Since the 2005 election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the burning economic issue in Iran has been the privatization of public assets and, more recently, the elimination of subsidies for a vast array of goods and services. Leading figures, including the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, have called the privatization program “an economic revolution.” [1] But it is not only the economy that private ownership is supposed to rescue. There seems to be a consensus across the political and ideological spectrum that public ownership of economic assets is the cause of a host of social and political ills, from authoritarianism to corruption and nepotism.

Though the debate seems new, the privatization of public assets has been a constant, albeit disputed strategy of consolidation for the Islamic Republic from the outset. Privatization of public assets has taken place in waves, always accompanied by a rational justification: The privatization of public land in the 1980s was carried out in the name of distributive justice, while the sale of city skyline and the liberalization of zoning laws in the 1990s were presented as the precondition for urban renewal. The current wave of privatization of industrial and financial institutions is framed as the technocratic rationalization of a hopelessly deadlocked economy. In fact, it is only the latest in a series of enclosures of the commons for the benefit of a select few who happen to have, for the moment, the upper hand in the political domain.

Cities for the Poor?

The Revolutionary Council nationalized substantial sections of the Iranian economy in 1979. But the populist regime has never managed to resolve the contradictions of its hybrid commitments to Islamism and developmentalism, social justice and cultural conservatism, and representative politics and authoritarian paternalism. The core issue remains one of property rights and defining the proper boundaries of private and public. Differences over the proper role and size of the public sector in the economy appeared in 1979 during the heated debates over the drafting of the new constitution. In the early days of the new republic, radical factions demanded state control of the economy and foreign trade, land reform, paternalistic labor laws and the imposition of severe limits on the accumulation of private wealth, while their conservative rivals insisted on the sanctity of private property in the shari‘a, and the legitimacy of open commerce and piously acquired wealth. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini tried to stay above the fray. While protecting the radicals, he insisted that the economy of the new republic had to be distinct — neither capitalist nor socialist, but Islamic. Although vague, Khomeini’s positions on the economy were above all nationalist, insisting on self-reliance and independence, and had a strong developmentalist slant. [2] In practice, the “Islamic” aspects of the economy remain limited to a “cooperative sector,” which has never exceeded a minute fraction of the gross domestic product, and the replacement of interest in finance with “investment profits.”

For a decade after the revolution, the land question, especially in cities, was among the most contested issues in the Islamic Republic. The collapse of state authority, coupled with the populist convictions of the new regime and spontaneous popular land occupations labeled as “revolutionary housing,” led to the dramatic expansion of cities. Tehran doubled in size within two years, and Ahvaz tripled in area from 9 to 29 square miles. But only a small fraction of this geographic expansion was confiscated private land. The rest, more than 90 percent of the total distributed, had been public land. From 1979 to 1993 nearly half a million hectares of predominantly public unoccupied land was converted into private and cooperative residential property. New state institutions like the Urban Land Organization and the Housing Foundation played the key role in this massive transfer of property. By the mid-1980s more than 60 percent of all urban residential land transactions were being allocated by the state.

This large-scale transfer of mostly public land, coupled with the absence of enforceable regulation, transformed Iran’s urban geography. Between 1979 and 1982, 75 percent of all new construction in Tehran occurred outside the formal city limits, where satellite villages were transformed into sprawling suburbs. Remarkably, by 1986 urban housing stock had doubled, as Housing Ministry surveys showed that more than half of all urban dwellings in the entire country had been built after the revolution. It was private individuals who built these 2.3 million new units. The state merely transferred the public land into private hands; its share of investment in housing construction (affordable or otherwise) was less than 2 percent of the total after the revolution.

Aside from spontaneous occupations, the public land privatized by the state was sold at prices well below the market, not, as official propaganda claims, to the most needy, but primarily to state employees, the middle classes and people who can only be categorized as state clients. In the aftermath of the revolution the dramatic expansion of the public sector had been the main pathway of upward mobility for people who joined the government bureaucracies and the new Islamic revolutionary organizations. Public-sector employment more than doubled after the revolution, from 1.7 million in 1976 to 3.5 million in 1986. According to one estimate, within three years of the revolution, one in six Iranians above the age of 15 belonged to one state and revolutionary body or another. [4] Although public land was distributed or sold substantially below market rates, nonetheless its sale became an important source of revenue for the state during the difficult years of war and international sanctions. As a result, the greatest beneficiaries of this privatization of public land were the state treasury and the lucky recipients.

