A high incidence of unemployment and low pay has many of Iran’s citizens suffering all the hardships of a failing economy. Meanwhile, the ruling class lives in luxury. While droves of beggars and drug addicts wander the streets, and the homeless find shelter living under bridges, or in the sewerage canals that run alongside the country’s highways, the rich insulate themselves from the rest of nation.
The nation was shocked when renowned photographer Saeed Gholamhoseini’s photographs were published in the Shahrvand Daily. These photos depicted many people sleeping in empty graves in Hahriar, a town about 20 kilometres (12 miles) from Tehran. The photos showed these poverty stricken people dressed in rags, emaciated, and staring vacantly out of open graves. They had only tarpaulins or sheets of worn out polyurethane fabric covering the them, in an area where winter temperatures drop to well below freezing.
It’s been reported that at least 50 men, women, and children were living in this cemetery, many of them addicted to drugs. In other locations in the graveyard, some of the homeless had put together tent-like structures made from scraps of discarded polyurethane fabric. Many of these residents claim to have lived there for more than a decade.
Tony Duheaume reports in article an for Al Arabiya, that there is 12.7 percent unemployment, and an estimated 2.2 million addicted to illegal drugs, in the country.
He writes that, “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.” He adds, "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.”
In addition to the plight of the homeless, mass protests against the wages paid to Iranian workers are occurring. Workers wages amount to three times less than poverty level, and while the people suffer, according to the International Monetary Fund, the economy has achieved “an impressive recovery” since the nuclear deal went into effect.
Duheaume writes, “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.”
He adds, “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.”
The group who is enjoying the nation’s assets, Duheaume believes, are the ultra-rich rulers of Iran, who all claim to live frugal lives, but who live luxuriously, and are said to be putting away fortunes in foreign banks.
Iran is facing the largest political, social, and economic crisis of its recent history due to mismanagement of the economy, and its leadership is insuring they have money for retirement, or put aside should their empire be overthrown, according to Duheaume.
Khamenei heads up the millionaire mullahs, as he is said to control a financial empire worth $95 billion. Which is ironic, in that this far exceeds the accumulated wealth of the late Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, who was ousted for his plundering of the Iranian economy, and his unequal distribution of wealth. This was one of the main reasons used to depose him, and now his plundering is 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,” writes Duheaume.
After the fall of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, Iran’s leaders took control of the resources he d accumulated. They set up various foundations that were supposed to aid the deprived. Instead, according to Duheaume, “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.”
Those assets included a number of private companies, large farms, palatial homes and their contents, hotels, theatres, bank accounts, expensive automobiles, and jewellery, for which little of the proceeds of sales were properly accounted.
Duheaume calls this “the Iranians having exchanged one tyrant for another.” For Iran, weapons seem to be more important than the nation’s poorest, as the regime’s surge in military spending makes the outlook for Iran’s poor terribly dismal.