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BUNYAD. Dehkhoda’s Dictionary of Persian Vocabularies defines the term bunyad as “base, root, origin, and foundation.” In this article, bunyad refers to a certain type of grassroots, putatively nonprofit institutions that were organized for particular purposes after the Iranian Revolution in 1979. A few bunyads antedated the revolution but never acquired the immense size or social significance that post revolutionary bunyads accumulated. Although all claim nonprofit status, some certainly make money. Most also engage in functions such as trade, manufacturing, banking, and social services. Some also function as vehicles for patronage, mass mobilization, ideological indoctrination, and even repression. Three types of bunyad exist in contemporary Iran: public, private and waqf (endowment). They are basically unregulated, exempt from taxes, and organized into an elaborate network of functional and spatial offices.

Endowment bunyads, which were in fashion before the revolution, have hardly grown in number or importance since. Bunyad-i Astan-i Quds (The Eighth Imam Foundation), formed decades ago, is among the country’s largest bunyads; it owns and controls an immense amount and variety of properties, ranging from land, hotels, and trading companies to industries and social service delivery centers. It also employs several thousand people and sponsors many poor families. Although no definite figure exists for its annual budget, it may be close to $2 billion. A significant part of the organization’s financial resources is drawn from daily cash vows donated by pilgrims to the tomb of the Eighth Imam.

The other two important bunyads of the endowment type are Bunyad-i Panzdah-i Khurdad (The Fifteenth of Khurdad Foundation) and the Mu’assasah-yi Nashr-i Asar-i Hazrat-i Imam Khumayni (Institute for Publication and Distribution of the Grand Imam Khomeini’s Writings). Both these institutions were established after the revolution, the first immediately following it in memory of the 1963 uprising led by the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini (d. 1989), and the second after Khomeini’s death to propagate his teachings. They also supervise Khomeini’s mausoleum in a Tehran suburb. Bunyad-i Panzdah-i Khurdad has offered more than $2 million in bounty to anyone who kills Salman Rushdie, the author of The Satanic Verses [see Rushdie Affair]. It had 805,722 families under its tutelage in 1991, including the poor and the households of martyrs, the disabled, POWs, and MIAs.

Private bunyads were established by various factions within or outside the Islamic ruling elite. Allegedly they are nonprofit organizations, but they make money. Some have become major economic institutions, such as Sazman-i Iqtisad-i Islam! (Islamic Economic Organization), Bunyad-i Javid (Eternal Foundation), Bunyad-i Raja’ (Foundation for Growth of Islamic Republic), Bunyad-i Rafah (Welfare Foundation), Bunyad-i Ta’avun (Coop Foundation). To give an indication of their size, in 1987, the loanable fund of the Sazman-i Iqtisad-i Islam! stood at 5o billion Iranian rials, roughly equal to 5 percent of the country’s total liquidity.

Other private bunyads are involved in controlling cultural matters such as cinemas. Examples include Bunyad-i Farabi (Farabi Foundation) and Sazman-i Tablighat-i Islam-1 (Organization for Islamic Propagation). Many also support electoral candidates with money and propaganda, control important economic and extraeconomic institutions, and publish newspapers, magazines, books, and occasional reports. Principal among these is Bunyad-i Risalat (Foundation for Prophetic Mission), which publishes the economically conservative daily Risalat. Relationships between these private institutions and the government has not always been easy, and some, including the Sazman-i Iqtisad-i Islami and the now defunct Nubuvat Foundation (Prophetic Foundation), have been charged with corruption, misuse of public funds, and interference with government policies.

Public bunyads were established by the Islamic Republic in the first few years of its existence. In theory, these are separate and independent entities; in reality, however, they are mainly dependent on the government, and this dependency has increased over time as popular material support for them has declined. They were allocated some 20,000 million rials from the public budget in 1980, the figure increased to 230,000 million rials by 1987. A few bunyads came into being to replace institutions of the previous regime or to honor certain individuals. Examples include Bunyad-i `Alavi, which replaced Bunyad-i Pahlavi (Pahlavi Foundation), and Bunyad-i Shahid Chamran (Martyr Chamran’s Foundation).

