Analysis by PMOI/MEK
Iran, December 14, 2020—Iran’s society is suffering from parallel social, economic, and environmental crises, all of which stem from the mullahs’ regime ruling the country. Some of these crises are so ingrained in everyday life that they immediately turn into political issues and are met with strong reactions by the society, often manifested in protests and even nationwide uprisings. Some crises, however, are like open wounds in the society, and their seemingly hidden effects are always present in the country’s politics, economy, science, sports, and culture. The brain drain is one of these crises in mullahs-ruled Iran.
The migration of scientists, elite students, and highly skilled experts from Iran dates to the early days of Ruhollah Khomeini’s rule in 1979. The following years exacerbated this phenomenon and the numbers have risen. This acceleration and exponential increase in coveted talent leaving the country has reached the point that Iran under the mullahs’ rule is at the top of the world in terms of brain drain.
In November 1979, when the issue of brain drain was raised in the press, Khomeini bluntly expressed his opposition to science, culture, expertise, and civilization, saying, “The hypocrites say the brains are running away. To hell with the escape! Let go of these university graduates, those who all talk of science and civilization!”
Earlier, in the summer of 1979, Khomeini addressed Iranian intellectuals and critics of religious monopoly, saying: “You do not want us to go back to 1,400 years ago.”
These two examples clearly show the core reason of the brain drain or the emigration of elites from Iran under the mullahs’ rule.
The underlying reasons of migration from Iran
In the matter of brain drain, we must directly address the manner and quality of the political system that governs a society. It is governments and their social, economic, and cultural policies that attract or alienate citizens and cause them to stay or depart their country. These are the root and grounds for brain drain. According to a 2018 report by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), unemployment, elites on low incomes, financial and administrative inadequacies, lack of scientific facilities and political and social instability are the most important reasons for the brain drain in Iran.
A glance at some headlines on brain drain in Iran over the last three years illustrates how the situation has become more critical over the years:
The state-run Tabnak website wrote December 12, 2017: “The cost of departure of 180,000 graduates from the country and immigration to other countries for the country in 2015 is equal to the total oil revenue, which is a disaster for the country.”
The state-run Online Economy Website, reported on December 29, 2018: “Iran’s surprising ranking in brain drain: In 2018, the number of migrating students from Iran was reported to be 12,700. Ninety percent of Iranian migrant students stay in the United States after graduation.”
On April 18, 2019, Donyaye Eghtesad website quoted Mohammad Javad Rasaei, the Advisor to the regime’s Deputy Minister of Science, as saying: “Iran ranks first among developing countries in terms of brain drain. Brain drain costs the country $60 billion a year.”
On December 3, 2020, Tasnim website, affiliated with the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), quoted Mohammad Vahidi, the Deputy Chairman of the Education and Research Commission of the Majlis (parliament), as saying: “145,000 people emigrate annually, of which 105,000 have a university degree. In fact, every day, about 20 engineers and experts hold degrees like bachelor or Ph.D. leave the country.”
The results of corrupt leadership
Now, once again, regarding the devastating and surprising results of the brain drain in Iran, remember Khomeini’s words in 1979, “To hell, they are fleeing! Let these university graduates go, those who all talk of science and civilization!”
Complementing this disregard for science is the regime’s repressive behavior toward students. The brutal massacre of student protests in 1999 is just one example of the regime’s level of respect for Iranian students and their demands. In Iran, instead of building the future of their country, students have to spend their days behind bars or in streets protesting for their most basic needs. And those who do have the chance to graduate mostly join the army of the unemployed, whose numbers are growing every day.
The brain drain is the result of the backward and fundamental worldview and policies of a leadership like Khomeini and his successor Ali Khamenei, which in the words of their own media is equal to a year of the oil revenue or $60 billion. And the brain drain is not just statistics. Its effects manifest themselves in the continued degrading of living standards and growing misery of the Iranian population.