In the records of Iranian history, a recurring theme stands out—the flight of its citizens from oppression. The shah, an autocrat of the bygone monarchy, once believed himself to be Iran’s omnipotent force.
His decree to dissolve parties and establish the singular Rastakhiz party reflected his despotic tendencies. This move led to the imprisonment of dissenters or their exile abroad, a trend that continues to haunt the Iranian populace.
Today, the citizens grapple with the inhumane grip of the Velayat al-Faqih regime, which is the flipside of the coin of the Shah dictatorship, where thoughts of escaping torture, imprisonment, and executions dominate minds.
Millions have already sought refuge elsewhere, a testament to the regime’s relentless oppression. This struggle becomes even more profound as the religious regime strives to suppress diverse perspectives, lifestyles, and faiths.
In this environment, leaving the country is seen as a desperate bid for safety, prompting the regime to implement measures that encourage emigration and, ultimately, aiding the tyrannical minority’s plunder of the nation’s wealth. Experts describe this as a form of ‘cultural genocide,’ signaling a nation in decline.
The march toward absolute control under the banner of religious fascism gained remarkable momentum following the ascension of Ebrahim Raisi. This marked a pivotal moment in which any hint of deviation from the dominant regime was met with a directive to depart.
A sweeping exodus ensued, spanning from disillusioned reformists to accomplished technocrats, investors, and entrepreneurs. The pursuit of knowledge in academic institutions was no sanctuary either, as students, doctors, nurses, and even those with vocational skills found themselves compelled to seek refuge beyond their homeland.
The year 2017 witnessed the inception of the Iran Migration Observatory academic association dedicated to examining the scale, nature, causes, and motivations behind Iran’s emigration.
Founded at Sharif University, the association aimed to sound the alarm within the circles of religious leaders, cautioning against the exploitation by perceived ‘enemies.’
However, the very agents that aimed to uncover the truth found themselves targeted. Recently, the doors of their research centers have been forcibly closed, suggesting that the regime’s resistance to scrutiny has escalated.
The fate of the Iran Migration Observatory is emblematic of the regime’s tactics to suppress voices of dissent. Bahram Salavati, its director, revealed a stark reality—budget cuts and eviction orders have effectively silenced their research efforts.
Salavati shared a staggering statistic: 67% of knowledge-based companies have been swept up in the migration phenomenon. This exodus not only depletes Iran’s intellectual capital but also threatens to undermine its technological progress, leaving a void that will prove challenging to fill.
As religious fascism tightens its grip, the nation’s prospects darken further. The unification project has led to an ongoing exodus that transcends the realm of academia, permeating all sectors of society.
Professionals and laborers alike are compelled to seek a life beyond Iran’s borders. This desperate flight erodes the nation’s vibrancy, dismantling the pillars of progress that could have propelled Iran into the future.
The challenge of attracting and retaining human capital within the nation’s borders is fraught with numerous hurdles. Disturbingly, a prevailing laxity among officials has facilitated the mass departure of young talents and intellectuals.
A disheartening pattern emerges, where obstacles are deliberately strewn in the paths of the nation’s brightest minds, effectively nudging them toward the exit door.
In the year 2022, the Iran Migration Observatory conducted a comprehensive survey that shed light on the sentiments of Iranians living abroad. The results were sobering, revealing a profound lack of intent among expatriates to return to their homeland.
A mere 14% expressed a definite inclination to return, starkly contrasted by the 62% who have firmly resolved against coming back. A remaining 24% remained undecided, torn between a longing for their roots and the reality of their circumstances.
A prevailing skepticism surrounds the government’s promises regarding the utilization of Iranians abroad and their potential contributions to the nation’s growth.
The survey underscored the disillusionment of more than 90% of those surveyed, revealing a widespread lack of faith in the government’s commitments. This deep-seated skepticism highlights the growing divide between the leadership’s assurances and the tangible benefits promised to those considering a return.
Recent data from the seized Iran Migration Observatory underscores a concerning reality: in the span of just three years, from 2019 to the first half of 2022, more than 2,000 Iranians have been granted visas for startups, entrepreneurship, investment, or self-employment in Canada and England.
This trend sheds light on a substantial outflow of innovative minds and determined individuals seeking better prospects abroad.
Turkey has witnessed the establishment of 1,661 companies in 2020 and 2021 facilitated by Iranian nationals. A staggering total of $22,190,063 has been invested in these endeavors, highlighting not only the entrepreneurial spirit of Iranians but also the allure of foreign markets for their initiatives.
Within the healthcare sector, the desire to migrate among doctors and nurses surpasses 60%. A 2018 US census reflects a presence of 29,000 Iranian professionals within the American healthcare industry, with 8,000 of them being doctors and surgeons. This widespread migration, while providing individual opportunities, also exacerbates the shortage of skilled medical professionals within Iran.
Among different segments of society, the urge to migrate holds varying degrees of intensity. The propensity to leave is particularly pronounced among ’employees,’ ‘mid-level managers,’ ‘entrepreneurs, and senior managers,’ at an alarming rate of 70%. This inclination is echoed by ‘students and graduates’ as well as ‘foreign students in Iran,’ both showing a considerable 66% inclination to seek greener pastures beyond the nation’s borders.
The Central Bank’s revelation of a negative capital account surpassing $10 billion in the spring of 2022 underscores the gravity of capital flight. This trend has only intensified since. The Majlis Research Center reported a departure of over $6 billion in the spring of 2021 alone.
Surveying prominent economic players revealed a stark truth—half intend to extract their capital from the nation, while a quarter have already done so. The head of the Tehran Chamber of Commerce confirmed the departure of more than $45 billion in the last four years, but this figure only represents a fraction, given the significant underground economy in Iran.
The staggering statistics and empirical evidence that lay bare the flight of human, social, and scientific capital from Iran merely scratch the surface of a multifaceted crisis.
The exodus, whether in the form of skilled professionals, innovative entrepreneurs, or vital financial resources, encapsulates a larger narrative of disintegration. The sobering truth is that these statistics are far from exhaustive.
A prescient government sociologist’s lament from two years ago resonates now more than ever, as he decried the encouragement of emigration and the erosion of the nation’s human and material assets.
His warning, that societal impasses would inevitably translate into political impasses, now rings true. The landscape of Iran is undergoing a profound transformation, and the fracture lines in the fabric of society threaten to grow into chasms that cannot be bridged.
Today, the very foundations of Iranian society appear to be crumbling, and the path toward decay seems irrevocably charted.
The exodus of talent and capital serves as an emblem of a nation in turmoil, grappling with challenges that have shaken its socioeconomic and intellectual core. The consequences of this flight will continue through generations, as the departure of human potential and financial resources leaves a void that is difficult to fill.