani, agrees. "In this area it's maybe 50-50," he says, then corrects himself. "Well, most are for Mousavi, and the rest are for Karroubi." Mehdi Karroubi is the other reformist candidate, who has pledged to support Mousavi if he wins. "We are not going to vote for Ahmadinejad. The way he deals with other countries is not what we expect in a president. He is too aggressive. The policy of Islam is peace."

I tried.

Copyright (c) 2009 The Nation -- distributed by Agence Global

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As an Iranian, I am puzzled by this report. Many of my friends are pro-Ahmadinejad. It's true that Ahmadinejad's supporters are shyer than Mousavi supporters, they fear being ridiculed by others. They also may be more conservative to reach out to an American journalist. Perhaps this was the reason you didn't find any Ahmadinejad supporter.

And don't forget the rural areas and small cities.

Mohammad / June 13, 2009 11:38 AM


azira / June 13, 2009 12:09 PM

Its quite simple 64% of a voters DO NOT riot in streets if they have won an election, its a massive outrage AND HAS BEEN STOLEN and I hope the Iranian people get their rightful freedom - my very best to wishes and good luck to them

David / June 13, 2009 3:05 PM

This country needs fundamental changes and Ahmadinejad is the best person to bring down the regime by creating hatered in and out of Iran, and showing the truth behind the rotten fundamendtalist dictatorship that is governing people. 8 years under Khatami resulted in a moderate opening and crossing red lines, but at a huge cost.

We need someone who people hate, and this is the only situation in which people will come out in millions, believe in themselves and can bring down the dictatorship.

Bijan / June 13, 2009 5:38 PM

Azira, with all due respect, the people in Iran don't have a choice whether or not to be pro-Islam. This religion has been forced the people and is a disgrace for human rights. Particularly for women.

Who voted for AhmadiByeBye? The undereducated, the rural working class who can't seem to understand that he doesn't actually care about them, the religious fanatics.

The youth, the educated, the liberated people who accept human rights and the 21st century, the people who should lead the future are on the brink of starting another revolution. Let's hope they learned from the mistakes of 1979.

We can't go back to the times of Mossadegh but it needs to get a lot better for the people of Iran.

Religion should be a choice. And Islam IS NOT the original religion of the Persian people. For thousands of years in Persia people of different religions were aloud to practice what they believed and now they are controlled by Mullahs who only believe in tyranny and oppression.

I wish I could flick them off with a twirl of my seductive hair.

I am so angry right now I could scream.

Persian Non-Muslim / June 13, 2009 8:51 PM

Persian Non-Muslim, I'm very supportive of your words.

"For thousands of years in Persia people of different religions were aloud to practice what they believed and now they are controlled by Mullahs who only believe in tyranny and oppression".

"Religion should be a choice."

That is so true. May the people of Iran choose a better future for themselves. May they choose the Freedom.

Gennady / June 15, 2009 11:08 AM

Is this serious???

My entire family is behind Ahmedinejad- we live in Dibaji, it is PURE AHMEDINEJAD country, and smack in the middle of North Tehran.

I voted in Payeen Shahr, on khiaboone Iran- Everyone I voted with voted for Ahmedinejad, and anytime outside I flashed a v for Mousavi sign all I got in return were stern looks.

Most of Iran supports Ahmedinejad- why is this hard to believe??

I was a supporter of Mousavi- I worked on his campaign- but I have not seen one shred of evidence of fraud. The results line up with independent polls taken beforehand, in fact. Here, tell the author to send me an email and I can get him an interview with MANY, MANY fans of Ahmedinejad. Unbelievable that this is taken seriously, just to promote an anti-regime agenda.

To be clear- I am against the regime- but Ahmedinejad won fairly.

Reza Kh / June 16, 2009 10:56 AM

its true you didint see any one who voted for ahmadinejad, bcoz as mohammd said people who voted for ahmadinejad are shy, they are ashamed of a dictator, dishonest persson like ahmadinejad, they are ahamed of voting a person who betraied 40 million of people's votes, person who is a killer and kills young old men women child anyone he can. they are ashamed to say they voted ahmadinejad bcoz they sold their votes, they recieved money to vote for him. they are ashamed to say they vote for ahmadinejad bcoz they, themselves do not believe that a dictator person like him can be president again.

farideh / June 18, 2009 8:07 AM

mohammad who says that all people in rural area and small towns voted for ahmadinejad? who? you are saying this, mohammad and all people who think like you not for ahmadinejad or mousavi but sympathy for people who were likeyour brothers and sisters who died in protest just to say that they are doubious about the result, if ahmadinejad is the real woner he will win again, then why dont they accept to do the election again?ha? if they strongly believe ahmajinejad didnt betraied people's votes. why they shut downs sites, phones text message? why? why they easily kill and arrest people? why? is this the democracy that your perfect honest peresident ahmadinejad have always claimed?

farideh / June 18, 2009 8:21 AM