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Iran: World's Highest Rate of Brain-Drain
rferl ^ | 3/8/04 | rferl

Posted on 03/08/2004 5:28:56 PM PST by freedom44

Iran has the highest rate of "brain drain" in the world. That's the conclusion of the International Monetary Fund, which recently surveyed some 61 countries. The IMF says every year more than 150,000 educated Iranians leave their home country in the hope of finding a better life abroad. RFE/RL correspondent Golnaz Esfandiari spoke to young people who have chosen to leave Iran and experts to see what is driving the country's future to find opportunity somewhere else.

Prague, 8 May 2004 (RFE/RL) -- Vahid Garousi emigrated to Canada about three years ago, after graduating in computer engineering from one of Iran's best technical universities. Garoussi says he left for economic, social, and educational reasons.

"For a software engineer in Iran, you can find a quite well-paying job [by Iranian standards]. You can get something like 500,000 toumans a month [about $600], but still that [amount of] money is not something that [will give you a comfortable life]. So this was the economic reason. Then I had social reasons to leave Iran. The example I'm telling now is that you couldn't listen to music in your car -- Iranian pop music or I like Turkish pop music. There are many examples of these social restrictions you can think of. [And] there is no freedom of speech."

Every year more than 150,000 educated young people leave Iran for countries such as the U.S. and Canada. Some 4 million Iranians now live abroad.Garousi, now a Ph.D. student in Canada, adds that educational opportunities also were better abroad: "Then I had educational reasons. For example, you don't have good access to the Internet with high speed [and] then you have Internet censorship in Iran. [The authorities] have filtered many websites, even educational websites. We didn't have good libraries in Iran. We didn't have new books, new technical books. And, for example, here in Canada I can go to very prestigious conferences but in Iran, because of U.S. sanctions, Iranians cannot submit papers to [professional groups like the] IEEE (Institute of Electrical & Electronics Engineers)."

Garousi says he won't return unless many things change. His story is increasingly typical. Every year more than 150,000 educated young people leave Iran for countries such as the U.S. and Canada. Some 4 million Iranians now live abroad. Few of these will ever return.

Many emigres cite a lack of basic social freedoms. In Iran, boys and girls cannot mingle together in public. Dancing is forbidden. Women and girls must cover their hair and bodies.

Under President Mohammad Khatami there has been a gradual liberalization, but public life is still closely monitored.

The situation is particularly serious among the best-educated young people. As many as four out of five (80 percent) who recently won awards in scientific fields have chosen to emigrate.

Hazhir Rahmandad, who won an international award in chemistry, left Iran in 2000 and now studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the U.S.

"After finishing my undergraduate studies in industrial engineering, I decided to continue my studies for graduate work, and system dynamics was one of the main areas that [I] was interested in. The only place I could go to was basically the U.S., so that was one of the main reasons. The other thing was that almost everybody was applying [at foreign universities] at the end of [my undergraduate university study]. I was studying at Sharif [University] in Tehran, so it was kind of the norm. And finally I think another dimension of it was that I was interested to see a different world."

Rahmandad says Iran's political structure does not allow people like him to get involved in the country's future as much as they would like to.

"In the short term, I don't think I will be going back," he said. "I actually, personally would really like to go back and be useful to my country and I feel a lot of connection still with whatever is happening in Iran. But on the other hand, I don't see a way of how I can be useful, how I can contribute to building a better Iran -- so it is a challenge."

Amanollah Gharayi Moghadam, a professor of sociology in Tehran, agrees. He says many young people are forced to leave because society cannot absorb them and respond to their needs. "Based on our research, the most important cause for brain drain from Iran is unsuitable social conditions for the youth. There are several factors contributing to this unsuitable atmosphere."

The costs of the brain drain are high. Local sources put the economic loss at some $50 billion a year or higher. "For each inventor or scientist who leaves the country, it is as if 10 oil wells had been destroyed," Moghadam says.


TOPICS: Culture/Society; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: braindrain; iran

1 posted on 03/08/2004 5:28:57 PM PST by freedom44
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To: freedom44
"The costs of the brain drain are high."

I suppose this could be said of many Third World countries, whether former colonies or not. I suppose the countries' regimes just perpetuate their inability to leave the 19th century.
2 posted on 03/08/2004 5:43:31 PM PST by AngrySpud (Behold, I am The Anti-Crust ... Anti-Hillary)
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To: freedom44
"The IMF says every year more than 150,000 educated Iranians leave their home country in the hope of finding a better life abroad"

oh, my. where do they go?
russia? france? mexico?

3 posted on 03/08/2004 5:53:40 PM PST by hoot2
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To: freedom44
The brain drain in Iran has been going on for close to 30 years.

I knew folks in the 70's who fled Iran because of the Shah.

The excesses of the Khomeini revolution and it's aftermath only exacerbated things.

I'm always surprised and pleased to learn that there is an educated class left in the country.

4 posted on 03/08/2004 6:02:27 PM PST by billorites (freepo ergo sum)
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To: freedom44
Gee I can't for the life of me imagine why'd they want to leave.
/world-class sarcasm
5 posted on 03/08/2004 10:02:21 PM PST by Valin (America is the land mine between barbarism and civilization.)
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