In recent years, Iran’s most far-reaching protest movements have all begun with the expression of economic grievances. In late December 2017, organizers staged a protest in the city of Mashhad which condemned the national government’s economic policy in the wake of a series of alarming indicators. Somewhat unexpectedly, that local demonstration quickly sparked others all across the country, resulting in a nationwide uprising. The pattern repeated itself even more spontaneously, and on an even larger scale, in November 2019 after regime authorities announced a sudden hike in the price of gasoline.
Both of these uprisings highlighted the extent of public frustration with rising levels of poverty, unemployment, and social stratification. Officially, the poverty rate in the mullah’s regime is typically reported as comprising something like one-third of the population. But occasional candid remarks from certain regime officials confirm what opposition activists have said: that as many as 80 percent of the Iranian people are living below the poverty line. The protests also leave little doubt about where those people place the blame for that situation: not on Western sanctions but on the regime’s self-serving policies and rampant corruption.
Aspects of that corruption were confirmed on Sunday by Parviz Fattah, the head of Bonyad Mostazafan, or the Foundation of the Oppressed. Ostensibly a charitable trust, the foundation has been identified as one of four institutions that control roughly 60 percent of Iran’s national wealth. Fattah’s remarks confirm that Bonyad Mostazafan’s share of that wealth is prone to systematic theft by many of its officials, and this observation reportedly applies in equal measure to the other three institutions.
#Iran Regime’s #Corruption Revealed by an Official, Shows Mullahs Are the Real Source of Economic Problems.
In the interview, he revealed several former and current regime officials who have stolen millions of dollars from the Bonyad Mostazafan. https://t.co/YUOXfaF67M
— NCRI-FAC (@iran_policy) August 11, 2020
In an interview on state television, Fattah identified a number of specific instances of the foundation’s funds being embezzled of misappropriated. The disclosures were evidently meant as an attack on political adversaries and people who have fallen out of favor with the regime establishment. But Fattah is by no means the only official in recent memory to use acknowledgment of corruption as a weapon of factional infighting. And over time, the various admissions have contributed to the widespread understanding that such corruption is an endemic feature of the clerical dictatorship.
The Jahan-e Sanat newspaper was recently shut down after expressing this understanding and accusing employees of Bonyad Mostazafan of treating its holdings like their personal inheritance. The paper went on to note that this situation was made worse by the fact that most of the foundation’s real estate had previously belonged to Iranian citizens. “Bonyad confiscated these lands in the first place, now others have confiscated them from Bonyad,” it wrote.
Bonyad is not the only institution to have earned its wealth in this way. A 2013 report by Reuters News Agency explained that this is the root of much of the financial power and social influence enjoyed by none other than Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. The report concluded that the real estate and corporate holdings of an institution commonly known as Setad totaled no less than 95 billion dollars, and were under the sole control of the supreme leader. Furthermore, these holdings were explicitly founded on the principle of confiscation. Though Setad was originally conceived as a tool for liquidating abandoned properties in the aftermath of the 1979 revolution, its role expanded after Khamenei became the regime’s ultimate authority, and its authority to confiscate property began to be routinely abused.
The Reuters report details tragic stories of Iranian citizens losing their homes for little to no reason other than to satisfy the greed of the supreme leader. In some cases, Setad’s confiscatory authority was deployed as part of a broader campaign of persecution against marginalized groups. In other cases, confiscation seems to have been motivated simply by recognition of certain buildings or parcels of land as opportunities for further consolidation of the regime’s wealth and authority.
The regime’s critics see that authority as being based on little other than its capacity for suppressing dissent and keeping the public in a state of deprivation. And as such, many of them have also argued that none of Iran’s economic problems can be meaningfully alleviated as long as the current regime maintains its hold on power.
The recent nationwide uprisings pointed to widespread embrace of this message by the Iranian people. After beginning with a distinctly economic message, both of those protest movements shifted to a broader condemnation of the entire ruling system as the ultimate source of poverty and other social problems. Protesters took aim at both the “hardline” and “reformist” factions of the regime, holding both of them responsible for corruption and demanding across-the-board resignations as a precursor to an entirely new form of government.
The latest revelations about corruption within the ranks of Bonyad Mostazafan only serve to reaffirm the validity of these demands. Thus, the only way for the Iranians to fight corruption in this regime is another nationwide uprising and regime change by the people.