One of Iran’s wealthiest bonyads owned by the regime’s Supreme Leader is set to demolish hundreds of homes in a village in southwestern Iran. Mehr state-run News Agency said that The Mostazafan Foundation, a “charity” bonyad, was going to destroy Hazrat-e Abolfazl Village, near Ahvaz where 300 families reside.
The Mostazafan Foundation has claimed to own these lands and has told villagers to leave their homes. According to locals, those who stood up to the foundation were arrested.
In a report on August 20, the state-run Mehr News Agency said that the Mostazafan Foundation made this claim a year ago. Speaking to Mehr, the village’s Friday Prayer Imam, Seyed Yusef Mousavi, refuted the claims made by the Foundation.
“If their claim is true, why didn’t they bring it up before? Why did they wait for 300 families, who have lived here for over 30 years, to build their homes, then remember their claim? These are hard times for the families because of the coronavirus pandemic, the harsh summer heat, as well as unstable economic conditions.”
A villager said that all the people in the village were scared to leave their homes. According to him, the Foundation has asked the Utilities Organization not to install utility poles in the village, leaving villagers with a weak voltage.
“The air conditioners don’t work with the weak voltage. We are tolerating the hot and humid weather, and no one is thinking of us,” he added.
A young man, who said his father was arrested, said that the men in his village were mostly farmers, drivers, or construction workers.
“They are arrested like criminals for not leaving their homes… To release them from prison, we have to pay millions (of tomans) for bail. We don’t have any other job or land other than here. How is this treatment fair to us?” he protested.
Another one of the locals said that detained villagers were only released on the condition that they leave their homes. Images published on Mehr’s website showed that some of the homes had already been demolished.
Local authorities have only made empty promises to the villagers telling them they would look into the problem.
Mehr News Agency said that provincial authorities were pursuing the disagreements on the land claims from the Mostazafan Foundation.
“We are discussing the issue with the Mostazafan Foundation to reach positive results. There are many informal claims to land in Khuzestan, and these have their own complexities. We will pursue these claims,” the Deputy Coordinator of Civil Affairs of Khuzestan Governorate said.
In an August 16 interview with a state-run daily, a top Iranian official implied that the Mostazafan Foundation was corrupt.
Ahmad Tavakoli said that the assets of the biggest holding company in the Middle East have been used for officials and regime organizations instead of being used for impoverished Iranians, as was originally intended.
Iran’s bonyads answer only to Khamenei and are exempt from taxes, which leave a lot of room for corruption.