Iran’s Brain Drain: The Impact Of Poverty And Inflation – OpEd
By Hossein Beizayi
It seems that the migration of Iran’s educated and specialized individuals to other countries, also called the brain drain, is becoming more intense as the years go by. According to studies conducted in 2019, Iran ranked as having the second-largest brain drain in the world with the migration of nearly 180,000 educated professionals. Of course, with the deteriorating of all aspects of life in Iran in the past many years and with the recent complete control of the three branches of government in Iran by Khamenei’s closest and most reliable individuals (Raisi, Ejei, and Ghalibaf) and the increase in public dissatisfaction, this statistic has undoubtedly increased.
The brain drain from any country generally happens for three reasons: economic, social, or political problems. Iran’s ongoing brain drain crisis can be attributed to the compounding effects of many factors, including decades of poor governance, wide and ongoing political and social repression, severe human rights abuses, bleak economic outlook, corruption, and socio-demographic factors.
At the present time, all these parameters seem to have joined hands and have left no solution for many Iranians, except for leaving the country. These factors have caused dissatisfaction among most Iranians so that according to research, 30% of the population tends to emigrate abroad. On the one hand, this dissatisfaction can be seen in economic statistics and figures that, for example, 80% of people have gone below the poverty line. The middle class has almost vanished, and essential food items such as meat and fruit are off the table for millions. News of strikes by workers and employees who have not been paid for several months can be seen almost daily in the media and has become commonplace. The youth unemployment rate has reached one-third of their population, and now there is an abundance of university graduates working in jobs such as driving a taxi.
In Kurdistan province, many people carry goods on their backs and carry them to the other side of the border, known as “kolbars” or border porters. Every month, they are killed by border police who shoot at them with impunity.
Iran’s situation is so bleak that nearly a third of the metropolitan population, who can no longer afford to pay the heavy rents within cities, are driven to the outskirts of the cities and live in very poor conditions in sheds that lack the minimum living standards, such as drinking water, electricity, a proper bathroom, etc.
Furthermore, widespread and institutionalized corruption in the government has led to unbelievable class divides between the regime’s officials and affiliates and ordinary people. It has been revealed that regime’s officials and affiliates have access to the lower rate foreign currency, which is about one-seventh of the market rate. They sell it in the open market at a much higher price and pocket the gains. That is why Iran is ranked to have the highest number of millionaires in the Middle East.
Government corruption that has caused widespread poverty is one of the main reasons many young people have lost their hopes for the future and have turned to drugs and become addicted. This was rarely seen before the 1979 revolution. The fact that many young people in academia and even high school students become addicted to drugs is very commonplace in today’s Iran. The pressure of not being able to afford a simple life forces them to quit their education path and find a corner in remote places of cities and towns to spend the night. In Iran, they are referred to as cardboard sleepers, meaning they live and sleep in cardboard boxes.
According to the regime’s published statistics, there are currently 4.4 million addicts in Iran. The real number is much higher, of course. The same statistics state that the number of addicts in the country has doubled in the last ten years. Drug distribution centers are indirectly run and operated by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and the regime’s officials. They operate the drug distribution network with no fear of arrest and accountability. To cover up such a lucrative operation, every now and then, several addicts and drug dealers are arrested and executed. But the growing number of addicts clearly shows that drug distribution networks are immune. In fact, obtaining drugs are now cheaper and easier than obtaining some food items.
Considering the above, it is natural that most educated people, who have worked hard for years, studied, and gained experience to have a better life, and who see such conditions, flee from the country to escape from this horrible prison. But since it is not possible for all these people to immigrate and not all people want to leave Iran, many are looking to change the situation in Iran.
The motivation behind most of this immigration is the fact that Iranians cannot tolerate the mullahs’ despotism imposing unbearable political and social limitations. The unfortunate truth is that as long as the mullahs are in power, we will only witness an increasing number of college students and experts leaving Iran for good.
However, according to politicians and sociologists familiar with the situation in Iran, this situation cannot continue for long. This resonates with what some of the Iranian officials are saying. The Iranian society acts like a bomb that is fast approaching its explosion stage, or according to Ahmadinejad, the former president of the same regime, a flood is on its way that will take everyone away.