Strongly criticizing Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's remarks about the need for 3 million Tehrani residents to leave the capital, the principlist newspaper "Tehrane Emrouz" (Tehran Today) issued a warning to the chief executive not to treat the residents of Tehran in this manner. Ahmadinejad had made these remarks to a group of managers of the province of Tehran.
The metropolis of Tehran houses about 10 million people.
Tehrane Emrouz is operated by allies of Mohammad
Qalibaf, the mayor of Tehran who in 2005 ran against Ahmadinejad in the
presidential race. "Mr. Ahmadinejad should not deny the existence of problems of
Tehran. You are on the wrong path. Be kind to the residents of this city. This
is Tehran," wrote the editorial.
This lecture for the president comes two days after Ahmadinejad publicly called for the , "at least 5 million from the province of Tehran and about 3 million residents of the city of Tehran," to be relocated. He cited "danger of earthquakes" and "living conditions" such as "inflation and traffic" as his reasons for the call. He said Tehran administrators should take the plan to relocate Tehranis seriously.
The critical newspaper editorial suggested solutions to the problems of this mega city, which included strengthening the public transportation system. In a snide remark, the piece wrote that the residents of Tehran knew and put up with their problems and that they liked people who spoke less but engaged more action. The article defended the people of Tehran and asked the president to be kind to them, writing, "The danger of earthquakes is huge but this is not a good enough justification for the over-ambitious project of reducing the population of Tehran." "Pressure to relocate such a large population is against the principles of city management and politics," it wrote.
The Battle Over the Metro
In his remarks, Ahmadinejad also criticized the management of Tehran's subway system. He specifically said, "I have received a report that 5,700 billion Toman (about 6 billion Dollars) had been spent on the Metro since1987. It would have been cheaper to purchase even the best [transportation] system." A recent Majlis law - which had been challenged and was finally upheld by the State Expediency Council - requires the government to allocate 2 billion Dollars from the country's foreign exchange reserves to the expansion of the Metro in Tehran and other cities, but the administration has till now not provided the funds to the Metro authority in the capital. Ahmadinejad said the allocation was "unlawful," adding that the government did not see the need to implement the law.
Tehran Mayor Mohammad Qalibaf with head of Tehran Metro Mohsen Hashemi
The Majlis and its leaders expressed their
outrage at the administration's non-implementation of the country's laws and
have called such behavior "dictatorial" and "challenging the laws." Tehran's
municipality also has repeatedly criticized this unlawful behavior of the
administration. Earlier this year, Qalibaf had asked at a Tehran municipality
meeting, "Why does the government oppose the one billion Dollar allocation of
the Majlis for the Metro?" He expressly asked the principlist administration to
"be responsible in its duties."
The Tehrane Emrouz article spitefully wrote that Ahmadinejad spoke as if he was not aware of problems of other megacities and cited his regular visits to New York, which he said had similar problems that all megacities had.
It is noteworthy that the 3 million people of Tehran that Ahmadinejad says should be relocated from the capital is precisely the same number of people who peacefully marched in Tehran on June 15, 2009 in protest to the official announcements of the results of the 2009 presidential election. Qalibaf himself had told Majlis lawmakers then that about 3 million Tehranis had taken part in the protests in favor of the two other presidential candidates, Mir-Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karoubi.
Some political and social observers have said that the protesting atmosphere in Tehran, as the largest city in Iran, is the cause for the government's push to reduce the population of this megacity of 10 to 12 million residents. The ultimate goal of such a move is to be in a position to better control the streets should another social or political crises similar to the one last year erupt again.
In October of this year, Morteza Tamadon, the governor of Tehran province too had called for a reduction in the population of Tehran.
In the past, Ahmadinejad has made politically charged statements on the issue. In May of 2007 (before the 2009 post-election protests) Ahmadinejad had said, "The earth on which believers live cannot shake." But then in March of this year (after the 2009 elections) he said that an earthquake was "certain" to take place in Tehran and thus called for the relocation of "at least 5 million people from Tehran.
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