2nd Place; Cast Out of Heaven by Hashem Shakeri
The current U.S. sanctions against Iran, and the subsequent fall in the value of the rial (Iranian currency), are causing house prices in the country to skyrocket. As a result, many Tehraners have been forced to leave the capital and move to satellite towns where accommodation is more affordable. The Mehr Housing Project, initiated in 2007, was the largest state-funded housing project in the history of Iran. What followed was rapid growth in urban population and the construction of new towns. However, measures to ensure healthy living conditions for the inhabitants of these new towns was insufficient. Parand, Pardis and Hashtgerd, three newly-constructed towns on the margins of Tehran, suffered 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. People from all over Iran are migrating to these new towns, which are becoming notorious for social pathologies like high rates of suicide among pupils and drug abuse. The residents of Parand talk about how the 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. Sleep-deprived newcomers leave early in the morning to reach their workplaces in the capital, often commuting for two to three hours a day. The relentless repetition of this cycle leads to alienation and frustration. To add to this, levels of unemployment are escalating. Here is the land of those cast out of their heaven: the metropolitan Tehran. And they all share the bitterness of the fall.