Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Tehran will no longer be the capital; and this is a good thing.

The idea to move Iran's capital from Tehran is not new. Teran is the largest city oft the Middle East, with a day-time population of over 12 million, ranks 16th on the list of the most crowded cities of the world. Tehran has an archaeological history that dates back to 6000 BC; but most of its fame and fortune comes as the Qajar monarch, the brutal Agha Mohammad Khan-e Ghajar, declared it capital in 1795. At that time, Tehran was just a village, but on the skirt of beautiful mountains, with one of the most heavenly waters of earth. (On wikipedia, you can get an overview of the city, old and new.) To the epicureans that Quajars were, Tehran served plenty of pleasure.

In one of the latest meetings of the expediency council (headed by Hashemi Rafsanjani), the 20-years long plan to move Iran's capital from Tehran was put on track. The summary of the issues discussed and resolutions passing through the Expediency Council's is as follows (Persian here): (please note that no where on their web site could I find and EXPLICIT news about the Tehran-move. If you see it, please hint to me).

  1. Choosing suitable locations for balanced distribution of residential and business quarters in a manner consistent with economic, social, political, cultural, security and defense considerations.
  2. National and provincial developmental undertakings in border regions, via economic incentives; strengthening the infrastructure, suitable population distribution and strengthening the security and defense forces with regards to threats. [don't say from whom!]
  3. Reorganization of service industries, and population distribution with considerations for management of natural disasters, accidents, water resources and respecting the geological conditions, in order to increase the safety index of vital and essential infrastructure in population centers, cities and villages.
  4. strengthening cooperation, national unity and social bonds by increasing the level of development (towse'eh) across the country by creating poles and centers for development(towse'eh).
  5. Transferring the political centers of the city to suitable locations to improve and correct the population distribution across the country to the end of projection [doesn't say WHICH projection!]
  6. Balanced development of villages and small towns to prevent uncontrolled migration to provincial capitals.
ُThis, translated to "human" language, means:
  • Tehran is built on a disaster time bomb (many new housing developments have taken place on ticking fault lines; against the unequivocal objection of Iranian geologists and urban planners--corruption and violation of expert regulations are so grave that top notch urban planners are quitting their profession in disgust and depression--not to forget Kian Tajbakhsh, the Iranian American urban planner who has received a 12 year prison sentence!!).
  • Tehran is a political time bomb, with its various universities and high concentration of cultural and educational institutes posing a great threat to the adjacently located IRI's administration (Literally! Iran's important ministries are situated side by side Tehran's most vocal and political universities: e.g. Oil ministry shares the neighborhood with Tehran Poly Technique (Amir Kabir) and State ministry with Tehran University).
It is estimated (professionally and since 20 years ago) that moving the political and administrative centers from Tehran will at least help a daily reduction of one million people. It will also put a distance between the financial and political districts, that will hopefully reduce corruption. And on the brightest side, it will help Tehran's notorious pollution and hopefully prevent the environmental disasters following massive housing projects (undertaken by Mr Ahmadinejad) with no regards for the designated green zones (or even the historical sites).

I am all for moving the capital from Tehran; who wants to live near corrupt or boring bureaucrats? However, in Iran the government has its hands in EVERY single detail of private, public, economic, and social life (a dependency to which the Iranian people are well accustomed--thanks to dependency on oil-revenues). Therefore, whatever location the capital is going to be, it will need proper communication and transportation infrastructure that will make the the intricate individual/governmental interactions efficient. Let's hope that this will indeed meet the projections of the experts to generate 600,000 new jobs over the next five years; slow down the wave of migration to Tehran; scale down the magnitude of the disaster in waiting, and improve the suffocating smog and traffic problems.

I will be watching with interest where this leads to.


German said...

Dear Naj,

again you are ahead of (professional) usual reporting time.

Perhaps the following link might delight you in this respect:


Thank you for your text on Tehran

All the best


Naj said...

Thanks German. Actually an anonymous visitor had also seen something on guardian (left comment on previous post).

I haven't been able to see much reaction to this in Iranian media (of course i have been busy; but I didn't see much on it when glancing at "alternative" news)

I can't wait for this to happen. Tehran is an explosive city; and one that as much as I love, dare not to live in. We complain of politicians who are killing us; but Tehran's silent killer is its POLLUTION to and to not do something about it is political crime. (Although, I get my high from its pollution as well; I always have twice as much energy in Tehran than elsewhere--unless London)

Anonymous said...

