The National Security and Foreign Policy Commission of Iran’s Parliament has moved a motion to take back the Gholhak Orchard from the British Embassy.
Hossein Sobhaninia, a National Security Commission member, told Mehr News Agency: “Commander Mohamad Bagherzadeh, the head of the Foundation for the Protection and Publication of the Holy Defence Values, has described to MPs the series of activities undertaken in order to take back Gholhak Orchard.”
He added that the report indicated that the British have no legal document to prove ownership of the orchard, and whatever they do have is “forged.”
The Gholhak Orchard is a 20-hectare parcel of land that has been under British possession since the time of the Qajar Dynasty, which ruled Iran in from the end of eighteenth century to 1925. For many years it had been considered as part of the British Embassy.
But for the past five years, the ownership of the summer orchard in northern Tehran has been under dispute by the two countries.
The Gholhak Village in north Tehran has always been considered a prime spot by the aristocracy and representatives of foreign countries,
During the reign of Nassereddin Shah,the king provided the orchard for the use of Sir John Campbell, the British envoy to Iran, and later the rent was foregone and the orchard was used as a residence for the British ambassador and other embassy employees.
Iranian MPs now say the orchard was only offered to the British embassy as a residence, and they cannot claim owner ship on that basis.
Recently, Tehran Mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibof filed suit against the British Embassy for intentionally burning the orchard’s trees. It is illegal to destroy orchards to develop land in Tehran, and burning down orchards has sometimes been used as a ploy to circumvent this restriction.
If they can prove that the fire at the Gholhak Orchard was indeed arson, the judiciary may have an option to confiscate the land.
The British embassy denies that the destruction of the trees was intentional.
The land dispute has once again highlighted Parliament’s motion to cut off diplomatic relations with Britain.