The scale of land distribution, coupled with the worsening economy and wartime population displacement, spurred a rush of urban immigration and land speculation from 1981. The nationalized banking sector contributed to this speculative trend by channeling capital to the construction and housing sectors. Subsidized banking credit intended for low-income housing did not benefit the poor, however, as the greatest beneficiaries turned out to be public-sector employees, state clients (veterans and families of war dead) and the middle classes who could maintain substantial bank deposits as collateral. For example, in the provincial city of Ahvaz in Khuzestan, between 1979 and 1988, 74 percent of all state-distributed land plots and 91 percent of state-built houses went to the latter groups. [5] In smaller towns, like Ramhormoz in the province of Khuzestan, of the 1,400 parcels of land distributed in the same period only 80 went to war refugees or others classified as “needy.” The rest went to cooperatives of state employees, and to revolutionary foundations, which in turn distributed the properties to various public-sector employees and state clients, primarily the families of the war dead.

These enclosures and property transfers were condoned by the more radical factions of the new regime, but the recipients spurred on the state by eagerly lobbying for laws that would finalize these privatizations. This process was by no means smooth, and the “land question” in its various guises remained the most controversial topic of legal and political wrangling for years. In an attempt to put an end to this phase of revolutionary property transfer the state passed a series of laws in 1986 and 1991. What had taken place, aside from the remarkable transformation of the urban geography of Iran, was the massive enclosure of public land for the benefit of favored clients. Alternative policies, such as public housing or affordable rental housing, which would have maintained public assets as collective goods while dealing with the acute housing problem, were never given serious consideration.

Vertical Enclosures

The end of the Iran-Iraq war and the death of Khomeini soon after brought the populist phase of the Islamic Republic to an end. Faced with a nearly bankrupt economy and an impoverished population, the unwieldy array of factions that Khomeini had held together with his personal popularity and political craft was fragmenting fast. A major realignment, engineered by Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, who had been elected president in 1989, redefined the contours of the Islamic Republic. Labeled “the reconstruction administration,” Rafsanjani’s government transformed the redistributive state of the 1980s into a neo-liberal state capitalism by integrating various revolutionary institutions into the state bureaucracy and then forcing state institutions to become economically self-sustaining. The driving force of this new coalition was the old state class, the technocracy and bureaucracy of the monarchy, which had been sidelined after the revolution. The state class offered Rafsanjani the qualified personnel as well as a game plan for rebuilding the economy, in the form of five-year development plans. International organizations, notably the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, obliged by providing loans and developmental blueprints, while Malaysia and China were seen as appropriate models to emulate.

The social bedrock of this strategy was the urban middle class, which had been battered in the 1980s. Under Rafsanjani, the dominant discourse of the regime changed, from privileging revolutionary commitment (ta‘ahod) and the poor to championing expertise (takhasos) and the professional classes. To rebuild the middle class the regime expanded education, especially higher education. Universities, the strongholds of the left and opposition forces under the Shah, had been purged and closed down for almost three years in the early 1980s following a violent “cultural revolution.” But by the mid-1990s university campuses had mushroomed across the country, and enrollment in higher education increased from 160,000 in 1977 to 200,000 in 1988 to 1.4 million in 2000. Sensing the changes to come, significant numbers of the political elite, veterans and state managers enrolled in universities to obtain degrees. To rebuild the shattered economy Rafsanjani embraced structural adjustment policies. State planners included privatization as a basis of the first five-year plan (1989–1993), although the privatization of industrial and financial assets remained negligible for another decade. The Islamic Republic was ready to consider structural adjustment, but first it had to create a loyal, Islamic (but neo-liberal) middle class.