They should move it to Isfahan.

Naj said...



It is true that Isfahan is the old Safavid capital; it's true that it is one of the rare areas in Iran with very little earthquake danger, BUT, (1) Isfahan is already crowded; (2) we want to keep Isfahan "intact" and not turn it to second Tehran; (3) we need a capital in a place where NEW development, NEW job, and a MODERN functional city can take root. We need to build a new city instead of enriching Uranium! I would say building it in the middle of desert (why not a las vegas-style city; our politicians will have fun there!)

Naj said...

Isfahan is a nice functional wealthy province with a great balance of industry, tourism, agriculture and one of the best universities of the country. Moving "Theran" to it will only contaminate it.

Ahmadinejad's megalomania can be best satisfied if he builds a NEW Isfahan ... pity Iran is run by a bunch of uncultured, short sighted, tasteless, IDIOTS ...

Anonymous said...

Naj, I think Ahmadinejad have nothing to do with this project, Ali Khaminie he is behind this project.

Naj said...


I am sure AKHAR too has nothing to do with this. It's a lot of experts (technocrats) who have been crying for this change. What has expedited the decision may well be the political coincidences of the past few months.

Ahmadinejad HAS spent hundreds of millions building a new mosque in Jamkaran; these people have been undetaking large dam and infrastructure projects and carry them out successfully. this WOULD/COULD be a good credible thing these dudes can get busy with.

Anonymous said...


I think your idea of Vegas style capital is a good one. The people can push the politicians to the middle of nowhere, so that they leave in peace in Tehran and don't have to worry so much about corrupt politicians. The downside is that there wont be anyone to keep a critical eye on them; they will probably be able to loot the country more.

Naj said...


I don't think people in tehran can really keep an eye on them. The proximity of administration to cultural and economic poles of tehran has created the perfect opportunity for the corrupt politicians to loot. with a NEW city, comes the advantage of transparency. as much as such things can ever happen in Iran!

by the way, my sister emailed me from a government office; she was amazed that there were free open computers for the public to use and connect to internet, while waiing for their turn.

kellie said...

Thinking of a city in the desert reminds me of a recent radio discussion on thePharaoh Akhenaten and his abandoned capital.

Naj said...

Thanks for the link, kellie.

These ancient cities are humbling, aren't they?
Sadly, in Iran, much of the old is destroyed in favor of UGLY and dysfunctional new streets and highways. Money rules and makes people myopic. In a rather dry country; every garden turned high rise deserves a funeral. Once, when i went back to my desert city and found its greenest narrowest street replaced with a 4-lane boulevard, I sank to depression, locked myself up and refused to go out unless for absolutely necessary errands.

Academics, architects, lawyers, had begged the government to spare it; had written columns, signed petitions and etc; to no avail! The owners on the street had given consent because this street widening would turn their street more commercial and thus increase their land property!! there was only ONE man who resisted. He owned an icecream parlor in an old Quajar two story building. In Iran, the old is often abandoned and cheap; and his business, although always running successfully, was far from glamorous. Abandoned and defaced; this building remained as a sore spot on the commercially-widened street; staring the passers in the eye; and breaking the melancholic hearts even more ... i wonder if it is still there ... sigh

Anonymous said...

Ahmadinejad HAS spent hundreds of millions building a new mosque in Jamkaran;

Naj, is this officials number or your gauss?

Personally I doubted be "undreds of millions"?

Naj said...

I saw the number
I think it was in the range of 20 million dollars
which is raher conservative. So convert it to Iranian currency it is indeed hundreds of millions. I'll try to remember or search the exact figure

Naj said...


I was right Ahmadinejad has allocated this mosque at least 20 million dollars.

What I did NOT know was taht he project to build it began in the last year of Khatami's presidency!

What I also didn't know is that the parliament actually has given it a budget!

If your read persian: http://www.roozonline.com/persian/archive/news/news/article/2007/october/29//-d338da31d1.html

And this a good read:

Anonymous said...


Thanks, no don’t know Persian.

But as far as this project cost I think the number exaggerated by official, if we taken the Iran's labour market also the materials most may be locally available and may 20-35% need to be imported even so I doubt the 20Mil figure.

Any way we will find one day.

These reminds me with Former US state secretary Madeleine Albright when see keep talk about Saddam's castles, she don't know each pay USD0.5/Day for the workers?

Naj said...


an average house in Tehran costs over half a million dollars. That price is not exaggerated and the numbers are from te government's budget reports.