With his award-winning series, Cast Out of Heaven, Hashem Shakeri captures the intense sun-bleached atmosphere, harsh natural environment, and bleak social conditions of the dense new housing developments being built in areas surrounding Tehran.
The cost of housing is skyrocketing in Iran, fueled by the current U.S. sanctions against Iran and the subsequent drastic drop in the value of the Iranian currency. This is forcing many Tehraners to leave the capital without any intention of coming back again. Under the present circumstances, city-dwellers are looking to move to satellite towns to cut down on accommodation costs.
The Mehr Project was initiated in 2007 as the largest state-funded housing project in the history of Iran. What followed was rapid urban population growth and the construction of new towns. However, sufficient measures were not taken to ensure healthy living conditions for those who came to inhabit these new towns.
Three newly-constructed towns on the margins of Tehran — Parand, Pardis and Hashtgerd — are suffering critical shortcomings. These are huge islands of soaring skyscrapers and indiscriminately developed apartments filled with crowds of people and cars. They begin but seem to have no end.
In addition to the huge population moving from Tehran, people from all over Iran are migrating to these new towns. These new developments are notorious for social pathologies, like high rates of suicide among pupils and drug abuse. The residents talk about how a town’s population has doubled over the past six months, reaching 200,000. Yet, the town can hardly provide educational, social and health care services for 10,000. Here is the land of those cast out of their heaven — the metropolitan Tehran. And they all share is the bitterness of the fall. – Hashem Shakeri