The municipality demolished the outdoor space of several cafes in Tehran’s defiant Ekbatan district, but residents are helping them to clean up and resume business. 

Municipality workers supported by riot police on motorbikes, masked security agents and Basij militia began demolishing the outdoor seating spaces of the cafes that have no inside seating at five in the morning on Sunday for what the district mayor, Ehsan Sharifi, said was “unlicensed use of the outside space”. 

The neighborhood was an epicenter of protests ignited by the death of Mahsa Amini, the 22-year-old woman who was fatally injured in September 2022 while in police custody following her arrest for not wearing her headscarf “properly.”

The aftermath of municipality’s forces demolishing businesses in Tehran’s Ekbatan district

The Basij militia of the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) has four bases within the five square kilometer complex which has 15,500 apartments and a population of around 45,000. The neighborhood is very popular with professionals, artists and other educated groups with a sense of community unmatched elsewhere in the city. 

“They ransacked everything outside the little cafes. Some of these cafes like Godar and Tehroun have been here for years. It was because of hijab but they claim the residents had complained about these businesses,” a young man from Ekbatan told Iran International. 

“Do you think they were here to arrest the leader of a human trafficking band? Or that they had found a drug kitchen? Or to arrest an Interpol wanted criminal? Did they find bombs?” tweeted Shahrak Ekbatan, the neighborhood's popular twitter account after the incident.

“No! … They demolished the cafes for spreading ‘corruption and immorality”. Why? Because they are afraid of the people of Ekbatan and their solidarity,” the tweet said. 

The admin of the account who wanted to be quoted by the name Aida told Iran International that demolition of the cafes has created a greater sense of solidarity among the residents. “People immediately came to help clean up the mess they left behind and are buying more takeaway at these places to support them. 

Residents have dubbed their neighborhood as “The United States of Ekbatan” and “Autonomous States of Ekbatan”. 

“This neighborhood does not obey the laws of the Islamic Republic. Enjoy your day!” a graffiti on the wall of one of the blocks, covered in anti-regime slogans, declared recently. 

For over three decades Ekbatanis, as they like to call themselves, have hosted one of Tehran’s biggest Charshanbe Suri bonfire night festivals in late March. The police and the Basij militia, who consider the festival a pagan tradition, always cracked down on the merry-making boys and girls, who often flouted the hijab rules too, playing loud music and dancing in the leafy spaces between the buildings.

Ekbatan was also famous for its nightly anti-regime “window chanting” during last year’s protests. Residents have been chanting again from their windows since Monday after rumors emerged that three protesters were at imminent risk of execution in Isfahan. 

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