Within a decade after the war, a substantial urban middle class had emerged. This class found its political representation in the reformist movement led by Mohammad Khatami in the 1997 presidential election. It had accumulated its status primarily through the cultural capital of university and professional credentials, and the wealth generated through speculation in urban real estate and construction, which, unlike the large industries and finance, had remained mostly in private hands. Once again, the state was the catalyst for this speculative boom, through the privatization of the urban skyline, which, by law, was common property. In many ways Tehran was the laboratory of the neo-liberal transformation of Iran during the “reconstruction.” Mayor Gholamhossein Karbaschi’s controversial transformation of the city in the 1990s was based on mobilizing a speculative and entrepreneurial urban middle class that was called upon to finance the ambitious program of urban renewal and lend support to the political system. Ignoring critics who objected to the “un-Islamic” or gentrifying impact of the municipality’s public projects — such as cultural centers, highways and parks — Karbaschi confirmed that the municipality was indeed introducing modern cultural practices into urban public life. The goal was not to “Westernize” the public, however, but “to protect them from unregulated and corrupt behavioral models.” [6]

Unable to count on the central government to bail it out, the virtually bankrupt municipality had two options for raising revenues: tax the residents or make an arrangement with big capital, which in the Islamic Republic is highly connected to the political power centers. Taxation required the municipality to convince the economically pressed and disillusioned population to shoulder the heavy burden of financing the capital’s renovation. Politically, such a radical step would have been unthinkable unless the state was willing to be more transparent and accountable in its expenditures. Accountability would have made Tehran’s urban renewal more democratic as well as more politically stable, since property taxes are largely immune to the chronic factional struggles of the Islamic Republic.

Instead, and not surprisingly, Karbaschi chose the second option. Financing for Tehran’s urban renewal came from “public participation,” a euphemism for a pact between the municipality and speculative capital floating in the shadow economy. The municipality decided to extract fees and taxes from merchants and developers in exchange for exemption from zoning laws and protection from political pressure. This alliance between the urban government and speculators was presented as a win-win solution: Urban renewal projects would jump-start the economy using the construction sector as their engine, with rising employment and housing supplies to offset any potential inflationary pressures.

When Karbaschi was appointed in 1990, Tehran’s population of nearly 7 million was growing at the pace of 100,000 per year, demanding an additional 20,000 new housing units annually. The city had no money; municipal services had been badly neglected during the war. Tehran was a polluted, spatially fragmented, overcrowded city suffering from horrible traffic and lack of architectural coherence. So profound was the crisis that the government was debating the construction of a new capital elsewhere. The structural reforms of the municipality became the model of economic renewal for the rest of the country. By spinning off personnel and semi-privatizing most of the municipal services, the new mayor balanced the books and increased revenues, which were channeled into development projects. From 1990 to 1998, the municipality collected an estimated $6 billion from Tehran’s economy, most of which was then invested in the urban infrastructure.

Three quarters of the new revenues came from the sale of residential permits that were in explicit violation of zoning laws. These violations either allowed commercial use of public land or were generated by the “sale of density,” which exempted developers from zoning laws by allowing them to subdivide plots and build high-rises well above the permitted norm. The latter, highly controversial move was justified on the grounds that it would boost the housing supply through increased “vertical density.”

Regardless of its social impact, this strategy succeeded in providing the political stability to attract the substantial assets circulating in Tehran’s economy to the construction sector where, between 1987 and 1997, private investment increased by a factor of 15, and the number of employees nearly doubled. But this construction boom primarily benefited the wealthier social layers. By the late 1990s the flow of immigration to Tehran had slowed due to the increasing cost of living, but the capital’s agricultural hinterland continued to morph into clusters of unregulated satellite cities housing not only rural and provincial migrants, but many working- and middle-class Tehranis who could no longer afford residence in the capital.

The municipality financed its urban renewal project through the privatization of the urban skyline. This strategy led to a proliferation of high-rises, especially in the affluent north of the city where profit rates on real estate were significantly higher. Consequently, the skyline came to visually recreate Tehran’s symbolic division into two parts—the affluent north and the working-class south. In 1992, only 20 percent of all building permits issued in Tehran were for buildings over four stories. By 1997, this figure had risen to 64 percent, most of them in the north. This trend was to be reversed in the post-Karbaschi era.

