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New Left Review 66, November-December 2010


asef bayat

TEHRAN: PARADOX CITY

Tehran is not an ‘interesting’ city. It is not like its regional counterparts Istanbul or Cairo, with their long imperial or colonial histories, pivotal geo-political locations, memorable architecture and natural charm. Tehran remains a provincial metropolis of some 12 million people, with streets choked by four million vehicles and air pollution that kills 3,600 inhabitants per month; factors contributing to a ‘liveability’ ranking that places it among the ten worst cities in the world, between Dakar and Karachi. [1] ‘Iran smog “kills 3,600 in month”’, bbc News website, 9 January 2007; Economist Intelligence Unit, The Global Liveability Report, August 2010. But it is a city with extraordinary politics, rooted in a distinctive tension between what looks like a deep-seated ‘tradition’ and a wild modernity.




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