A low profile consultant, Abbas Palizdar, who has allegedly served at the Economic Commission of the seventh Iranian Parliament, has publicly linked the high profile figures of the Islamic Republic to the country’s widespread corruption, fraud and favouritism. In his controversial speeches at Hamedan and Shiraz universities, he identified over 50 influential clerics and officials who are linked to the “economic mafia .
Ayatollah Rafsanjani, the former president and the current head of the Council of Expedience, Ali Falahian, the former Minister of Intelligence, Mohsen Rafighdoost a pioneer of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard, Ali Akbar Nateghnouri the head of Investigation for the Office of the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Moezi , the deputy of the Office of the Supreme Leader and Ayatollah Kashani the former member of the Guardian Council and the current Imam of Tehran are among the high profile Ayatollahs and bureaucrats who have been accused of corruption in the Islamic State.
In his first speech at Hamedan university Palizdar stated that ” we cannot fight economic corruption since the influential figures within the system are involved in the illegal activities and they are protected by Ayatollah Shahroodi the appointed head of the judiciary system in Iran . He said that, “currently 123 cases are investigated by the parliamentary watchdog, but if we want to reveal the real economic corruption no one will believe it. He provided figures and details about some of the fraudulent activities that some of the influential clerics have committed and explained how they have used their political power for personal gain.
He admitted that corruption has existed even during the first ten years of the Islamic Republic, when Ayatollah Khomeini the founder of the Islamic Republic, was still alive. However, he claimed that the corruption with such intensity has largely developed over the last 16 years under the presidencies of Rafsanjani and Khatami.
He said that “I have reviewed and investigated the documents and have seen the catastrophes taking place in the Islamic Republic. God is witness that I could not sleep at night and I have cried that we had so many martyrs. the very individuals that lead the people’s prayers have committed such actions.
However, in his speech he regarded the current president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as a politician who is determined to fight corruption and bring about “social justice. He said that “the president wants to cut off the hands of the corrupt officials, but no one supports his government.
In June 2005 Ahmadinejad was elected as the sixth president of the Islamic Republic. From the early stages of his campaign, he pledged to establish a transparent economic system and create an “exemplary government for the people of the world. He promised to use his presidential power to eradicate the entrenched corruption and nepotism. He showed his determination for “cutting off the hands of the oil mafia and pledged a program of “economic justice and “redistribution of wealth in a country which is the fourth-largest oil producer in the world.
In a climate of high inflation and 30 percent unemployment, his populist discourse could boost his previously low profile and help him win the electoral contest.
Nevertheless, his rhetoric regarding fighting corruption went beyond his electoral campaign. Since his victory, he has consistently referred to the invisible hands of the “economic mafia and their “conspiratorial role in paralysing the Iranian economy.
Time after time he has blamed the internal enemies who sabotage the work of the government and prevent the implementation of the policies that he had promised. In his recent speech in the city of Qom he said that there are still those who abuse their internal positions and concessions to accumulate wealth. Although he has been promising to name and shame the members of the “economic mafia he has been hesitant to publicly identify anyone. In that light, his opponents have been sceptical about his claims and have pressured him to both provide evidence and name those who are involved with corruption or stop the rhetoric.
When the content of the controversial speeches were publicised, political observers were curiously looking to see how the president who was elected on the grounds of “social justice would react.
Abbas Palizdar’s political records indicate he has been close to the ideological line of the current president. Furthermore, in his speeches he did not hesitate to portray Ahmadinejad as a determined force to end the corruption. In accordance to that, there were enough reasons to conclude that his speeches were strategically planned to undermine the opposition and boost the credibility of Ahmadinejad at a time he was under tremendous pressure because of the current economic problems.
Ironically some of the rightwing supporters of the president were also named as people associated with the alleged mafia. Had Abbas Palizdar linked some of the high profile reformists or pragmatists to economic corruption, then one could assume he were serving the political interests of the current president.
This could be the case, as the notion of corruption is highly politicized and has often been used to discredit the opposition. But in his speeches he also attacked some of the people who are ideologically inclined to support the current president. For example, he named such clergymen as Ayatollah Kashani, the former member of the Guardian Council, Ayatollah Yazdi and Ayatollah Nateghnoori who are hard-line conservatives.
Currently the government, which was previously impatient to “cut the hands of the economic mafia , has distanced itself from the controversial speaker who was arrested on Wednesday June 11. Ironically, he was also charged with corruption and there is a court case against him. There is a collective attempt to discredit him and most official organizations have distanced themselves from him. The government’s spokesperson has publicly claimed that they do not even know him.
It is unclear whether his speeches were part of a political strategy which he may have overplayed or if he was genuinely publicizing what he believed to be people’s right to know. At the same time there is no guarantee that he will be given an open legal platform to provide evidence for his claims.
Regardless of the motives behind his speeches he has undoubtedly shaken the political establishment by associating some of the most influential people in the Islamic regime to nepotism and corruption. Although, he has not provided any legal evidence for his claims, publicly he will be seen as an “internal voice that brought economic corruption to the nation’s attention more than ever before.
Afshin Shahiisa Cairo-based British Iranian PhD candidate of political philosophy specialized in Middle East affairs.