The Post-Karbaschi Era

By 1999 the laissez faire era of luxurious high-rises had run into difficulty following the political trial and imprisonment of Karbaschi on corruption charges and the election of the first city council. The dilemmas of funding the municipal budget and the worsening housing crisis had become even more acute, however. Preoccupied with national politics, even the newly elected city council failed to consider alternative strategies for providing mass affordable housing. After much negotiation it was decided to allow the municipality to continue along the same pattern of generating revenue by privatizing public space.

The unregulated real estate boom of the 1990s had caused considerable social outrage. High-rises had been built with disregard for safety codes and the character of neighborhoods. Housing was unaffordable for the majority of the working population. Karbaschi’s trial and conviction, although clearly politically motivated, only encouraged suspicion of corruption in the municipality, where huge sums of money were floating about with little regulation. To quiet the outcry the municipality shifted its emphasis from high-rises to permits for smaller buildings at the height of four to six floors throughout the city, also a violation of city codes. Of course, the laws could have been changed, but legislative debates would have opened a can of worms. The current strategy has “democratized” speculation: In lieu of a few large, anonymous and politically well-connected speculators, at present any urban property owner can purchase a permit to build a lucrative multi-story apartment building, while the propertiless are increasingly impoverished due to inflation, rising rents and a stalled economy. During Karbaschi’s tenure, the average price of housing in Tehran tripled. In the next five years, prices tripled again, and they have continued to increase exponentially since then. [7] The municipality continues to raise its revenue through an alliance with capital, but capital of a different kind — the petite bourgeoisie whose residences have turned into gold mines because they can build upward into a skyline that, by law, is public property.

The effects have been profound. Since the 1990s, the average dwelling size in Tehran has fallen by half, to 646 square feet, while speculative apartment building has accelerated considerably in the less affluent districts. Private-sector investment in new urban construction in Tehran increased from 5 trillion rials ($525 million) in 1998 to 19 trillion rials ($1.95 billion) in 2002, before the housing sector went into a slump. [8] By comparison, state investment in affordable housing was negligible (204 billion rials or $21 million in 1998 and 287 billion rials or $29.5 million in 2002). As a result the urban skyline has been enclosed into private property for the benefit of the property-owning urban middle class, while impoverishing the majority of the working population. The extent to which the propertied urban middle class is grateful and loyal to the regime is, however, open to question.

Privatizing Public Assets

The current debate over the privatization of industrial and financial assets is centered on legal interpretation of Article 44 of the Constitution, which states that the Iranian economy should consist of three sectors: public, private and cooperative.

The public sector includes all basic and large-scale industries, foreign trade, banking, insurance, energy, dams and large-scale irrigation, radio and television, the post, telegraph and telephone, roads and railroads, airlines, shipping, and so on, which are public property under the control of the state…. The private sector includes those segments of agriculture, animal husbandry, trade, industry and services, which complement the state and cooperative sectors…. Determining the conditions, limits and rules of property in these three sectors will be determined by law.

The constitution etatized the economy, while leaving room for multiple interpretations of the boundaries of property relations, notably the equation of “public” and “state” property, which blurs the distinction between the two. [9] According to current policies, public goods, which belong equally to every citizen and to future generations, and are held in custody (but not owned) by the state, are to be transformed into the private property of individuals. In the spring of 2005, shortly after Ahmadinejad’s electoral victory, Ayatollah Khamenei issued a directive reinterpreting Article 44 with the following explicit purpose: “To speed up national economic development; expand ownership among the populace with the purpose of assuring social justice; improve the efficiency of enterprises; enhance economic competition; reduce the fiscal and administrative burdens of the state; improve employment and income for the population; and encourage the people to invest and save.” This directive seems to reverse the limits set on the private sector in the constitution, with the first clause explicitly allowing the private sector to enter the constitutionally prohibited key sectors mentioned in Article 44. The government was ordered to reduce its share in “non-essential” sectors annually by 20 percent and to privatize some 80 percent of its assets in “essential” sectors — mining, heavy industry, downstream oil and gas, banking, insurance, energy, communications and even some military industries.

