By Adena Nima
Iranian state media recently published a list of mostly religious institutions that are exempt from taxes and are mostly all controlled by Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei.
According to an announcement by the Tax Organization on November 10, the Mostazafan Foundation, the Execution of Imam Khomeini’s Order(known as the Setad), the Foundation of Martyrs and Veterans Affairs(Bonyade Shahid), the Imam Khomeini Relief Foundation (Komiteye Imdad), the Sazman-e Tablighat-e Eslami (Islamic Propagation Organization), the Office of Islamic Propagation of the Qom Seminary, the Bonyad Maskan of the Islamic Revolution (Housing Foundation), the Seminary Services Center, the Islamic Revolution Cultural Research Institute,and the Al-Mustafa International University in Qom, have been exempted from taxes.
Seven of these institutions received a total budget of around 7,000 billion tomans from the government this year.
- ImamKhomeini Relief Foundation– Given a budget of more than 4,800 billion tomans
- Foundationof Martyrs and Veterans Affairs– Given a budget of around 118 billion tomans
- Islamic Propagationof the Qom Seminary Office – Givena budget of 134 billion tomans
- Sazman-eTablighat-e Eslami – Givena budget of around 430 billion tomans
- Al-MustafaInternational University in Qom– Founded to give Islamic training to foreigners has been allocated with a budgetof around 305 billion tomans.
- SeminaryServices Center –Founded on orders of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei to provide services toclerics studying in seminaries was given an 896 billion toman budget.
- BonyadMaskan of the Islamic Revolution (Housing Foundation) – Given a budget of around 110billion tomans
In addition to encouraging institutionalized corruption with these tax exemptions, these institutions use public budgets for so-called religious activities even though the majority of Iranians don’t believe in the brand of Islam that the clerical rulers promote.
According to a 2013 Reuters investigative report titled, the “Assets of the Ayatollah”, the Execution of Imam Khomeini’s Order Foundation known as the Setad, is a multibillion dollar conglomerate owned exclusively by the Supreme Leader. The organization with commercial and real estate assets, also controls a charitable foundation.
In addition to the Setad, seven other institutions that have gone tax exempt belong to Iran’s Supreme Leader including the Mostazafan Foundation, Komiteye Imdad, the Sazman-e Tablighat-e Eslami, the Office of Islamic Propagation of the Qom Seminary, the Bonyad Maskan of the Islamic Revolution, the Seminary Services Center, and the Islamic Revolution Cultural Research Institute which is affiliated with the Office for the Preservation and Publication of the Works of Khamenei.
In this way, Khamenei controls a financial empire worth more than $95 billion which greatly adds to his power.
The other 80% of the population
According to a recent report, four percent of the population hold all the wealth in Iran.
In remarks carried by the state-run Javan Online Website, an economist said that the wealth that only four percent of the population held equaled to that of the rest of the population.
“You can see how fast the four percent have made the rest of the population poor,” Ibrahim Zaraghi said.
Official numbers on the extent of poverty in Iran vary and are usually put at 35% but according to a member of the parliament, 80% of people now live under the line of poverty in Iran. This seems more precise as the crumbling economy and lack of will by Iranian officials to fix it drive more into poverty every day.
As an increasing number of Iranian companies and manufacturers go bankrupt or have slowed production as a result of inflation and corruption, a high number of workers go unpaid or are completely put aside.
Hedayatollah Khademi, a member of the parliament severely criticized the dire state of the economy and the people’s living conditions in July.
“You have made the Iranian people miserable. You have taken away their respect and confidence. They don’t know what to do due to poverty and desperation. They have turned to selling their organs including their kidneys due to poverty. Look what you have done to a country that makes up one percent of the global population but has eight percent of the world’s natural resources,” he had said on July 29.
“The purchasing power of workers has decreased up to 80% and this issue has led to numerous problems for the families of the working class,” Davoud Mirzaie said.