Next year’s budget bill, submitted by President Hassan Rouhani to the Iranian Parliament on Sunday, shows hundreds of millions of dollars will be allocated to the clergy and the institutions under their control.
While the government will significantly cut spending for infrastructure projects and cash subsidies, allocations for religious seminaries and similar entities will increase by double digits.
The theocratic regime of Iran considers such institutions vital for its survival. Through propaganda at the national and international level, they recruit and train new supporters for the regime.
The following are some of the examples of funds allocated to ideological entities:
- $110 million for the High Council of Religious Seminaries, which oversees all religious seminaries in the country and issues permits for the establishment of new schools, among other things. Its budget shows an increase of more than 16 percent compared to the previous year.
- $105 million for “supporting religious seminaries.” From that amount, $88 million will be allocated to training male clergymen and $16 million for “cultural and promotional activities” by male students of religious seminaries.
- $5 million for supporting religious “research activities” by seminary students.
- $150 million for the Service Center for Religious Seminaries, a welfare institution that provides support to retired and disabled clergymen and the families of deceased clergy. The institution also pays scholarships for religious seminaries and funds cultural and sports activities for students.
- $29 million for the Council for Planning and Management of Religious Seminaries in Khorasan Province.
- $64 million for the Policy Making Council for Women’s Religious Seminaries.
- $75 million for Al-Mustafa International University, an umbrella organization for religious seminaries providing education to foreign students within and outside of Iran. This institution is also used for expanding influence abroad. It is worth mentioning that the budget allocated to Al-Mustafa University is much higher than the fund provided to some of the major regular universities, like Amir Kabir University in Tehran with $63 million, and Tabriz University with $64 million.
- $23 million for the supreme leader’s representative in the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). The fund will be spent on deploying preachers, overseeing the compatibility of IRGC rules and regulations with Islam, spiritual ceremonies, and guiding and promoting political vision.
- $17 million for maintaining the mausoleum and residence of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of Iran’s Islamic Republic, and for protecting his ideological heritage by publishing books and holding commemorations and conferences.
It should also be noted that funds from the government budget are only a part of the income for influential clergymen and the religious institutions they control.
Citizens and businesses also donate tens of millions of dollars to ayatollahs, shrines, and related small and large religious networks. In addition, senior ayatollahs control foundations that are huge economic empires, with real estate holdings and industries.
For example, Astan-e Qods Razavi, the foundation controlling a huge Shi’ite shrine in Mashhad, is the biggest landowner, owning more than 43 percent of the city. Its income was estimated at $150 million annually a decade ago.