Amirhossein Kiani took four hours off work and drove 100 miles from Rochester to Brooklyn Park last week, just to vote.
As he wrote in the name of reformist candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi in an election about to unfold in his native Iran, Kiani felt full of hope.
Now, he is horrified, believing his ballot was cast but never counted, and that fraud has handed victory to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
"We are almost positive that we have been cheated," Kiani, a computer science major at the University of Minnesota, said Monday. "We trusted them and we voted and we wanted change. They have let us down."
Add his voice to the hundreds of thousands now resounding on streets and rooftops in Tehran. A half-world away, about 30 Iranian protesters gathered outside the Coffman Memorial Union at the University of Minnesota to show that their own indignation was not blunted by distance. They wore the signature green arm bands of the Iranian opposition, sang revolutionary songs and waved signs in Farsi and English demanding to know:
"Where is my vote?"
As the group moved its demonstration along Northrop Mall to different points on campus, cars honked and students waved their support.
An estimated 3,000 Iranian-Americans live in Minnesota. As of fall 2008, there were 50 students from Iran at the U.
They bridge the distance to Iran with the help of social networking sites. Twitter, Facebook and the like transformed the way they followed this presidential race and built support for Mousavi.
Young and old alike announced their support for the candidate through their Web pages, the protesters said. Mousavi's staff regularly updated his sites, including a Facebook page that now has more than 50,000 supporters.
"There was a huge wave. You could feel it that people were going to go to Mr. Mousavi," said Mohammad Ebtehaj, a Ph.D student in civil engineering.
Now those sites are stoking anger.
When the surprise result was announced and hundreds of thousands of protesters took to Tehran's streets, students here gathered information in unprecedented ways.
On Monday, Mousavi's staff continued to post photos of protests, "governmental violence," and YouTube videos. "Spread the news around," his page announced Monday. "You are the only media."
Because the government blocked text-messages and some cell phone networks within the country, students feel like they have more access to events in Iran than their relatives living there.
Sara Nasiri-Amini, 24, a U alumna and Iranian citizen who voted for Mousavi, has scoured the Web for the best information and then passed it on.
"What I'm trying to do is publish to Facebook often, links, videos, whatever I know," she said. Her profile photo now reads, "Where is my vote?"
Kiani has clicked through dozens of photos his friends posted online. One young man at Isfahan University of Technology in Iran documented the damage to campus -- photographing broken windows, busted computers and fire-blackened lecture halls.
Several students said they believe the attention to the protests will help their home country continue toward a more progressive government -- even if Mousavi is not eventually declared the winner.
Through their posts and their protests, they're trying to show that despite the election results, many Iranian citizens do not support Ahmadinejad's government.
"Don't get fooled," Nasiri-Amini said "He's not our president."
Jenna Ross • 612-673-7168