Long line in front of embassies and an increase in the number of clients of companies and institutes that send people abroad are clear proofs of this claim: immigration has become the main goal for some Iranian citizens. It must be said that about ten years ago, it was mostly the Iranian elites who immigrated, which is why the expression of ‘brain drain’ became current. All these years, the well-to-do people in the society were also able to immigrate to European and American countries. But now things have changed: not just the elites, not just the rich people, the middle class too have been added to those who are looking for a future beyond the borders of Iran. But the other issue is domestic immigration: unemployment, drought, health issues, lack of fair distribution of resources, lack of desirable investment, shortage of water, and not utilizing new agricultural systems have resulted in a new phenomenon in some of the Iranian provinces called domestic immigration. Some people – in hope of better employment, jobs, and life – migrate to other parts of the country from their hometowns where they were born, lived, and educated. Even though immigration – both for those who go abroad and those move inside the country – might get them closer to what they want, its problems seem more like an unfulfilled dream.
Iranians’ immigration during past decades
Iranians are not unfamiliar with the word ‘immigration’; the desire to immigrate has always existed among Iranians during past decades. Meanwhile, this desire has had its ups and downs due to the conditions of the country. If we ignore the distant past immigration and just focus on past decades, we get to 40 years ago – the year when following the establishment of Islamic Republic, there was a wave of immigration from the country. Many who had a conflict of interests with the new establishment or could not adapt themselves with the new conditions in the country, packed their suitcases and left their homeland. Perhaps it can be said that the year of the fruition of the revolution — and a couple of years after that– was the peak of Iranians’ immigrating from the country. The Iran-Iraq War also caused population movement both inside and outside the country, and some people immigrated to stay safe from a war that was imposed. Of course, on the other hand, some of those who were living abroad returned to Iran with the outbreak of war and went to war fronts. After the war and relative establishment of peace, the wave of immigration decreased. During the Reformation period [under former President Mohammad Khatami], given the open political atmosphere that was created, we witnessed reverse immigration, and some of those who were living abroad found the country’s atmosphere suitable enough to return to their motherland.
Vicissitudes of immigration during the 2000s and 2010s
These entrances and exits [in and out of the country] had fluctuations during different periods. Following the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as president, once again the issue of immigration abroad increased again, and many journalists, political activists, and ordinary people who were rich or educated found the political and social conditions of the country undesirable and left the country. During Ahmadinejad, due to the unsafe situation and the possibility of war, exiting the country increased. But after the 10th government and election of Rouhani, exiting the country slowed down, and some Iranians were eager to go back to Iran. With the beginning of the government of prudence and hope [Rouhani’s government] and election slogans that were focused on improving the conditions of economic and social life in the country, most of Iranians became increasingly hopeful. As a result of success in different fields in Rouhani’s government during his first term – particularly in foreign policy and success in signing the JCPOA (the nuclear deal), people could see a bright future ahead and became more interested in living inside the country. But, Rouhani was not lucky enough. With Trump gaining power and his disagreements with the JCPOA, which ended in the US pulling out of this international accord, the tide turned. In a short time, the prices of foreign currency and gold coins skyrocketed, and the increase in prices of these three economic factors — whose impact on the entire economy is well-known to all — made living in Iran day by day more tumultuous. Under the current conditions in the country, those who have the economic and financial means to immigrate are getting ready to do so. And those who cannot economically afford to immigrate are either longing for it or are anxiously expecting the future.
Unemployment, the main reason for internal immigration
Meanwhile, in last April, Iranian researchers conducted a study in this regard in which inter-province immigration in Iran is studied base on the official census, aiming at answering the existing questions in this regard. This study is conducted through analysis of secondary data obtained through the public census of people and houses by Iran’s Statistical Center. The obtained data were analyzed with regard to the impact of the unemployment rate, average years of education, and population on the level of immigration by using statistical software. The results of the study showed that during the period of 1996 to 2006, the share of immigration in the general population was 17.2% out of 100 people, while during 2006 to 2011, this number reached 7.4% immigrants out of 1000 people. Unemployment was the main cause of inter-province immigration. Ghorban Hosseini, senior expert in demography and research expert in the Institute for Comprehensive and Technical Studies and Management, said, “in 2011, the majority of immigration in ratio with the population was in provinces of South Khorasan, Alborz, and Bushehr; there were a lot of population movements in these provinces. But the least ratio was in provinces of Lorestan and Sistan and Baluchistan – these are provinces from which many immigrants go to other regions.” The study revealed that Bushehr Province, due to its economic condition and existence of big oil companies, has attracted active workforces from neighboring provinces and other regions. Also, 44% of the entire immigration in Iran was respectively from the provinces of Tehran, Khorasan Razavi, Isfahan, Fars, and Alborz. In another part of the study, Hosseini explains: “roughly 50% of inter-province immigrants were respectively for provinces of Tehran, Khorasan Razavi, Fars, Isfahan, Khuzestan, and Mazandaran, and 50% of immigrants of other provinces in the country entered respectively to provinces of Alborz, Isfahan, Khorasan Razavi, Gilan, and Mazandaran. The reason for immigrating to these provinces were cases such as political and bureaucratic concentration, employment, welfare, and educational facilities, health, economic reasons such as more business possibilities, religious places and finally weather.”
70 to 80 percent are educated and professional
On the other hand, people’s remarks indicate that despite all difficulties against immigration from Iran due to increase in demands, many people are highly motivated to follow their education and employment in an advanced country later in their lives. Even though, every now and then, the officials announce that the rate of the educated people leaving Iran is not high. Domestic statistics show that annually 60 thousand people immigrate from Iran; statistics of the United Nations and International Monetary Fund (IMF) have estimated this number around 150-180 thousand people; 70-80% of whom are educated and professional. In addition, according to the statistics of the Iranian Parliament, Ministry of Education and other official bodies, 70% of those with top ranks in the university entrance exam, those who took part in Olympiad, and scientific medalists have left the country.
How can we regain hope for staying?
Even though different factors can be considered in this process, this level of domestic and overseas immigration is not hard to imagine when there is no balance between the population, resources, and facilities. The existence of political and economic crises is the other thing which is mentioned by those who want to immigrate. Moreover, air pollution in big cities and environmental problems must be added to other issues as well. As a matter of fact, those who constantly monitor the conditions in the country know that many problems threaten the future of Iran, and as a result, they do not see any future for themselves in their own motherland. This is the sad destiny of all those who love Iran but have lost hope. The question is: How can we regain hope for staying and making this country prosperous?