If actually carried out, these policies would indeed precipitate a neo-liberal economic transformation not dissimilar to the Egyptian infitah or, more disturbingly, given Iran’s international isolation under sanctions, Saddam Hussein’s selloff of the Iraqi public sector in the late 1980s. [10] Given the absence of transparency and accountability, in all likelihood, “privatization” of public assets will replace state monopolies with equally unaccountable private monopolies and multi-national capital, without necessarily benefiting “the public” in a discernible way. The state dominates the Iranian economy, and ironically this domination has been increasing since 2005. Currently there are more than 500 major state-owned corporations, which in turn are comprised of more than 16,000 subsidiaries. [11] In recent years, state corporations have taken up to a 76 percent share of the total national budget and two thirds of the GDP. The 2007–2008 budget designated $7.8 billion in state assets for privatization, $3.3 billion to be sold to “the public,” with another $3 billion to be transferred to pension funds in lieu of government debt.

The present privatization drive has generated contention between the government and its opponents, within the Majles, the Guardian Council and the Expediency Council, at various think tanks and in the press. Little of this debate, at least within the corridors of power, has been about the legality or the logic behind the policy. Instead, the focus has been on the mechanisms of evaluation and the marketing of the assets. Some critics have challenged this program by drawing comparisons with the experience of “shock therapy” in the former Soviet bloc. [12] Others, notably in the online political economy journal Alborz, have argued that, in the absence of strong regulations and a transparent and accountable legal system that can resist political interference, replacing state ownership with private property will amount to replacing one type of oligarchy with another, a state mafia with a private one.

“Justice Shares”

In a controversial move, Ahmadinejad’s government has insisted on allocating up to 40 percent of the public assets lined up for privatization to low-income people and state dependents. In Ahmadinejad’s first two years in office, nearly 6 million people, including pensioners, state employees and the registered low-income deciles of the population, received the equivalent of $2.5 billion in stock in various public corporations under the rubric of “justice shares.” [13] This program has come under severe criticism from both liberal and conservative proponents of the privatization program. The government is claiming that the poorest 10 percent of the public are receiving stocks and dividends. Severe poverty has become an acknowledged crisis in Iran, with an official 8 million people living below the poverty line. [14] Since there are no reliable statistics to determine who falls within this category, it is clear that the administration is using politically connected distributive institutions, such as the conservative Imam Khomeini Relief Foundation, the Basij militia and pensioners, as its database for doling out stocks and dividends. Recipients have been handed stocks worth an average of 20 million rials ($220), hardly a remedy for severe poverty.

Aside from doling out dividends on stock of public companies whose profitability is questionable at best, this “privatization” is modeled on the disastrous voucher distribution programs of Russia and Czechoslovakia in the 1990s, which, at least in the case of Russia, led to the rise of the oligarchs. [15] These impoverished recipients can be used to form reliable voting blocs or as tools of repression of dissidents and popular disturbances. As in Russia, a few well-connected actors can quickly pool at bargain prices the nearly worthless stock widely distributed among a poor and vulnerable population and use it to create corporate empires. Despite vociferous objections from the Majles, [16] the government is continuing with its distribution of “justice shares,” at least until the presidential election on June 12.

Privatization Proper?

While the government’s policy regarding “justice shares” is unabashedly populist, the same can also be said about the entire program of privatization as currently formulated. While few would dispute the fact that the state’s economic record is poor, to lay the blame for this performance on the question of ownership alone, rather than the highly politicized environment of the economy, is disingenuous. While the state controls two thirds of the Iranian economy, the private sector does control the other third. [17] The key blockage in the Iranian economy is political, rather than juridical or economic. The state sector is neither transparent nor accountable nor competitive. If the genuine aim of the state is to jump-start the economy by enhancing the private sector, the state could accomplish this task by removing the impediments to existing private enterprise, while simultaneously weaning state managers from the protective subsidies that put the private sector at a disadvantage.

