Tehran’s Super Looter


[IRIB program about how Tehran Municipality under Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf is selling pieces of land in Tehran against the public interests to Ansar Bank, which belongs to Iran Revolutionary Guards.]

 EXPERT explains about the first project of Ansar Bank: I will criticize two of its projects. One is Atlas Bank Project, whose billboard advertisements you see on streets. It is on a piece of 11,000 square feet land, whose usage was a public parking lot in the detailed plan. The mayor has sold this to Ansar Bank, and Ansar Bank is building a 14-story building— with some stories for commercial and some for office use. This building actually overlooks Niavaran Palace, Saheb-Gharanieh Palace, and Niavaran Park. People who come to visit these palaces and use the park cannot leave their cars behind at their homes. They should park their cars somewhere. And this was what the parking lot was for.

HOST says: Besides, it has been years that the municipality is not giving a permit for building a high rise in this region. The municipality says it is overlooking Niavaran Palace, and it is dangerous for foreign guests who come to Niavaran Palace and officials who are there because somebody might threaten the Niavaran Palace with an RPG or such things.

EXPERT continues: Well, apart from terrorist or physical threats, basically when a palace which is a part of cultural heritage is overshadowed by a tower, it loses its value. Just as in Naqsh-e Jahan Square in Isfahan, where UNESCO disagreed and did not allow a tower to be built beside Naqsh-e Jahan Square. Therefore, Cultural Heritage Organization should not remain indifferent to building such towers which only secure the interests of a certain group. The other problem is that this project is the bottleneck of two streets, creating a lot of traffic. And naturally, it will create problems for all the people in that neighborhood.

HOST asks: What is the other project of Ansar Bank?

EXPERT goes on to explain about the second project: The other project of Ansar Bank is Atlas Plaza Project. If you have ever gone to Haghani Metro station, you must have seen that there is a large piece of 75,000 square feet land next to the Haghani Metro station. This piece of land was originally for a parking lot. And generally, in all advanced countries, there are parking lots beside metro stations.

HOST says: So that people can park their cars and ride with metro.

EXPERT continues: Exceptionally, beside Tehran’s metro lines, this big parking lot was next to Haghani Metro Station, which could absorb a lot of traffic load. This too was sold to Ansar Bank. There has been a huge excavation for the foundation to build a huge tower, hotel and other facilities there. The other point is that the supreme leader had urged and insisted that Abbas Abad Hills must remain a green area and be used for cultural purposes. Now with a lot of construction and towers, there is no place left. This was the only place that was left. And now the municipality has sold this to Ansar Bank. First of all, the municipality should never sell a public parking lot. And if they want to sell it, it should invite for bids and advertise it in newspapers. None of these formalities took place. And if this project is constructed, there will be a traffic disaster in Vanak Square. Anyway, this project is…

HOST further clarifies: Well, of course, when the municipality is paid, it does anything. I have said it many times in our program. And I say it without mentioning his name. One of the deputies in Tehran municipality once told me that ‘if you pay us, we will give you permit for building a tower in the middle of Ferdowsi Square in the place of Ferdowsi statue. You just have to pay us.’ I said, ‘I don’t have any money. But will you really do that?’ He said, ‘we will certainly do that.’ Well, Ansar Bank has a lot of money, and apart from the money, it has other powers as well— meaning that they are connected to some places, which makes it possible for them to do such things. Now the municipality does such things if it is paid, and if there is also a force, they will surely do that.

EXPERT says: Anyway, if these documents are investigated, there are many points. But I want to point to some of its consequences.