South Florida Iranians using Internet to help back home

One day after post-election protests engulfed Iran, a Boca Raton attorney hurled himself into a fight that was being waged half a world away but still close to home.

Seeking to bolster a burgeoning opposition movement in Iran, Omid Ghaffari-Tabrizi tapped into an urgent need. He set up a proxy server on his computer, allowing Iranians thousands of miles away to elude regime censors by connecting to his desktop.

"I think access to information that's unfiltered, uncensored is incredibly important for people to get an understanding of what's going on," said Ghaffari-Tabrizi, 25, whose parents emigrated from Iran.

Ghaffari-Tabrizi is among a small group of Iranian Americans in South Florida who have taken the opposition cause beyond the street rallies and candlelight vigils. They are lending a direct hand, whether it's setting up Internet servers or e-mailing updates to supporters of Mir Hossein Mousavi, the second-place candidate who was defeated in the June 12 presidential election that many say was rigged. The Islamic republic declared President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad the victor.

After nearly two weeks of massive protests threatened Iran's stability, security forces started to club demonstrators who ignored orders by the country's supreme leader to stop their rallies and accept the disputed results of the presidential election, according to news reports from in Iran.

The conflict in Iran has since prompted Iranians from Paris to Los Angeles to hold sit-ins, rallies and forums. In South Florida, a few tech-savvy Iranian Americans are playing a much more hands-on role.

With the Iranian authorities shutting off access to websites such as Twitter and Facebook – the lifeblood for organizing 21st-century protests – Ghaffari-Tabrizi and others overseas came forward.

Reading techie manuals, Ghaffari-Tabrizi and a friend downloaded software on three computers that turned the desktops into proxy servers, allowing Iranian Web browsers to access Internet servers outside of Iran instead of those inside the country monitored by the regime.

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