A municipal leader in the Iranian capital, Tehran, has made an unusual acknowledgement of mass corruption by municipal workers around the country, calling it an epidemic.
In an interview with Iranian state news agency ISNA published on Monday, Tehran City Council chairman Mohsen Hashemi Rafsanjani said municipalities committed 26,000 corruption offenses involving construction and zoning permits in the capital and elsewhere in 2016 and 2017. He said the problem has become so widespread that it is a national epidemic.
Rafsanjani is the eldest son of late former Iranian president Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. The younger Rafsanjani began serving as Tehran City Council chairman last August. He provided few other details of the 26,000 municipal corruption cases, which he said occurred in the two years prior to him taking office. Rafsanjani blamed the corruption on municipalities’ lack of funds, which he said drives municipal workers to seek bribes in return for handing out construction and zoning permits and ignoring code violations by applicants.
Speaking to VOA Persian’s NewsHour program on Tuesday, prominent Tehran-based economist Fariborz Rais Dana said corruption is a chronic national problem that pre-dates Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution.
But Rais Dana, a member of the Iran Writers Association — the nation’s oldest and most prestigious trade union for writers — said corruption got worse after the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s. “The Iranian government decided to give the private sector more space to grow in order to help the country’s post-war reconstruction,” he said. “That is when we began to see the emergence of private and public sector corruption on a mass scale in Iranian society.”
Iran has seen frequent nationwide protests this year by citizens expressing anger toward local and national officials and business leaders whom they accuse of corruption, mismanagement and oppression.
This report was produced in collaboration with VOA’s Persian Service.