Two Fridays ago, before the riots and the demonstrations and the millions in the streets, before the killings and the burning buses and the black-clad stormtroopers clubbing women from atop their motorcycles, before Facebook went green and Twitter usurped CNN, before the protests and then the counter-protests, the first, fraudulent vote count and then the likely just as fraudulent recounts, before the house arrests and the dorm-room beatings, before the tear gas and the sniper bullets and the rooftop rallies and the bonfires, members of New York's Iranian ex-pat community gathered in a small meeting room on the second floor of the Grand Hyatt hotel in Midtown Manhattan to cast their ballots in their country's presidential election.
There was no question as to the local favorite. Green dominated the room. There were green scarves and green sweaters and green socks; green t-shirts, green tank-tops, green rugbies, green ties; green polos, green pants, green trenchcoats (one); green handbags, green sportcoats; a green pork-pie hat.
"Green is for peace, I think," said a man sitting at a table in the hallway chatting with a pair of women. "Green is the slogan of this candidate." The man himself was dressed in brown. He had lived in New York for 16 years, he said, but he'd never in that time voted in an Iranian election. Mir-Hossein Mousavi had drawn him to the polls.
"I think he is a Barack Obama of Iran," he said. "He can tie the Iranian nation to the western world. It's about time for Iran to have close ties to the United States."
It was a common theme about the room.
"There's no reason to struggle, because now there is Obama," said a young woman with a green scarf tied around her neck. She had come from Iran two months ago to study International Relations at Syracuse.
"Ahmadinejad destroyed everything," she said. "We need someone to rebuild ties with the UN, with the world."
Downstairs, a group of ex-pats embraced each other as they passed in the lobby. A man and a woman, both clad in bright green t-shirts, were looking around for directions to the polls. "I wonder what it will be like," the woman said as they made their way up the escalator. They, too, had never voted before.
"We just wanted to support it," said the man. "I just wanted to come to do my part."
Two NYU students in headscarves (a relative rarity among those gathered) stood in line to get their ballots. One recorded the other with her digital camera as she gave her fingerprint to a volunteer manning the desk. "Look more excited!" she directed. They disappeared together behind the potted plants marking off the voting booths at the southern side of the room. Moments later they emerged smiling broadly, stopping in front of the ballot box to pose, index fingers held aloft, for several of the photographers roaming the floor.
"My mother's family back home is voting this time, and they haven't voted in 30 years — since the Revolution," one of them said. "It's a chance to be a part of something. It's like a new revolution."
"There were kids in Iran on the street demonstrating and dancing, really pushing the boundaries," said the man in the bright green t-shirt. "The only time I can remember people dancing in the street and not being arrested was after a soccer victory or something."
"Yay!" said a woman in a t-shirt and blue jeans, waving a brown passport in the air as she deposited her ballot. "That was easy!" The line was perhaps 20 people deep now, stretching out the doorway and into the hall.