'I am here, voting for the sake of my sons'

"I am so excited," said Arghavan, a young female voter standing in a line stretching around the block at the Hosseinieh Ershad mosque in north Tehran. "Nobody could have imagined how close, how important, how exciting these elections would be."

"I am not excited," a middle-aged actress standing next to her said. "I have experience from Khatami's time. It was just like this."

The atmosphere in the women's line was boisterous, with people diving in and out of each other's conversations.

"Mousavi is good for both men and women," said Mansoureh, a chador-wearing law student queuing up to vote. "He clarifies the equality of women and men under Islam." Mona, a PhD candidate voting in the affluent Jamaran district thought Mousavi had yet to prove his credentials on that score. "I believe he is a good man, but he is somehow conservative... what is important is that [his wife] wants to be open-minded."

Divisions between Ahmadinejad and Mousavi supporters have been portrayed as class-based, and to some extent this was reflected at the polling stations. Outside the Hosseinieh Ershad mosque there was much talk of how a Mousavi presidency might free people to do more international travel, while in poorer south Tehran the focus was on Ahmadinejad's wealth redistribution policies.

Wearing a gold and black Louis Vuitton headscarf, Elaheh emerged after voting for Ahmadinejad. "He is tangible, he is recognisable, he is reachable, his entourage doesn't make a problem," she explained. Her sister, Zohre, was scornful of Mousavi. "Those are just slogans. His wife is conservative. Ahmadinjad is the person who is going to make real transformation."

In south Tehran, Massoumeh, 47, explained why she voted for Mousavi. "I am voting for the sake of my sons. They are unemployed. I am hopeful they will get a job under Mousavi. Voting is not to do with richness or poorness."

While in south-central Tehran, Fatimeh explained why she was not voting for Ahmadinejad again. "He legalised polygamy."

Later, outside the Hosseinieh Ershad mosque, a woman named Saeedeh interrupted a discussion on the women's role in elections. "Our problem is not the veil," she said, adjusting her own expensive-looking headscarf. "There is no difference between men and women.

"It's just politics."

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