According to the World Bank, overall, Iran is number 142 out of 189 countries in terms of ease of doing private business. [18] If the treatment of the actually existing private sector is an indication, then further neo-liberal attempts at privatization should be treated with skepticism. In 2005, in an attempt to reduce red tape, the government contracted a number of young certified notaries to open some 200 “communications services offices” throughout Tehran, to act as intermediaries between the public and the state by handling an array of services, including payment of utility bills and issuing of passports, driver’s licenses and birth certificates. This micro-scale privatization is of great convenience in a sprawling metropolis where one has to stand in interminable lines across the city to get the simplest task done. Yet, already, 70 of these offices have shut down and many of those that remain are on the verge of going out of business. They were contracted to receive a 12 percent commission on the services performed, but instead are paid 2 percent. They have to open their books to multiple suspicious inspectors from numerous agencies, instead of a single inspector, as agreed. The notaries established their own trade union, codified their rules of conduct and commissioned appropriate business software for their computer networks. But the state disbanded their union and established its own rival “guild.”

The privatization of large-scale public enterprises has also been plagued with problems. At present, at least 20 percent of the companies slated for selloff are officially loss-making. While the rest have earned an average profit of 5.5 percent in recent years, that figure does not take into account the extensive political and economic incentives and monopoly protections that they enjoy. Furthermore, an estimated 85 percent of Iran’s stock exchange is dominated by state agencies or the non-governmental public sector, [19] which encompasses pension funds, the Social Security Organization, various foundations and municipalities. Many of the nominally major private enterprises, such as the automakers Iran Khodro and Saipa, or the nominally private banks, like Parsian or Pasargad, are in fact part of a shadow public sector, as they are mostly owned by other non-governmental public enterprises, or directly by the state itself. As a result, “in Iran the public sector reproduces itself regularly, even via privatization.” [20] The management of all these companies remains in the hands of state-appointed boards and CEOs, meaning that the few genuinely private investors who enter the market have no hope of exercising control.

As a result of uncertainty about the actual worth of these enterprises, not to mention a sense of insecurity regarding the political and economic environment, the private sector has been highly reluctant to buy these shares. On the occasions when state enterprises have been privatized, the results have often been questionable. Witness the 2003 “privatization” of Sadra, the country’s largest shipbuilding conglomerate, employing 2,500 permanent personnel and 3,000 contractors, and owning a range of additional businesses in construction, oil and gas. The largest privatization to date when it took place, Sadra was sold to a series of shareholders, including 21,000 small private buyers (who purchased 17 percent of the stock), as well as major non-governmental public enterprises, such as two investment companies belonging to Bank Melli (48 percent). Within two years of privatization, Sadra’s profits had plummeted by 90 percent. Like most other large industries in Iran, Sadra’s sole client is the state. Its “privatization,” even though it was sold to a semi-public entity, brought it into disfavor with the political decision-makers who, despite Sadra’s competitive tenders and track record, favored its rival, Qarargah-e Khatam-ol Anbia, the (non-governmental) public construction business arm of the Revolutionary Guards. [21]

In July 2006, a Majles commission looking into the Privatization Organization, the institution in charge of the process, complained that “many activities of this organization cannot be classified as privatization. In some privatized enterprises the buyer has fired the workers, changed the land-use title of the property, sold the assets and speculated on the real estate. Our priority is increasing employment and production. This is not proper privatization.” [22] The Chamber of Commerce has also complained that the state is trying to reduce its deficit and, as a result, overprices its assets, thus scaring off private buyers. The newly proposed and highly controversial labor law, which permits the layoff of workers at the mere suggestion of employer discontent, is also an indication that the privatization scheme is aimed at benefiting select groups of politically well-positioned actors, who will be able to obtain favorable credit through state-owned financial institutions, deal as they like with the employees and do as they please with the assets. The key issues plaguing the economy, such as unemployment, rising poverty and income inequality, repression of working people’s self-representation, political control of the economy and constraints on the actually existing private sector will not be solved by schemes such as the “justice shares” or neo-liberal privatization.

