Mohammad Sadat Khansari
Musalla project in Tehran: Iran regime’s source for plundering national wealth for four decades
Iran: Tehran Musalla- file photo
The “Great Musalla of Tehran” project, the original design of which dates to 1982 and which was started in 1985, is a project that should not have the problems of other national projects.
For example, building huge bridges over vast waterways or digging tunnels several kilometers underground or underwater, or building a highway in mountainous areas with dozens of bridges and tunnels, or a large airport with complex radar and transportation facilities. In other words, its construction was not that complicated. Therefore, taking 35 years to be built is due to reasons other than technical problems.
Some news about this 35-year-old project in the past years
On May 12, 2011, the state-run Mashreq News website wrote in an article titled “A building in Tehran that has the age of Noah”: “The construction method of Musalla, and its slow progression, which was supposed to be a comprehensive and complete religious site in the capital of the Islamic Republic of Iran, shows that this project has many more years to go.”
Finally, after three decades in 2015, by order of the regime’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, the project was handed over from the IRGC to the Municipality of Tehran. Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, then mayor of Tehran told the state-run Tasnim News agency that, “Although the Tehran Musalla (prayer hall) had many problems and the measures taken to complete it in the past years could not be coordinated with the initial goals, the municipality agreed to complete this great complex and leave this cultural site as the municipality’s inheritance. (Tasnim, Quds Force News Agency, April 15, 2015)
From 2015 to 2019, during Qalibaf’s term as Mayor, the project was apparently in the hands of the Tehran municipality. But in reality, it was the IRGC that carried out the municipality’s plans. The executive organization of buildings and public and government facilities handed over the last phase of the project worth one trillion tomans to the Khatam al-Anbia Construction Headquarters of the IRGC and the Foundation of Mostazafan [underprivileged people]. The new budget for the project has not been announced, but it is only to the extent that “between 80 billion and 100 billion tomans are to be saved in the implementation of this project.” The 2020 budget alone for this project has been announced at 50 billion tomans, without announcing the end time of the project. The relocation of projects in Iran is done solely to loot public resources by corrupt officials and mafias of the IRGC and Khamenei’s relatives, and not to change the contractors involved in significant projects like it is done in other countries.
Uncertain budget and wasting public resources for an endless project
The Tehran Grand Musalla project has been consuming the country’s public funds for more than 36 years, but it has not been completed. Even the boom in oil sales and more than $100 billion in annual revenue did not end the project. The mullahs’ regime has not yet provided a single document on the amount and cost of the project, so it is unclear how much of the country’s public resources have been wasted on the project over the past four decades. It should be noted that the first article about the corruption of the Revolutionary Guards during the construction of Musalla was published in the second half of the 90s in one of the so-called reformist newspapers called “Asr-e- Azadegan“, but the pressure to stop it began and that newspaper could not continue.
Between 2011 and 2013 alone, about 300 billion tomans were spent on the construction of the mosque. In an interview with the state-run website “Nameh” on May 5, 2015, Maziar Hosseini, the former deputy mayor of Tehran for development in 2015, said the project needed 3,000 billion tomans to complete the three-year project. Hosseini was also then Executor of the Mosalla project. These budgets are usually allocated, but IRGC contractors take them and leave the work halfway to reuse this situation for winning a project with more budget. The situation in the most expensive lands of Tehran in the last 36 years, with an area of 204 hectares of land in Abbasabad, is such that even the officials of the regime do not even consider this place a suitable place for this country even for holding an exhibition in this place in the past years. The regime’s Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance has been forced to hold the annual book exhibition in Musalla. For a short time, Friday prayers were moved to this place, but they returned it to the University of Tehran.
The end of the Musalla project
According to the news website of the regime’s Ministry of Roads and Urban Development, Mohammad Jafar Alizadeh, the deputy minister, announced the 80 percent progress of the Tehran prayer hall, which is being built by the organization implementing public and government buildings and facilities (April 24, 2020).
It has started and many times the regime’s officials for this project, have promised to finish it by a specific time, but all those times have passed, and this project has not been completed.
Despite taking over the administration and implementing many projects with huge budgets using the Iranian people’s national wealth, the fact is that the institutions under Ali Khamenei, have been very incapable of carrying out these projects because their goal is not the development of the country. In Iran, under the rule of a religious dictatorship and its affiliated mafia of corruption and plundering, significant projects are endless resources for theft, rent-seeking, and embezzlement.