The former chief of staff of the Iranian armed forces, Hassan Firouzabadi, is squatting in a mansion that belonged to the former Shah of Iran, according to a letter published by a conservative university group.
The Movement for Justice Seeking Students published the letter, addressed to Tehran’s attorney general, June 17. The letter claims that Firouzabadi has been living rent-free for the last 25 years in a 107,000-square-foot estate in Lavasan, a wealthy suburb outside of Tehran often referred to as the Beverly Hills of Iran.
According to the letter, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has asked Firouzabadi on two occasions to vacate the premises, but the police forces have not carried out these orders.
Allegations that a former official is involved in some form of real estate corruption are not particularly new in Iran. The ownership of the building, however, has raised eyebrows. According to the letter, the mansion belongs to the Executive Headquarters of Imam’s Directive, an institution that is often called “Setad” in Persian, which operates directly under Khamenei.
Former Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini established Setad after the 1979 Islamic Revolution, with the intention of distributing abandoned property to charity. Today, Setad is one of the country's wealthiest institutions. Its holdings have gone far beyond the real estate abandoned after the revolution by members of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi’s government and other wealthy individuals.
Perhaps most ominously of all, the group ended the letter by stating that if Firouzabadi continues to refuse to leave the estate, the group would “reserve the right to take revolutionary action” in “emptying out property of the national treasury.”
In an interview with Fars News, Mohammad Javad Motamedi, the secretary of the student group behind the letter, said Firouzabadi had previously said he would leave the estate by May 21. After he did not do so, the group decided to go public with the letter to the prosecutor’s office.
Firouzabadi served as chief of staff of the Iranian armed forces for 27 years. Khamenei ordered him replaced in 2016 by Mohammad Bagheri, who comes from an intelligence background. Firouzabadi was a strong advocate of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, commonly referred to as the Iranian nuclear deal, which was signed under President Hassan Rouhani. Some social media users speculated that the reason the conservative group targeted Firouzabadi and eventually went public with the letter was his support for Rouhani’s signature foreign policy agenda.
Firouzabadi, while still serving as chief of staff of the Iranian armed forces, had also previously indirectly criticized the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' influence in the realm of media. Some websites speculated that Firouzabadi’s staunch support for the nuclear deal caused him to fall out of favor with Khamenei. However, by Khamenei's standards, Firouzabadi held the role of chief of staff for an unusually long time, and he continues to serve as an adviser to Khamenei.