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IranWire has received two documents that show the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) has illegally and forcibly occupied a 40-hectare property belonging to Tehran Municipality. This property, Martyr Mir Hosseini Camp, was once a cultural, educational and sports camp near Chitgar Park in western Tehran.
According to the documents obtained by IranWire, the former Tehran mayor, Mohammad Ali Najafi, had written a letter to General Mohammad Ali Jafari, IRGC’s top commander, on November 21, 2017 in protest over the occupation. According to the letter, on the morning of Friday, October 20, 2017, “a number of people who claimed to represent the Revolutionary Guards established themselves forcibly inside Martyr Mir Hosseini Camp without prior coordination, unexpectedly, with no regard for…the chain of command, without a permit and by expelling municipality security guards.”
“As of now,” continued the letter, “Tehran Municipality has prevented the spread of the news to various quarters with regard to national interests and this revolutionary institution,” meaning the Guards.
But the letter also warned that the news had “leaked” and that the ordeal had been the subject of questioning during a closed-door meeting between City Council members. “I am confident,” the letter said, “that a corps that the Exalted Leader calls the well-informed and the vigilant guardian of the Islamic Revolution, and [which has a key duty] to maintain public security and peace, is not prone to such offenses and would deal appropriately with the individuals who, under the cover of the name of that sacred institution, harm its reputation and standing.”
The Revolutionary Guards commander, however, disregarded the mayor’s letter, and the Guards Corps continued its occupation of the land.
$4.8 Million Down the Drain
Martyr Mir Hosseini Camp, located on the Tehran-Karaj highway, was donated by the family of Ayatollah Molla Ali Kani to Tehran Municipality for public use in 2012. Between 2012 and 2016, Tehran Municipality spend 20 billion tomans, close to $4.8 million, to rebuild and equip the camp for cultural and educational activities for the people of the capital. Now, however, the camp is in the possession of the Revolutionary Guards.
In 2017, Mohammad Alikhani, a member of Tehran City Council, publicly said that the camp had been “illegally” occupied, though he stopped short of naming the responsible party. “Tehran’s mayor has written a letter about the occupation of this camp and wants the City Council to help pursue the matter,” responded Mohsen Hashemi Rafsanjani, chairman of the council.
“Earlier the Guards had also tried to take possession of the camp,” said the informed source who provided IranWire with the letter. “But on October 20, 2017, they dispatched their forces to the location, forcibly expelled the municipality guards, closed the gates to the camp and established their own base there.”
No Access to Sewage Treatment
In another letter obtained by IranWire, Ali Nozarpour, the mayor of Tehran’s District 22 where the camp is located, told the then-Mayor Najafi that municipality workers had been prevented from accessing electricity and water purification stations located inside the camp grounds. According to an informed source, the IRGC is directly responsible for this.
According to Nozarpour’s letter, District 22 has been suffering from environmental problems in recent years. Consultants have completed research regarding the creation of a sewage treatment network, but lack of access to camp grounds has stopped the work going forward.
Mohammad Ali Najafi was Tehran’s mayor between July 2017 and March 2018. He presented his resignation to Tehran City Council on March 13, 2018. Many believe that he resigned under political pressure but he cited “health problems” as his reason.
According to an informed source, Najafi had quarreled with the Guards over IRGC’s illegal action to take possession of properties of Tehran Municipality, including the above-mentioned camp.
The General’s Corruption Case
Another important factor in the resignation of Mohammad Ali Najafi was his efforts to pursue the corruption associated with the Revolutionary Guards, especially the case of Yas Holding Company. According to a tweet posted by Abdollah Ramezanzadeh, former President Mohammad Khatami’s spokesman, the case involved “the embezzlement of at least 13 trillion tomans [over $3 billion] by a number of well-known generals.” A number of IRGC generals sat on the board of the company.
After news about the vast offenses committed by the company emerged, the IRGC started to dismantle Yas Holding Company in March 2017. Around the same time, Mohsen Hashemi, chairman of the Tehran City Council, reported that, according to Iran’s General Inspection Agency, a business affiliated with the Revolutionary Guards’ Cooperative Foundation, the Resa Tejarat Company, was in debt to Tehran Municipality, whereas the foundation had previously claimed that it owed the municipality nothing.
Mohammad-Ali Afshani succeeded Najafi as the mayor of Tehran in May 2018. But, eight months on from the initial seizure, the Revolutionary Guards are still in possession of the Martyr Mir Hosseini Camp. However, the mayor has chosen to stay silent on the problems between Tehran and the IRGC, including this one.
In summer of 2014, in a contract worth 20 trillion tomans (close to $4.8 billion), the Guards’ construction company, Khatam-al Anbiya Construction Headquarters (KACH), monopolized a large portion of Tehran Municipality’s development projects, but in recent months a number of projects have been abandoned, unfinished. Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf was Tehran’s mayor at the time of the controversy. In early September, Mayor Afshani said that following talks with the commanders of KACH, the problems had been resolved and the abandoned projects were set to resume.
Nevertheless, it would appear that the current mayor of Tehran is wary of rubbing the Guards the wrong way, and that he has decided to offer Martyr Mir Hosseini Camp as a gift to the generals.