Local Iranians monitor post-election protests

HOUSTON [INTERACTIVE: Post-election riots in Iran]

Protestors in Iran have been demonstrating for more than a week to dispute the election results. And Iran's government is putting strict regulations on what the media can cover. That has people here in Houston worried about their loved ones.

As vocal as protesters have been, we found it surprisingly difficult to talk to Iranians here in Houston about their personal stories. One woman told Eyewitness News she may live in a free country now but her loved ones do not. And like others we found, she worries anything she says publicly here could have devastating consequences back home.

Information about her family in Iran trickles in on her Blackberry. But right now, the woman is more worried about the information that might get back to Iran, so she's asked us not to identify her.

"I don't know how to express that deep feeling in my heart or in my gut that I feel, but it's so overwhelming and so overpowering," she said.

Already, she says, the government has arrested several of her close family members for publicly supporting the protests in Tehran. That includes Ibrahim Yazdi, a reform leader who once worked as a doctor in Houston's Medical Center and who helped found the Islamic Society of Greater Houston.

His family tells us he was arrested at his hospital bed and then released a day later to continue treatment for prostate cancer.

"They were plain-clothed men. They had no warrants with them," she told us. "They would just go in and tell them, 'We're taking you away'," she said.

At a local Persian restaurant, we met Stephen Shademan, a native Iranian.

"I really believe in a democratic Iran," he said.

He had no problem talking because he no longer has any family in Iran. The other two men at his table, on the other hand, asked not to be identified.

"Information is dangerous, you know," said Shademan.

Worries about wire-tapped phones and censorship of the media have pushed more Iranians in the U.S. to rely on social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook to share information and secretly recorded videos.

Their sources are often anonymous, but the stories specific and the images gruesome. Even as we sat with Yazdi's young relative, she received news of a protestor injured in Iran.

"She's dying in front of the camera right now," she said. "A wounded girl from the protest and she's dying in front of the camera right now."

It has also been difficult for media like ourselves to get information from Iran, or confirm some of these accounts we're hearing. The government has banned foreign journalists from reporting on the streets of Tehran.

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