On the surface, the Imam Khomeini Relief Committee is nothing more than an ordinary Iranian charity. But this organisation, which serves around 9m people, plays a central role in Iranian politics.
By helping the poorest with food, housing, education and healthcare, analysts believe the state charity helped ensure that Iran’s most disadvantaged people stayed away from the anti-government unrest that swept the country after last year’s presidential election.
Hossein Anvaari, the head of the relief committee, acknowledged as much in a rare interview with the Financial Times. “According to the information we have, none of these families [helped by the charity] got involved in the destructive scenes which is natural because they have touched the warmth of people’s donations,” he said.
The opposition Green Movement emerged during the disputed election and gathered considerable support among the educated middle class. But it largely failed to win over the poor.
The street protests have lost momentum in the last six months and Mir-Hossein Moussavi, the opposition leader, has tacitly acknowledged the movement’s lack of support among the most disadvantaged, urging his followers to speak about economic problems to show they understand the concerns of the poor.