Rampant development has emphasised a widening social gap in Mashhad, the starting point of last year’s anti-government protests
The wave of anti-government protests in Iran at the end of December began in one of the country’s conservative strongholds: its second city, Mashhad. Site of the huge Imam Reza shrine that draws more than 20 million Shia pilgrims a year, the city’s population has ballooned to around 3 million in recent years. After a proposed modernisation of the area around the shrine complex by architect Dariush Borbor was abandoned following the Islamic revolution, rampant development in the last two decades may have helped aggravate social forces hitting the streets today.
It’s been rumoured that hardline rivals to Iran’s reformist president Hassan Rouhani orchestrated the street protests from their nationalist-religious base of Mashhad. Azar Tashakor, a 50-year-old urban sociologist whose father made pilgrimages to the city and who later studied there, thinks this underestimates a widening social gap.
Link : Mashhad in the spotlight: inequality plagues Iran’s holy city