Living and Working in the Oil City – 2

Abadan, the “modern oil city”, in southern Iran, was a segregated city in the 1940s and 1950s, and the subject of the promotional film “Persian Story” commissioned by Anglo-Iranian Oil Company.

“Abadan—The Fruit of British Industry that Persia Covets.” The Illustrated London News (September 8, 1951), 358. retrieved from Damluji,

Living conditions for most of AIOC’s non-British oil workers were extremely poor. The majority did not receive formal housing provisions and were left to live in “slum”-like environments on the periphery of the refinery…. The experience of Iranian laborers differed entirely from that of the British administrative personnel and technicians, and of a minority of Iranians hired for more technical positions or married to British staff. This latter group lived in a planned garden suburb pictured in Persian Story and known as Barwada. AIOC’s chief architect planned and built this neighborhood in the late 1940s as an experimental integrated residential area in the otherwise spatially and socially segregated oil city. In this garden suburb, selected non-European staff could live side-by-side in the same bungalow-style homes that Europeans had occupied in specially planned and isolated neighborhoods since the 1920s…. [F]rom early settlement until the 1950s, European staff lived in isolated bungalow areas mainly to the west of the refinery with their own system of buses, markets, cinemas, clubs, and so forth. To the east of the refinery, Iranian AIOC laborers were left to settle informally in a densely populated town with little services and infrastructure. Although some company housing was provided for Iranian staff, the great majority of company resources was poured into European staff housing. By 1951, when Abadan had more than 200,000 inhabitants (of which 65,000 were company employees), less than 20 percent lived in the planned residential districts where the AIOC provided housing. [Damluji, Mona, “Documenting the Modern Oil City: Cinematic Urbanism in Anglo-Iranian’s Persian Story, retrieved 26/12/2012]

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