ANALYSIS: While Iran’s poor suffer hardships, regime elite live in luxury

Tony Duheaume
Tony Duheaume
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While many of Iran’s citizens have suffered all of the hardships of a failing economy, in a land of increasing unemployment and low pay, the ruling mullahs lead the lives of past emperors, living in absolute luxury, with billions they have made off the backs of the Iranian people, now insulating them from the crumbling nation they reside over.

Beggars wander the streets of Iran in droves, drug addicts with nothing to live for litter the thoroughfares, while the homeless find shelter where they can, some known to have taken up residence living under bridges, or in the sewerage canals that run alongside the country’s highways.

But as recently as 2016, photographs shot by renowned photographer Saeed Gholamhoseini, and published in the Shahrvand Daily, have depicted many of these hapless vagrants sleeping in empty graves in Hahriar, a town about 20 kilometres (12 miles) from Tehran, the nation’s capital, images that shocked the nation.

Reports suggested that at least 50 men, women and children were living in this cemetery, with many of their number addicted to drugs. Dressed in grimy rags, their emaciated, dirt-streaked features stare vacantly out of open graves, with only tattered tarpaulins or sheets of well-worn polythene covering the holes to protect them from the elements, in an area where the temperature in winter can drop to well below freezing.

While in various other locations about the graveyard, members of this homeless community had managed to piece together tent-like structures made from scraps of discarded polythene, with some hapless residents claiming to have been living in such squalor for more than a decade.

In a country where there is 12.7 percent unemployment, and an estimated 2.2 million addicted to illegal drugs, there has been a mixed reaction to the plight of these unfortunate individuals. As while some people have been turning up at the cemetery harassing them, with many instances of rocks been thrown, there have also been occasions where food has been handed out.

But as a whole, there isn’t much compassion toward the homeless people of Iran, and as far as numbers are concerned, the administration admits to 15,000 in the capital alone, of which 2,000 were women, while many suggest that this number could be twice the official estimate. But whatever the true number, throughout the country there are communities of desperately poor human beings, many living in shelters made from cardboard boxes, and with a government that lacks compassion, there seems to be no possible end in sight to the desperate plight of these hapless people.

But it isn’t just the homeless that are suffering in Iran, out on the streets mass protests are taking place against the miserly wages paid to Iranian workers, which amount to three times less than the poverty line. But while the people themselves are suffering, the economy has achieved “an impressive recovery” since the Iran deal, according to the International Monetary Fund.

With hundreds of millions of dollars already pouring into the Iranian administrations coffers from released frozen assets, which could eventually total $150 billion, none of this has yet been designated to relieve the suffering of its people. Already billions have been earmarked to spend purchasing Russian T-90 tanks, artillery, advanced Su-30 fighter jets, and helicopters, and during 2016, Iran’s defence sector grew by 45 percent, with the regime spending billions on its long-range missile program, and the development of indigenous weapons systems.

There is also the delivery of long-promised S-300 air defence systems, said to have cost the Iranian government $900 million. On top of this there are the multi-billion dollars the regime is using to prop up Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, the $60-$100 million a year it is paying in financial assistance to Hezbollah, plus its expenditure in financial support or weapons to aid terror groups such as Hamas and the Houthis.

But at the other end of the social scale, the group that is siphoning off large amounts of the nation’s assets, are the ultra-rich mullahs that rule Iran, all of them claiming to live frugal lives, but who are in fact living in the lap of luxury, and are said to be squirreling away vast fortunes in foreign bank accounts.

while Iran is in the throes of the biggest political, social, and economic crisis of its recent history, all through the mismanagement of the economy, and its leadership’s incessant greed, the mullah’s are insuring they have a nest egg for retirement, or money put aside should their corrupt empire be overthrown, requiring a quick exit from the country.

A 2,000 rial Iranian banknote showing Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and a handwritten pro-opposition graffiti in Farsi. (File photo: AP)
A 2,000 rial Iranian banknote showing Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and a handwritten pro-opposition graffiti in Farsi. (File photo: AP)

Millionaire mullahs

Khamenei himself sits at the top of the ladder as far as the millionaire mullahs are concerned, known to be in control of a financial empire worth $95 billion, which far exceeds the accumulated wealth of the late Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. It was Khamenei’s predecessor Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Iranian Islamic Republic, who used the Shah’s plundering of the Iranian economy, and his unequal distribution of wealth, as one of the main excuses to depose him, and now this plundering has been repeated by his ousters.

But as far as Iran’s leadership is concerned, all are worthy of the Rich List. To name but a few of Iran’s richest mullahs, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani was said to have netted $1.2 billion, Mohammad Ali Taskhiri $90 million, Mohammad Khatami $84 million, Ali Larijani $70 million, Mir Hossein Mousavi $58 million, Mohammad Hossein Adeli $43 million, Mohammad Javad Zarif $32 million, Ahmed Bourghani $19 million, and a little further down the scale, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad with $5 million.

Since the fall of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, Iran’s clerical leaders have taken control of the vast resources he had accumulated, and setting up various foundations that were supposedly to aid the deprived, they swallowed up all of the assets left behind by wealthy Iranians who were connected to the deposed Shah’s leadership, many of whom had fled the country, or had been been jailed or executed.

Included in this haul was a vast number of private companies, large farms, palatial homes and their contents, hotels, theatres, bank accounts, expensive automobiles, and jewellery, with much of the proceeds of any sales not having been properly accounted for.

With the Iranians having exchanged one tyrant for another, the new administration is sucking the country dry of its riches, and with many of the ruling mullahs being billionaires, or multi-millionaires, the commanders of the IRGC also rate high in the stakes of the country’s richest men.

By adding this to the fact that weapons are more important than relieving the misery of the nation’s poorest, as well as the regime’s sudden surge in military spending, the outlook for Iran’s poor looks dismally bleak.

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