Most public bunyads, however, were established to act as executive arms of the new regime in areas of special social and economic concern to the Islamic government. Sometimes, however, they have duplicated the work of the more traditional ministries or institutions. These include Bunyad-i Shahid (Martyr’s Foundation), originally established to look after the families of the martyrs of the revolution, and Bunyad-i Mustaz’afan (Foundation for the Oppressed), formed to assist the poor. More will be said about these two very important bunyads below. The Bunyad-i Maskan-i Inqilab-i Islami (Housing Foundation of the Islamic Revolution) was established on 26 May 1979 to provide housing for the poor, particularly in rural areas; its initial funding came from the previously established Account Number loo of Imam (Khomeini), among other private donations.

Jihad-i Sazandigi (Reconstruction Crusade), which is now a ministry, was originally established by a group of Muslim university students on 17 June 1979 to undertake grassroots development projects in rural areas. Bunyad-i Umur Muhajirin-i Jang-e Tahmili (Foundation for the Affairs of the Imposed War Migrants) was organized on 4 June 1979 to assist war-afflicted families and areas damaged in Iran-Iraq war. In 1982, some 120,162 families, or about 40 percent of all war-afflicted households, were under the care of this bunydd. Finally, Kumitah-i Imdad-i Imam Khumayni (Imam Khomeini’s Relief Committee) was formed immediately following the revolution to help disadvantaged people. By 1991, this organization had brought some 994,000 needy people and 309,300 students under its care.

Public bunyads have been established using primarily the expropriated properties of wealthy Iranians who had supposedly acquired their wealth illegitimately by cooperating with the shah. Although they were initially organized as nonprofit public institutions, over time some have become profit-oriented and are becoming increasingly removed from government control. Nevertheless, they continue to receive funds from the public budget, and their leadership is appointed by the president and confirmed by the spiritual leader of the Islamic regime.

As governmental organizations have become institutionalized, some bunyads have also changed their form and structure. More specifically, a process of “ministerialization” and integration has gradually occurred. Thus, the Revolutionary Guards Corp and the Reconstruction Crusade have both become ministries; Bunyad-i Umuri Muhajirin-i Jang-i Tahmili has joined the Ministry of Labor; the Jihad-i Savad Amuzi (Mobilization for Literacy) has become part of the Ministry of Education; and the Kumitah-i Inqilab-i Islam! (Islamic Revolution Committee) has been integrated with the regular police force. Meanwhile, a process of “fiefdomization” has brought certain bunyads under control of given families, restricting their effectiveness.

To provide a more focused analysis of post revolutionary bunyads the remainder of this article will focus on Bunyad-i Mustaz’afan and Bunyad-i Shahid. On 1 March 1979, Ayatollah Khomeini issued a decree confiscating properties of the shah, his family, and their associates. Two days later the Bunyad-i Mustaz’afan was formed to consolidate, control, and manage the confiscated wealth in the interests of the poor, especially their housing conditions. The magnitude and value of the confiscated assets are not precisely known. In 1982, the organization controlled a total of 3,423 economic units, of which 1,049 were industrial, mineral, agricultural, commercial, development and construction related, and cultural; and 2,786 were real estate and housing units. Only a year later, during an interview with the daily newspaper Kayhan on 21 November 1983, the organization’s director claimed that “the organization is one of the largest conglomerates in the world and the largest Islamic entity in Iran.”

According to its 1986 annual report the foundation employed 42,095 people and produced 136.7 billion rials worth of goods and services, equal to 14.1 percent of total production by large industrial units in the country. At the time, the bunyad also controlled 113 large industrial units. By 1990, its activities and economic capabilities had significantly grown. In an interview with Kayhdn, Mohsen Rafiqdust, the present director of the foundation, revealed that it was planning to build an oil refinery, construct 5,000 low-cost houses for the urban poor in Tehran, and import large quantities of steel. Currently, the bunyad is the sole official representative of Mercedes, BMW, Volkswagen, and Toyota cars in the country. In 1992, the New York Times reported that the total annual budget for the foundation was about $1o billion.

