Voters bring a touch of Tehran to London

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With its patio cafés and redbrick millionaire mansions the leafy confines of Kensington Court in the heart of West London is usually more accustomed to the gentle comings and goings of its well heeled residents. But for much of the past 24 hours it could have been mistaken for anywhere in north Tehran.

Thousands of chanting Iranians gathered outside their consulate to cast their vote – something that expats have rarely done during previous elections.

But this year's presidential race has invigorated Britain's Iranians like never before thanks to the astonishing rallies of the reformist candidate Mir Hossein Mosavi.

Maryam Gol, who left Iran in 1974 and now lives with her family in Milton Keynes, was one of hundreds patiently queuing up to vote this afternoon. It was the first time she had cast a ballot since settling in the UK.

"When I saw just how many young people came out to support Mousavi, desperate and gasping for air, I knew we had to come out and help them," she said. "People truly believe that change is on the way."

If supporters of the conservative incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad were present they were certainly keeping their heads down. Instead the street was filled with hundreds of young, expectant Mousavi supporters decked in his green campaign colours and chanting slogans hoping for change and reform.

Fasilat Nassiri, 23, and Behrad Parvar, 25, were queuing with a coterie of excited friends who all said they were voting for Mr Mousavi.

"People are so disappointed with Ahmadinejad and this time round refusing to vote is not an option," said Ms Nassiri, who lives in Tehran but studies and a London University. "I don't think things will suddenly change 180 percent but there is a glimmer of hope at the end of the tunnel and we have to seize that."

Mr Parvar added: "For Iranians who live abroad Mousavi message of change and reform appeals to us. We are here voting because we are proud of our country and proud of democracy."

Opposite the consulate itself, a small but vocal group of anti-regime Iranians were calling on their fellow countrymen not to vote. Police arrested one individual after he threw debris at the consulate building.

Nasrin Parvaz, a 50-year-old exile who spent eight years in an Iranian jail at a time when Mr Mousavi was prime minister, said: "No one should be voting. Whether you vote for Ahmadinejad or Mousavi you are still voting for a regime that executes and tortures its opponents."