Written and photographed by Ben Bagheri
My recent trip to Tehran has once again confirmed the belief that Iran is a land of extremes. In this tradition, one of the most polluted megacities in the world can produce the most delightful food you could find anywhere.
Tehran's air quality was alarmingly low. I had never seen (or rather smelled) Tehran's air quality to be worse than it was this past month. Mismanaged transportation resources, old and faulty vehicles and unregulated industrial pollution have all contributed to the worst urban smog you could imagine. The air quality had reached such dangerous lows that schools were closed for several days in mid-December. It is very common to see people with surgical gas masks in the streets. A short trip to the grand bazaar leaves you with a severe headache combined with irritated and red eyes.
On the social side of things, the politics of a bitter power struggle are taking a toll on people's everyday life as well as the affairs of the country. Recent abductions and killings have now been linked to the agents of the government. This apparent involvement of officials in atrocities have further jeopardized the public trust and is contributing to the rash of corruption and irresponsibility that was already consuming administrative affairs.
High inflation rates - almost 125% since January 1998 - due to the falling oil prices have pushed the buying power of the lower and middle classes to its lowest since the 1979 revolution. The poor economic conditions high and unemployment rates have created a favorable breeding ground for social ills such as prostitution, theft and drug abuse.
In spite of all these problems, however, you see Iranians holding their head high as if announcing their pride and determination to make a better future. They call this bright and brave future their "civil society."
Here are some photos from my trip:
From Jamaran looking toward Tajrish Square
* Also by Ben Bagheri
* Ben Bagheri's web site: PersianOutpost.com
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