Bunyad-i Shahid was established in March 198o, following a decree from Khomeini on 12 March 198o calling for care for veterans of the revolution and the dependents of those who had died in it. After September 198o, responsibilities of the bunydd were expanded to care for disabled Iran-Iraq war veterans and the families of war martyrs, POWs, and MIAs. Currently the organization is under the supervision of Iran’s president, but its director is confirmed in office by Khomeini’s successor. In 1985, it had an income of 5o billion rials and an expenditure of 56 billion rials (about $3.8 billion at the current market rate of 1,58o rials to a dollar).

The bunyads major functions include: giving priority to student admission to all educational institutions and to obtaining basic needs and provision of employment through establishment or acquisition of factories; reduced fares on state-owned transport; medical insurance, hospitalization, prescription drugs, and provision of protheses; provision of housing at subsidized prices or rentals; and assistance in marriage and purchase of startup household appliances.

By March 1987, some 1,382 families had reportedly received housing in 19 housing complexes. The bunyad also assigns land to families able to build their own houses and assists them in obtaining mortgages. By 1989 more than a thousand families had been aided in this way. The Marriage Unit facilitates the marriage of war widows and veterans by providing loans, cash grants, and household goods gratis or at a reduced price. By 1987, the number of marriages arranged by the bunyad had reached 420.

Like Bunyad-i Mustaz’afan, the Bunyad-i Shahid is funded by confiscated properties. Additionally, it has established a number of new companies. In early 1985, the total number of firms and factories under its control included 68 industrial units, 75 commercial companies and agencies, 21 construction companies, and 17 agricultural units. The bunyad also owns more than 6,000 units of real estate in Tehran, including villas, apartments, shops, malls, schools, hospitals, and hotels, the majority of which it uses to house the families of war dead. It also has 140 orchards and plots of land at its disposal.

Post revolutionary bunyads have become powerful organizations. They have very large sums at their disposal and represent major vehicles for extending patronage in ways that rival the state bureaucracy. Although it is difficult to tell what the future has in store, there is reason to believe that bunyads will continue to be salient features of the national landscape in the Islamic Republic of Iran for some time to come.

[See also Iran.].


This article is based on field research in Iran and the following sources:

Amirahmadi, Hooshang. Revolution and Economic Transition: The Iranian Experience. Albany, N.Y., I 99o. Details the political-economic changes in Iran from 1976 to 199o, with extensive statistical and other information on the economy. Researchers interested in post revolutionary Iran will find this book indispensable.

Ayinah -yi Amar 1364 (Mirror of Statistics, 1985). Tehran, 1986. Discusses the Mustaz’afan Foundation, with detailed statistics on its holdings and an explanation of its various functions.

Barrasiyi tahavvuldt-i iqtisadi -yi kishvar ba’d az ingildb (An Analysis of Economic Changes after the Revolution). Tehran, 1982. Major source of information on developments during the first three years of the Islamic Republic. Gives extensive tables on the economy and lists some of the major policies and nationalization laws passed by the Revolutionary Council.

Kayhdn, 21 November 1983. Semi-official daily newspaper published in Tehran.

Majmu`ah-yi qavanin-i avvalin Dawrah-i Majlis-i Shurdyi Islami (A Collection of Laws from the First Islamic Consultative Assembly) (7 Khfirdad 1359 to 6 Khfirdad 1363). Document published by the Majlis, covering laws and regulations passed in the Iranian parliament during the period noted. The table of contents lists bills by title and date of approval.

Majmu’ah -yi gavanin-i duvumin Dawrah-i Majlis-i Shurdyi Isldmi (A Collection of Laws from the Second Islamic Consultative Assembly) (7 Khurdad 1363 to 6 Khurdad 1367). Document published by the Majlis, giving laws and regulations passed in the Iranian parliament during the period noted. The table of contents lists bills by title and date of approval.

Salnamah -yi amari -yi kishvar 1370 (Statistical Yearbook of Iran, 1991). Tehran, various years. Major annual publication on sectoral and territorial developments in Iran; indispensable research tool for those interested in Iranian studies.


Azhar Niaz Article's Source: http://islamicus.org/bunyad/

  • writerPosted On: November 3, 2012
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