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Iranian-Americans keep tabs on election aftermath from afar

  • Story Highlights
  • Iranian-Americans in California hungry for updates about homeland
  • Mass protests erupt following Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's presidential victory
  • Many rely on Internet, word-of-mouth about news in Iran
By Paul Vercammen and Kara Finnstrom
CNN
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(CNN) -- In a hat store on trendy Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles, California, Ariane Azarpira and her daughter Samira searched for cyberspace clues to the well-being of friends and family in Iran.

The snippets came from Tehran to Los Angeles via Twitter, Facebook and instant messages.

"Regular clothed people have attacked men and women, young and old," reads a message. "Many have been injured. Many are dead."

The Azapiras are just two of an estimated million Iranian-Americans living in Southern California, from San Diego to Santa Barbara and mainly in Los Angeles. The mother and daughter scoured the Internet for information from Iran, after protests that erupted in the streets following the disputed election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad over challenger Mir Hossein Moussavi.

"It's really painful right now," Ariane told CNN. "Because I see they (people in Iran) are trying hard for us to hear their voices.

"I'm so proud of these young people," Ariane added. "Everything is shut down and they are giving us information through Yahoo!" Video Watch how Iranian-Americans hear about news from homeland »

Ariane, who left Iran shortly before the 1979 revolution, has been protesting against the Islamic Regime for almost three decades. She's still an Iranian citizen and did not vote in the election because she said she wanted an entirely new regime.

Samira, 20, said she thinks Moussavi might be a good first step toward a more moderate regime.

"He's been promising freedom of religion, more freedoms," she said. "He even mentioned that he wants women to be able to walk around without their headscarves." iReport.com: Are you in Iran? Share your story

Across town in the studio of Iranian radio station KIRN, Dr. Farhang Holakouee devoted his entire two-hour show to the Iranian elections and the subsequent protests. The phone banks lit up with listeners from Southern California wanting to express their views in their native language, Farsi.

"They are emotional," Holakouee said. "They would like to ask some questions. It (the election) is an important issue to them and they're concerned."

Holakouee has a Ph.D. in sociology, several Masters degrees and founded the Beverly Hills Center for Well-Being. The former professor at the University of Tehran said he believes the Iranian expatriate community is the most educated minority group in the United States.

"I think about 80 or 90 percent of the people are callers against what's happening in Iran," Holakouee said. "They have problems against the government and the way they are, right now, handling the election."

Bijan Khalili owns the huge Ketab Corp., believed to be the largest Persian language bookstore outside of Iran. His store sits in the large Persian enclave in Westwood, California, where Farsi has replaced English on many neighborhood signs.

Khalili said Los Angeles' Iranian expatriates should reach out to Iranians protesting the election results back in their homeland.

"We should help them by demonstrating here," Khalili said. "And (help them by) sending e-mails to the United States authorities and European authorities."

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Samira said she hopes all those modern ways of communicating on the computer will somehow clear a path for a return to Iran with her family.

"I want to be able to go to Iran," she said. "Show my children one day what a rich and beautiful heritage we have."

All About IranMir Hossein MoussaviMahmoud Ahmadinejad

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