The Development of Tehran: An Unfinished Project

Big cities gradually become like the people who administer them. In general it can be said that governments are similar to the spheres of influence they dominate. But applying such correlations to Tehran and its governors is somewhat paradoxical. The fact is that Tehran is basically a city inhabited by villagers.

Exactly a hundred years ago the newly-established Iranian parliament passed a law regulating administration of the capital, and Tehran officially acquired a mayor. Over the course of this century, forty-eight mayors were entrusted with administration of the capital. One was executed, thirteen ended up in prison, and twenty-three were dismissed because of corruption or incompetence.

In the past hundred years this turbulent city has survived two revolutions and two coups. Four kings and one president were sent into exile. Tehran witnessed the assassinations of a shah, several prime ministers and a president; it was occupied once by foreign troops and several times by Persian soldiers.

Even more amazing, however, is the fact that for some decades now this city has experienced rapid expansion, swallowing up all the surrounding villages and gradually also incorporating two neighbouring towns, Rey and Shemiran. These days it is reaching out towards towns which not all that long ago were over a hundred kilometres away from Tehran. Perhaps in the not-too-distant future all that will remain of Iran will be Tehran and a huge desert, for the capital sucks in workers, capital, institutions, and much else besides from all over the country without ever satisfying its appetite...

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Amir Hassan Cheheltan,
born 1956, is one of the most important contemporary Iranian authors. His latest novel to be published in Germany was Tehran, Revolution Road.

Translated by Aingeal Flanagan
Copyright: Goethe-Institut e. V., Fikrun wa Fann
June 2010
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