By Paul Iddon
Will widespread political discontent among Tehran's subversive student population or an impending natural disaster inevitably shift the Iranian capital from Tehran to Esfahan?
Last year Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad stated quite bluntly that an earthquake will certainly hit Tehran in the near future. A senior cleric Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi seemed to think that upon this revelation he'd further enlighten us, he proceeded to do so by pointing the finger at promiscuous women - blaming them for inevitably bringing on the Iran's predisposition that makes the country prone to earthquakes.
This is the kind of thing you'd expect to hear from some quaint kook hollering on the street and waving a cardboard sign whilst simultaneously pestering indifferent passer-bys, but no, the man who made this outrageously spiteful and ignorant superstitious claim wasn't some hapless hollering dingbat relegated from acceptable social norms, no Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi is a senior cleric in a state where church and government aren't separately functioning entities, meaning statements like that of his are treated as if they are credible and helpful.
But onto the very real and very palpable threat of earthquakes, as a metropolis Tehran is very densely populated with no less than 13 million people, if an earthquake were to hit the city it would be devastating and could leave upwards to a million people dead, this was one of the reasons there have been plans to move the capital of Iran from Tehran to neither Shahroud, Esfahan or Semnan which are the three main alternative capitals chosen by the Majilis.
This effort has its political implications too, as Tehran is evidently the core region populated by Iranians who seek regime change and the separation of church and state, if Tehran as the capital of Iran were to succumb to those immensely in favour of such secular democracy then the foundations of the Islamic Republic may founder.
Changing the capital from Tehran to somewhere like Esfahan would certainly limit the impact Tehran would have on these said proverbial foundations of the Islamic Republic as a whole if, in the foreseeable future the theocracy gradually loses its control and influence over large parts of the vast uncontrollable, poorly planned and vastly overpopulated city.
Tehran is by all means the centre core region of the numerous pro-democratic movements, by changing capital and moving from Tehran to a city like Esfahan (while bringing along important state firms) may be a political move on behalf of the theocracy to marginalize a lot of those who are actively conglomerating in solidarity with one another in voicing their collective qualms over the regime which directly interferes and cynically meddles in their day to day lives. This discontent is furthered by statements like that of Sedighi in the face of a potentially horrific natural disaster.
A year after President George W. Bush made his now infamous Axis of Evil speech in which he declared Iran along with Saddam Hussein's Iraq and North Korea as part of this axis an earthquake struck the Iranian city of Bam and killed over 26,000 of its inhabitants, this disaster resulted in a thaw in US-Iranian relations as the United States was quick in offering direct humanitarian assistance to the other 30,000+ injured and the numerous hundreds left homeless in the wake of that deadly quake, Bam has since been undergoing a reconstruction process with seismic regulations in mind.
While the idea of relocating upwards to five million people from Tehran since the Bam earthquake has been played around with in recent years the Iranian government really needs to take more efficient action in earthquake proofing large parts of the cities civil infrastructure, in a fashion similar to that of which has been tried and tested in California (Los Angeles coincidentally enough has been Tehran's sister city since 1972), the Iranian government has an opportunity to prove it serves the Iranian peoples best interests by making a strong appeal to the UN to undergo an international program to bring world class professionals to Tehran to help in the arduous but life saving process of earthquake proofing major buildings and civil infrastructure in Tehran and other cities that would save countless lives.
However these days with such clerical lunatics and religious fanatics in positions of power it is difficult to be optimistic without seriously deluding and fooling yourself, and remaining on the topic of earthquakes do you remember the Christian fanatic Pat Robertson's remarks after the Haiti quake of 2010?
Whilst people were still trapped under the rubble of what was once their homes he blamed them for bringing it upon themselves, as they the Haitians he said had over a hundred years ago done a deal with the devil and this earthquake was Gods way of punishing them in their already wretched impoverished state, he made similar remarks on the afternoon of September 11th 2001. While the ruins of the towers were still smouldering and the search for survivors under the rubble was only getting underway he came on national television and said these attacks were America's fault for letting lesbians and pagans run amok.
Would it really be a surprise in full light of what we know about them to see some of these senior and ruling clerics make similar outlandishly kooky claims in the immediate aftermath of such a terrifically devastating earthquake in Tehran, instead of plate tectonics maybe the blame will be put on the prevalent corruption and moral degradation of Tehran that comes from Gharbzadegi, or maybe they'll choose to borrow an accusation which was made by one of their few allies Hugo Chavez, that being blaming the United States for inflicting the earthquake and effectively murdering hundreds of thousands of people.
There comes a point when what one says is self discrediting, and the present clerical regime in (for the moment anyway) Tehran has evidently well surpassed that point.
Editor’s Note: Paul Iddon is one of the authors of Uskowi on Iran. His weekly columns appear here on Wednesdays.