The drawn-out issue of ownership of lands in northern and eastern Tehran continues with no end in sight.
More than 20 years ago, around 20,000 employees of the Construction Jihad Ministry were sold land ranging from 100-600 square meters in prime Tehran areas for building houses.
Throughout these years, the employees approached all the state bodies concerned, including Agricultural Jihad Ministry, Roads and Urban Development Ministry, Tehran Municipality and Tehran Governorate, to obtain construction permits, but two decades later they are still running around, looking for someone to solve their problem.
These lands are in Tehran’s prime areas of Darband, Suhanak and Moradabad, among other places.
According to local media, including Tasnim News Agency and Memari News, the four state entities mentioned above have joined hands to prevent the landowners, most of whom are retired and living in rented houses, from getting the permission to build houses there.
A staunch opponent of issuing housing permits is Massoumeh Ebtekar, the head of the Department of Environment, who has based her opposition on “environmental grounds”.
Opponents, including the officials of the four state organs, cite the ban on building houses in areas located 1,800 meters above sea level. This is while many state and military bodies have built houses at even higher levels.
In fact, the same organs have allowed other state and military entities to erect buildings on the same land, such as the Islamic Azad University in Moradabad.
The landowners have sent numerous petitions and held many demonstrations, but to no avail.
About seven years ago, the Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei wrote to the then Housing Ministry (and currently the Roads and Urban Development Ministry) to resolve the problem by giving them appropriate, alternative land.
The ministry has paid no attention to the Leader’s directive and instead offered them land in far-flung places that are not on par with the value of the land under dispute.
In a recent interview with Memari News, Ebtekar said the government “is determined to solve the problem and [the landowners] will be compensated,” before asserting that the lands “were seized illegally” by the pensioners—which begs the question: If the lands were seized illegally, why does her office call for appropriate compensation for the landowners?
Ebtekar and Tehran’s Mayor Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf believe housing construction will exacerbate Tehran’s environmental problems, especially traffic and air pollution.
However, landowners, most of whom are already living in Tehran, argue why they have allowed the large-scale housing construction projects along Hemmat Highway. They also question their discriminatory approach and lack of determination to solve their problem.