Cities of migration – Tehran

Photo by Sadaf Farahani

“Tehran is a woman. One of those women who wasn´t lucky in marriage. Her husband didn´t have good manners. He didn´t pay alimony. He beat her up, made her age fast. She has many children, one malevolent, one aggressive and rebel. Tehran had many properties, but the fraudsters stole them from her. She has broken nerves and takes a feast full of pills everyday. You can see she used to be beautiful and had many lovers in the past. But she simply didn´t have luck.“ (Fariba Khani, contemporary writer, from her book “Like drinking a cup of tea”)

A centre of a rapidly transforming urban region, the Iranian capital of Tehran’s history is rooted in immigration. Ninety percent of the city has evolved during the last fifty years. According to a population census, in 1956 Tehran had 1.5 million inhabitants. Today, 8.5 million people live in the city area and about 17 million in the metropolitan area. In addition to the Iranian rural population which flocked to the city, a large number of Afghan migrants, who came as street and construction workers, contributed significantly to the city’s expansion. Concrete skyscrapers started to pop up alongside the old palaces, houses and bazaars, and the construction of numerous highways cut through the city like a system of veins that permeates the whole urban region.

In a talk with Farough Sanousi, the Iranian architect explains that Tehran grew too rapidly and in too uncontrolled a manner. In this way, the feeling of a metropolitan Tehranian identity is lost. The city planner Ali Madanipour (1998) states that „Tehran remains a city of strangers, a fragmented social world with a weakly developed public sphere.”

(For further reading we recommend (in German): Malu Halasa & Maziar Bahari (Hg), 2008. Transit Teheran – Pop, Kunst, Politik, Religion. Junges Leben im Iran. Zürich: Salis Verlag.)

Albrecht, J. 2014. In and out of Iran: die transnationale Verhandlung weiblicher iranischer Idenitäten (Berlin, Teheran, Los Angeles). Berlin: Weissensee Verlag.

Madanipour, A. 1998. Tehran: The Making of a Metropolis. Chichester: John Wiley.

Schäfer, S., Becker, J. & Bernstorff, M. 2006. Kabul/Teheran 1979ff: Filmlandschaften, Städte unter Stress und Migration. Berlin: bbooks.