Iranians in Bay Area head to polling center

June 12, 2009 11:53:33 AM PDT
President Obama is pleased with the news that Iranian voters are going to the polls in record numbers on Friday, in a presidential election that could dramatically affect their country's direction.

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"Whoever wins the election in Iran, the fact that there has been a robust debate, hopefully this will help us engage with them in new ways," said President Obama.

There is a widespread youth driven movement in Iran for change, as voters choose between President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or Mir Hossein Mousavi, who wants reforms and better ties with the U.S..

Many Iranians in the Bay Area are voting at the Hilton Garden Inn in Emeryville, which is one of 29 polling places across the country for Iranians who want to vote. Volunteers at the Emeryville polling place say turnout is big and enthusiastic.

"This is a day that we can contribute to the future of our country. I think that no matter where we live we shouldn't forget about where we are from," said Iranian voter Hamid Kargaran.

Iranians in the Bay Area are choosing among several candidates who are offering different views. The best known in the U.S. is current President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has kept tense relations with the U.S. and Israel and presided over Iran's nuclear program. Challengers include former prime minister Mir Hossein Mousavi, a reformer, who many believe will seek a moderate relationship with the west.

The choice has voters coming out in droves in Iran; the voting has already been extended twice because of crowd size.

In the Bay Area, many voters ABC7 talked with are looking for a change from Ahmadinejad.

"Personally I feel like we haven't done much in the past four years that's good for the country. So I would like to see a change," said Iranian voter Morteza Zarrabian.

"People were dealing with the previous president for the past four years and now they are looking for more changes. So I think this is a good opportunity for all of us," said Iranian voter Soraya Hejazi.

"For every single country, even here in the U.S., people voted for change. It means that people have different desires and I personally voted for change," said Kargaran.

Not everybody is anti-Ahmadinejad. A young man at the Emeryville polling center said Ahmadinejad made the west pay attention to Iran even if his methods were unorthodox. Even that voter was considering voting for the other candidate.

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