DUBAI // Away from the protests and candlelit vigils, hidden within the depths of Dubai, lies the "other voice", the one that has so far been largely muted against the chants in support of the Iranian opposition.
The spice souk in Deira, known for its exotic smells and flavours, is home to a large number of Iranian traders, many of whom are ardent supporters of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the newly re-elected president of Iran and main figure surrounding the controversy of the June 12 elections in which he claimed victory over Mir Hossein Mousavi. "Ahmadinejad is a good man, a straight man; he is better than Mousavi," said Abouzar Mashaal, 22, sitting in his father's spice shop surrounded by shelves of brightly coloured ingredients.
"These things happening in Iran," he said, "they will calm down after a couple of days. There is no problem there." Since Mr Ahmadinejad was declared the victor, less than 12 hours after the ballot boxes were closed, opposition supporters have taken to the streets not only in Tehran, but around the world, claiming the results were a fraud. Hundreds of thousands have demanded a re-election, but instead the Iranian supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, declared the result valid and refused to consider an annulment.
Mr Mashaal maintained that the majority of Iranians supported the president, and with a difference of 11 million votes between Mr Ahmadinejad and Mr Mousavi, it is difficult to argue the contrary. His father, Assad, keen to take part in the conversation, piped up: "The problem with Iran at the moment are all of those outside Iran - those foreigners who keep interfering. They are the ones making problems, not the ones in Iran.
"Listen, Ahmadinejad, Mousavi, they're good people. They follow the Islamic path, and neither of them want problems. But people from outside have to stop meddling." Further down the spice strip were more supporters, each more vocal about their love for their president than the last. Shouts of "We love Ahmadinejad!" and "He is the greatest!" could be heard echoing off the stone walls. This feeling in the souk contrasts with that of the protesters on the beach in Dubai Marina and outside the Iranian consulate who have been waving their green scarves and ribbons for nearly two weeks, demanding the removal of the "dictator Ahmadinejad".
According to one trader, 90 per cent of the souk is made up of Ahmadinejad supporters. "They would give their blood for their leader," he said. Yet very few want to enter into a conversation, claiming the issue is still too raw for honest talk. "What is the point?" one asked. "I live here in Dubai. I work here. My life is here. Why would I want to have problems on my doorstep by talking about politics?"
Another trader, Saeed Abdullah, 30, said: "They have to stop interfering; those Americans, the British. Every Iranian is worried about Iran, but we don't need third parties to interfere." He said Mr Ahmadinejad "knows how to deal with the situation," calling the president "a true and honest man" who wants "everyone to co-operate together." As the declarations in support of Mr Ahmadinejad grew louder, the crowd got bigger, until one man broke the circle.
"None of you know what you're talking about" he said. "You all live here, away from the problems and the hardships of Iran. Ahmadinejad is not good for the country. I know this, I live there with my family. They are killing people there!" Despite an overall negative response and more shouting of "Ahmadinejad is great! He has no fear!", the man tried to continue with his statement. As another trader squared up to him, he parted with, "You don't love Iran. You are all living here comfortably; you just don't know what its like."
In Tehran the Iranian Revolutionary Guard has come down heavily on the street protesters, 17 of whom have been reported killed and hundreds injured. Unofficial figures put the death toll as high as 150. Footage emerging from Iran has shown officials beating protesters with batons, and there are continuous reports of intimidation. "The situation for us here is difficult," said Hussein, 50, one of the few Mousavi supporters based in the souk. "We can't see what is actually going on, and it is not easy to talk about it. Many people are afraid to talk."
According to Hussein, the crisis in Iran is reminiscent of the 1979 revolution that deposed the shah. "It is exactly the same situation," he said. "We are all friends here, and we don't want politics to change that." But there remain a few who are keen to talk, and keen to point out the reality on the ground. "Look, all of Iran is with Ahmadinejad," said Ahmed Mousavian, 35. "Look at the villages in the provinces of Iran; they all voted for him. Why? Because he is a good man."
"It is only the bad people who will not accept the results," he said, adding that foreign news media were working hard to portray Mr Ahmadinejad as the enemy. "Well, I won't accept the rule from a foreign country to destroy my country," he said. "I don't incite others to cause problems in their country, so why are they doing the same with mine?" email@example.com