A high-speed Porsche crash has become a symbol of growing inequality in Iran, with even the country’s top religious leader speaking out against corruption that has spawned extreme wealth for the 1%.
The New York Times reports that in Iran, “a new class of untouchable 1 percenters hoards money, profiting from sanctions and influential relations, leaving Iran’s middle classes to face the full force of the country’s deepening economic woes.”
Last month, a 20-year-old woman from a poor part of Tehran crashed a yellow Porsche carrying the 21-year-old grandson of a high-ranking religious cleric in Iran. They both died instantly.
When photos of the wreckage appeared on social media, Iranians started criticising Parivash Akbarzadeh and the grandson, Mohammad Hossein Rabbani-Shirazi.
One commenter wrote on Instagram, according to the Times: “Thank God that even when there is no justice in this world in distributing money and wealth, there is justice in death. I love God’s justice that rich and young people also die along with the desperate poor people who have no hope in life.”
Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, even commented on the controversy, saying that young rich people showing off their wealth “creates psychological insecurity in the society.”
Outrage over the widening gap between rich and poor has been building in Iran for years.
Another sign of the exorbitant wealth among Iran’s elite made the news in 2011. The Washington Post reported that Iran’s wealthy had taken to eating ice cream covered in edible gold. Despite the country’s promise to distribute its oil wealth evenly, only a small group of well-connected Iranians have benefitted.
The Financial Times wrote in 2013 that Iran’s economy has been hurt by US and European Union sanctions, noting that as much as 40% of Iranians live below the poverty line, a dramatic increase since 2005, when that figure stood at about 22%.
Luxury cars have become a particularly powerful symbol of the economic inequality in the country. AFP reported in 2012 that Iran was seeing a “luxury car boom” with people paying as much as $US360,000 for the high-end vehicles because of a high import tax.
AFP noted that, at the time, working Iranians were having to survive on an average monthly salary of $US700.
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