A near-destitute woman and her four grandchildren were made homeless after municipal officials destroyed their shack in Alborz province. (IranWire)

August 21, 2021

Municipal officials in the city of Nazarabad, Alborz province recently demolished a makeshift one-room shack while the residents – a grandmother and grandchildren – were still inside. No shelter or alternative accommodation was provided for the family. This is an IranWire citizen journalist’s report from the scene.

The mother screams while the four children huddle around her, and heavy machinery rolls in to destroy the single room they call home. When her lease expired, she was forced to move out and with nowhere else to live, they built this humble hut on a nearby plot of land.

The woman sits in front of the loader, crying out to the men around her, begging them not to leave her grandchildren homeless. But they don’t seem to hear her. The room is flattened and the woman sits among the ruins with the youngsters around her.

She holds her head in her hands and reflects on her helplessness: “I don’t have the money to rent a house. I spent the small amount I had to build this single room. The municipality wouldn’t tolerate this and destroyed it. Even that little bit of money is lost.”

The woman is just 48 years old. Her grandchildren are orphans; she took sole responsibility for their upbringing and care, with her own brother having died in the Iran-Iraq war. She says she received no help from anyone.

The municipality told her it owned the land and no-one else had the right to build on it. But they also told her she had no right to set up a tent for them instead, and said they would take it down if she did.

City officials also injured one of her adopted grandchildren during the demolition. “They behaved with violence,” she says. “With our distance from the city, there are dangerous animals like snakes around here.  I’m afraid the children will be harmed.”

With teary eyes and in a trembling voice, the woman begs “the people” – anyone – to save her and her family.  Next to her sits a little boy with worn-out shoes. The image of them sitting among the wreckage is reminiscent of that of Asieh Panahi, a 61-year-old mother-of-seven in Kermanshah who died of an apparent heart attack after officials used tear gas and pepper spray to force her out of her shack.

The worst rates of poverty and homelessness in Iran lie on the very outskirts of cities. But these are also the areas agents of the Islamic Republic target when looking for people to punish for flouting building regulations. Inflation is rising every day, and the plight of these helpless people is mostly going ignored. Running water and electricity out to be regarded as basic necessities. But so should dignity.

Iran Wire

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