Tehran Mayor Alireza Zakani

Popular campaign to unseat Tehran's hardline mayor gains momentum

Sunday, 07/07/2024

A popular campaign to unseat Tehran's mayor, Alireza Zakani, is gaining momentum, with reports on Sunday indicating that over 71,000 people have signed a petition against the hardliner.

The ongoing campaign, addressed to the Tehran City Council, calls for Zakani’s dismissal, arguing that the mayor's actions, including repurposing green spaces for building mosques and commercial projects, show his inability to handle the responsibilities of his office.

Back in April, over 147,000 people signed a petition to prevent the destruction of Qeytarieh Park, where Zakani's administration planned to construct a mosque, leading to the cutting down of many trees.

However, Mehdi Chamran, the chairman of Tehran City Council, has downplayed the popular campaigns to dismiss Zakani, saying similar efforts against US President Joe Biden also failed to unseat him.

"Now he is sitting in his place, hale and hearty," Chamran said, emphasizing that even the large number of signatures does not justify changing the mayor.

Zakani's tenure as mayor has been marked by significant controversy and criticism. His involvement in the 14th presidential election, where he withdrew in favor of other conservative candidates, left many issues, such as the construction in parks, unresolved.

During the 2022 “Woman, Life, Freedom” protests, the United Kingdom sanctioned several officials of the Islamic Republic, including Zakani, highlighting his contentious past as the former head of the Student Basij Organization, a group notorious for its human rights violations.

Last year, Zakani’s trip to Brussels for the “World Association of Major Metropolises” assembly stirred further controversy. Darya Safai, a Belgian MP of Iranian descent, criticized his presence, stating that Zakani is the former head of the Student Basij, an organization sanctioned by the European Union for human rights violations. She said it is outrageous that the “regime’s terrorists” can freely walk in the heart of Europe.

Tehran is grappling with numerous challenges, including severe air pollution, heavy traffic, land subsidence, water shortages, high housing costs, and an aging and insufficient public transportation system. Many residents believe these issues have worsened under Zakani's leadership.

Zakani's political career has been fraught with aggressive tactics and controversies, particularly against reformists. Financial and familial scandals have also plagued his tenure, with allegations of nepotism involving his son-in-law and questionable financial dealings by his daughter.

Zakani's recent candidacy in Iran's presidential election also drew criticism, as he took a leave from his municipal duties to participate in a race that almost everyone anticipated he would eventually withdraw from to support other hardline candidates.

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