An Outskirts Portrait of Tehran

Tehran is the capital and largest city of Iran. It is located in the north-central part of the country and has a population of around 8.7 million people in the city proper and 15 million in the metropolitan area. Tehran is a major economic and cultural center in the Middle East and is known for its museums, parks, and historic sites, as well as its traffic and air pollution. The city is also a major transportation hub, with the Tehran Metro, buses, and a large airport connecting it to other parts of the country and the world.

The outskirts of Tehran, like many large cities, may have less developed infrastructure and access to services compared to the more central areas. Many of these areas have grown rapidly and haphazardly, resulting in poor infrastructure and overcrowding. Due to their distance from the city center, residents of the outskirts generally have limited access to healthcare, education, and other basic services.

The outskirts of Tehran are often located in the foothills of the Alborz Mountains and have a high risk of landslides and flooding. Also, air pollution is a major problem in Tehran and its outskirts, caused by industrial activities and heavy traffic.

The high cost of living in Tehran, combined with limited access to services, makes it difficult for many low-income families to afford decent housing in the city or its outskirts.

Unemployment rate is high in the outskirts of Tehran and lack of job opportunities and low wages is a major concern. The public transportation in the outskirts of Tehran is limited, which can make it difficult for residents to access job opportunities, services, and amenities in the city center.

In interviews and reports, government officials sometimes state astonishing statistics about the poverty situation in Tehran. According to the deputy mayor of Tehran for urban planning, in an interview with the semi-governmental news agency of Iranian students, 43% of Tehran’s population are renters. In some cases, up to 80% of a family’s income is spent on rent for their home. He says that three years ago, the cost of buying a square meter residential unit in the center of Tehran was 7 million, but this year become 80 million! (Iranian currency)

Darvazeh Ghar is an old neighborhood in the south of Tehran. It is characterized by its narrow, crowded streets and yards full of tall and half-sized children. According to some of its residents, the close-knit community lacks privacy, as everyone knows about their neighbors’ lives and shares in each other’s joys and sorrows.

Darvazeh Ghar is a neighborhood located on the outskirts of the city of Tehran, inhabited by a diverse range of immigrants who often face both integration and rejection in the city. It has traditionally been a home for low-income families and is representative of the lower class in Tehran, which is often marginalized both economically and socially. The lives of the residents of Darvazeh Ghar are marked by challenges such as hard work, child labor, marry at a young age, illness and death, garbage collection, lack of insurance, bad accommodation, drugs, unemployment…

It is uncommon to find much information about these neighborhoods in official media sources. These neighborhoods are located on the outskirts of cities and often have poor living conditions for residents. According to the governor of Tehran, approximately 5 million people live in these neighborhoods around the city, many of whom reside in dilapidated buildings that are at risk of collapsing. While the media is not forbidden from publishing reports on these neighborhoods, they may choose not to do so due to the possibility of being accused of spreading false propaganda against the government or officials.

Iran’s state television broadcast the following documentary about life in this neighborhood from the perspective of the Iranian government. (In Farsi and no subtitle)

In the documentary, photos show the dire conditions of the neighborhood. There are naked and unique images of the drug trade in the documentary. The striking aspect of the film is that government and religious officials acknowledge the poverty, deprivation, and marginalization in the area, yet have no plans to address it. One official refers to the 21 million population living in similar circumstances throughout the country, stating that the issue is that we do not pay attention to them. He asserts that improving the conditions of these neighborhoods would result in increased migration to Tehran (30:26), which already hosts 45% of Iran’s industries.

According to the dominant narrative in this quasi-government documentary, immigrants (both domestic and foreign) transformed the circumstances of the neighborhood as a whole.

My journey in creating this space was deeply inspired by James Baldwin’s powerful work, “The Fire Next Time”. Like Baldwin, who eloquently addressed themes of identity, race, and the human condition, this blog aims to be a beacon for open, honest, and sometimes uncomfortable discussions on similar issues.

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