Tehran’s highway construction leaves family with only half a home

Remnants of our Observer's kitchen wall. All the photos in this article were taken by our Observer.
 
 
The city of Tehran has nearly finished the controversial construction of a new highway, save for a few kilometres left in the middle section. To get this far, the city has had to buy up thousands of homes, and has faced many complaints from local residents about what they describe as predatory tactics. One of our Observers tells us about the absurd situation he finds himself in: half of his family’s property was recently destroyed, leaving them without a bathroom or a kitchen.
 
In two years, 37 out of 39 kilometres of Imam Ali highway, which cuts Tehran from north to south, have been completed. Since 2011, the city has bought up approximately 7,000 homes that were in the highway’s path. However, residents who opposed the project have run into a myriad of difficulties, notably claiming harassment and intimidation.
 
Many of these cases have been reported in Iranian media, including, among others, the case of a woman who saw city workers dig a ditch around her property, which she believes was done to force her to move out; the case of a man who sold his house but was not paid for a long time, causing him to become temporarily homeless; and cases of night-time destruction that residents believe is meant to discourage protest.
 
Our Observer filmed the rubble of his kitchen and bathroom. He says his family's belongings were still in there when the bulldozers came. Beyond the yellow tarp (which the city set up along with a chain-link fence) lies the part of his home that is still standing. 
Contributors

“They razed my family’s bathroom and kitchen”

Hamidreza Fattahi is a Tehran resident whose family’s house was partially destroyed by city bulldozers on July 16 to make way for the new highway.
 
City officials told my father they wanted to buy part of his property, but he had not arrived at any agreement with them. During negotiations, we had repeatedly said that if they wanted to buy us out, they would have to buy my father’s entire property, not just the yard where the bathroom and kitchen were located. [Separate kitchen and bathrooms are not uncommon in old Iranian houses]. We explained that if we only sold half, it would on the one hand be impossible to live in this half-house, and on the other hand it would be impossible to sell it in this state in order to buy a new one.
 
Remnants of household appliances.
 
They warned us that there was very little time left to reach a deal, but we didn’t think they would try anything until the end of Ramadan [in early August]. So when workers arrived with bulldozers at 10 a.m. on July 16, we were caught by surprise. They said they had a verdict from the Tehran Prosecutor’s Office, but we were never shown this authorisation.
  
“I tried to block the bulldozers, and was arrested”
 
My father is chronically ill. I couldn’t let them do this to him and my mother, so I tried to block the bulldozers. I was outnumbered by the 10 city workers and four police officers. They arrested me, and detained me until late in the night. When I went back, they had already destroyed the whole yard, including the bathroom and the kitchen. I am now collecting witness reports from neighbours in order to lodge a complaint against the city.
 
The city has said we would get compensated, but they haven’t told us how much we would get, and we haven’t received anything yet. My family is now living in a house without a bathroom or a kitchen. And many other families in the neighbourhood are facing similar problems, with the city trying to buy only part of their properties. I think they’re just trying to force them into leaving altogether.
 
 
FRANCE 24 contacted Hasan Biyadi, the deputy head of Tehran’s city council, for comment. He denies any incidents of harassment and stated: “We do not destroy houses without their owners’ consent. What is happening is that the highway has been nearly completely built, and some houses are left in the middle. Now, their owners want to sell these houses 10 times the actual price. In some cases, the city has made offers higher and even up to twice the market price to buy property, and owners have refused.” According to several of our Observers in Tehran, however, city officials who have visited their homes to estimate what they could sell them for have made below-market estimations.
 
Biyadi also denied that there were any cases where only parts of properties had been purchased. He refused to comment on the photos and videos provided by our Observer.
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