D.C. Area Iranians Cast Ballots, Debate Boycott

By Caryle Murphy
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, June 18, 2005

Kaveh Kahen, an Iranian graduate student who lives in Gaithersburg, debated with himself for weeks. Whom should he vote for in Iran's presidential poll? Should he even vote?

Kahen, 27, ultimately joined a slow but steady trickle of Iranians who turned up yesterday at the Iranian Interests Section in Northwest Washington to cast ballots in Iran's ninth presidential election since its 1979 Islamic revolution.

Kahen said he reasoned that an election boycott, which some Iranians had called for, would only please two groups that he did not want to please: Iranian hard-liners and "neo-cons in the United States."

And though his "pragmatic side" favored former president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, Kahen said he eventually opted for his "idealistic side" and voted for reformist candidate Mostafa Moin, a former education minister.

His friend Amir Togha, 36, who teaches math at George Washington University, also rejected the boycott and chose Moin. "When there is a crack in the wall of tyranny," Togha said, "we have to put a crowbar in the crack."

Iranians 16 and older who showed a birth certificate or valid Iranian passport were given a paper ballot that listed the names of the seven presidential candidates. U.S. citizens of Iranian descent also were allowed to vote.

Afterward, they dipped a finger in purple ink and had their document stamped to prevent double-voting.

Official results were not expected until today. If no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote, a runoff will be held between the top two.

Some reformist groups in Iran had called for a vote boycott to protest the involvement of clerics in Iran's political system.

The Bush administration also had criticized the election, noting that Iran's senior clerics barred many reform candidates from running.

About a dozen protesters, carrying signs urging a boycott and wearing surgical masks that said "Freedom of Speech," stood across the street from the Iranian Interests Section on Wisconsin Avenue in Georgetown.

"We are demanding free elections," said Hassan Massali of Potomac, an Iranian who came to this country in 1999.


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