There are no intrinsic “public” qualities to any of the three forms of property specified in the Islamic Republic’s constitution. Property is not a natural, but a political arrangement. Since the revolution of 1979, a struggle has raged over the meaning of the public domain—whether it means “state property” or whether the notion of “public” should not be easily alienable, even by the government, as it comprises resources held in the interest of all citizens and future generations. The process of permanently enclosing these commons for the benefit of private individuals as well as the state is equally a political act of significant consequence. Under the Islamic Republic, enclosures have been carried out in the name of social justice, but in fact they have enriched the state and select social groups who lent their support to the political establishment.

In the era of modern capitalism, the enclosure of the commons lies at the origin, often violent, of new cycles of accumulation by newly emerging dominant classes. Thus it is in the Islamic Republic of Iran today.


[1] Etemad, February 29, 2007.
[2] See the fascinating interpretation of Khomeini’s position on the economy by Mohsen Rezaei, the retired Revolutionary Guards commander, writing under the pseudonym, Mohsen Mirqa’ed, “The Foundations of the Model of Economic Development from the Perspective of Imam Khomeini,” Ettelaat, August 2–11, 1992. [Persian] [3] Kamal Athari, “Sanjesh dar andakhtan-e tarhi no-e,” Goft-o-gu 39 (March 2004) and “Bakhsh-e maskan dar Iran, bazar ya barnameh?” Iran Farda 7 (July 1993).
[4] Farazmand, The State, Bureaucracy and Revolution in Modern Iran (New York: Praeger, 1989), p. 187.
[5] M. A. Mowlazadeh, “Evaluation of the Post-Revolutionary Urban Land Policy in Iran,” unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, University of Glasgow, 1991, pp. 169, 173–183, 200–202.
[6] For details, see Kaveh Ehsani, “Municipal Matters: The Urbanization of Consciousness and Political Change in Tehran,” Middle East Report 212 (Fall 1999).
[7] See Azam Khatam and Fardin Yazdani, Garayeshha-ye Toelid-e Maskan va Jam‘iat dar Tehran, Center for Urban and Architecture Research and Study, Ministry of Housing, 2005; Fardin Yazdani, Tarh-e Tahqiqi-e Siasatha-ye Zamin dar Iran, Ministry of Housing and Urbanism, 2005. See also Eqtesad-e Maskan for more recent trends.
[8] Bank of Iran, Economic Trends and Statistics (1381), available at
[9] See Carol Rose, Property and Persuasion (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1994), chapters 1, 2 and 5.
[10] See Marsha Pripstein Posusney, “Privatization in Egypt,” Middle East Report 210 (Spring 1999); and Christopher Parker and Pete Moore, “The War Economy of Iraq,” Middle East Report 243 (Summer 2007).
[11] These and the following figures are taken from various Iranian government statistics and studies.
[12] See, for instance, Ahmad Maydari, “Yek naqd va yek pasokh dar bareh ketab-e khosousisazi-e mardomi,” Majles va Pajouhesh 12 (2005).
[13] Ettelaat, October 3, 2006; Ettelaat, October 11, 2006; Etemad, March 5, 2007.
[14] Etemad Melli, September 18, 2006.
[15] See Marshall Goldman, The Piratization of Russia (London: Routledge, 2003); and Stephen Kotkin and A. Sajo, eds., Political Corruption in Transition (Budapest: Central European University Press, 2002).
Donya-e Eqtesad, December 24, 2007.
[17] Ettelaat, October 29, 2006.
[18] World Bank, Doing Business in Iran (Washington, DC, 2009).
[19] Ettelaat, September 25, 2006.
[20] Ali Nassiri Aghdam and Mohsen Fatehizadeh, Does Privatization Reduce the Size of the Public Sector?, unpublished paper, 2008.
[21] See Ahmad Maydari, “Good Governance or Privatization? The Case of the Sadra Company,” Goft-o-gu (forthcoming 2009); and the fascinating interview with Jalil Khobreh, the CEO of Sadra, in Donya-ye Eqtesad, August 4 and 5, 2006.
[22] Sharq, August 16, 2006.

How to cite this article:

Kaveh Ehsani "Survival Through Dispossession," Middle East Report 250 (Spring 2009).

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