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Iranian Americans' Vote May Be Up for Grabs in US Election


Farid Khanlou owns Jordan Market in an area of Los Angeles called Persian Square. It’s packed with Persian businesses, many of which fly the country's flag from before the 1979 Iranian revolution.

In this heart of the Iranian-American community, the largest group of Iranians abroad, there are many who remain undecided about which presidential candidate they support.

According to a poll by Zogby Research Services, 87 percent of Iranian Americans are registered to vote in the U.S. Of that number, 52 percent are Democrats and 8 percent are Republicans. But 40 percent identify themselves as either independent or have no party affiliation.

Khanlou says he will not vote for either candidate in the upcoming presidential election because he does not like Republican candidate Donald Trump, and Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton will only continue President Obama’s policies, such as his national health insurance program, also known as "Obamacare."

“Trump you cannot trust his word and Clinton it’s bad for the economy. It’s bad for me because Obamacare is killing me for my health insurance. This is not right. I’m paying almost $30,000 in health insurance because of the Obamacare,” Khanlou said.

His economic concerns are in line with most Iranians. The Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans conducted a survey which showed national security and the economy are the top two issues Iranian Americans look at when they vote for a candidate.

Across the street the owner at the Tochal Market, Todd Khodadadi, is also concerned about the economy.

“Because I’m Republican, I am supporting Donald Trump. The major reason I’m supporting him is the economy. I believe if he became the president we can have better economic choices for all of us in the United States,” said Khodadadi.

Zohreh Forouhi who is shopping near Persian Square, said she supports Hillary Clinton. Forouhi voted for a Republican in the last presidential election, but not this time. “I think I [will] vote [for] Hillary. I did last time for the Republican, but I changed my parties.”

Forouhi says many of the people she knows do not think Trump is a serious candidate.

“Everybody just thought he’s crazy and acting weird and just wants to fight. He doesn’t care about other people. He wants to make America great but how? Nobody has any idea,” Forouhi said.

Issues involving Iran

When it comes to Iran, the Public Affairs Alliance survey showed Iranian Americans said the top two issues that affect them and are most important to them are promoting human rights in Iran and lifting the U.S. trade embargo against Iran.

A man in Persian Square who will only identify himself as “Reza” says he is looking at each candidate’s policy towards Iran.

“I think the candidates should offer their utmost respect to the Iranians. Iranians know where their interests lay. But the world community should expose the [Iranian] regime’s corruptions and show that it does not represent the Iranian people. It’s better for Mr. Trump to stop lying, and he should put a halt to attacking Iranians,” said Reza.

But Bijan Khalili, the publisher of the weekly newspaper Iran Shahr said Trump is attractive to some Iranian Americans.

“Some of the Iranians really like the way that he talks being harder against the Islamic Republic because of matters of human rights,” said Khalili.

But Reza fears Trump's policies.

“I think Mrs. Clinton has a better chance, because of Trump’s background and profession. Also his speeches are aggressive towards the minorities. He’s an extremist who poses danger to both the U.S. and the world,” said Reza.

The National Iranian American Council estimates there are 1 million Iranian Americans in the U.S; those who are still undecided will be weighing the issues before election day.

Whoever wins the White House, Khalili said Iranian Americans would like the next U.S. president to focus more on the human rights issues in Iran.

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