The long business arm of the Iranian state
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The long business arm of the Iranian state

After the Iranian Revolution overthrew the Shah in 1979 and the Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini launched the Islamic Republic that exists today, there were a lot of assets the Shah and his followers had left behind as they fled Iran.

These assets and those of his followers were gathered together as a bonyad, or charitable foundation, originally called the Bonyad Mostazafan and now called the Mostazafan Foundation of Islamic Revolution. It was to be invested in a range of economic sectors with a proportion of profits set aside “for the miserable people: that’s what Mostazafan means,” says Behzad Golkar, CEO at Sina Financial & Investment, one of the holding companies within the Foundation.

He’s very specific about the word miserable, as opposed to poor: it has a focus on providing for the disabled and oppressed.

It is an enormous enterprise. Golkar says the foundation is made up of 200 individual companies split across 19 holding companies; Sina is just one of those holding companies yet includes a bank, two brokerages, mutual funds, an insurer and a leasing business, with plans to build an investment bank well underway.

The other 18 cover pretty much every imaginable area of the economy, and between them the foundation companies employ 27,000 people directly and thousands more indirectly.

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