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Iranian press review: Iran to crack down on agencies helping elites to emigrate


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Iranian press review: Iran to crack down on agencies helping elites to emigrate

Meanwhile, Iranians reduce investment in Turkey’s housing market, and parliamentary speaker faces new scandal ahead of elections

MEE staff

People walk in Tehran on 20 May 2023 (AFP)

Police to criminalise emigration agencies

An Iranian official said police will crack down on emigration agencies helping elites to leave the country, rejecting warnings by experts and former politicians.

Salman Seyyed Afghahi, the deputy of Iran’s National Elites Foundation, said that police would take steps against the “systemic migration” of elites amid concerns about the rise in the number of skilled workers, doctors, nurses and highly educated Iranians departing.

On Monday, in an interview with the Mehr news agency, Afghahi announced that the police and the governmental foundation, which support elite national talents, have signed an agreement to target organisations assisting the country’s elites in immigrating to other countries.

“Some have entered the immigration business. For example, if immigration to a country costs $10,000 per a person, these businesses arrange it for $1,000 or $2,000. Surely, these offices are part of a system funded from elsewhere,” Mehr quoted him as saying.

Seyyed Afghahi’s remarks came two weeks after two former ministers and a vice president, who were part of the government during former president Hassan Rouhani’s tenure, expressed concerns about the escalating brain drain.

The news about the agreement criminalising the activities of immigration agencies has drawn criticism from academics, including outspoken establishment critic Sadegh Zibakalam, who questioned the credibility of the foundation for signing such an agreement with the police.

“According to the [establishment’s] view, everything must be done by force. They want to compel students to believe in a single ideology, and university professors must also adhere to the same beliefs by force. Staying in the country follows the same pattern,” Khabar Online quoted Zibakalam as saying.

Iranians invest less in Turkey’s housing market

Investment by Iranians in Turkey‘s housing market in 2023 showed a notable decrease compared to 2022, marking the first negative shift in recent years, as reported by the Mardomsalari daily.

Over the past decade, Iranians consistently increased real estate investments in neighbouring Turkey, aiming to safeguard the value of their assets by moving funds out of their home country.

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Another motivation for investing in Turkey was the desire for a more valuable passport, facilitating international movement.

“Buying property in Turkey is one investment choice for some Iranians, and many investors also establish companies in this country,” Mardomsalari wrote.

However, the daily’s report reveals that in 2023, Iranians purchased 4,272 homes in Turkey – a 48 percent decline from 2022. 

Mardomsalary added that Turkey’s worsening economic crisis and the implementation of new restrictive immigration laws were factors that led to reduced demand for housing among foreigners in the country.

In October 2021, Iranian lawmaker Mojtaba Yousefi disclosed that Iranians spent over $7bn on property in Turkey between 2018 and 2020. 

Other data released by local media revealed that between 2015 and 2022, the number of properties purchased by Iranians surged from 744 to 8,223.

New scandal hits parliamentary speaker 

Iran’s parliamentary speaker, Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, who has long opposed the western way of life, has this week been hit by a fresh scandal as leaked official documents revealed his son’s emigration plans.

The documents, disclosed by independent journalist Yashar Soltani on Telegram, showed that the speaker’s son, Ishagh, had applied for permanent residency in Canada.

Soltani was previously arrested for exposing corruption cases in Iran. On 16 February, he revealed that one of Ghalibaf’s former deputies, who also resides in Canada, owns a property valued at 6.5 million Canadian dollars.

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This new scandal has unfolded just two weeks before parliamentary elections, for which Ghalibaf has registered for the capital, Tehran.

Ghalibaf’s rivals in the camp of conservatives have immediately picked up the news and dubbed it Canada-gate. 

On Sunday, the Tabnak site suggested that the attacks against Ghalibaf during various programmes aired on Iran’s only broadcaster were part of a broader strategy to oust him from the position of speaker and subsequently from the political stage.

Ghalibaf, a former Revolutionary Guard Corps commander and a principlist politician, consistently disparages the western lifestyle, emphasising the priority of Islamic values over western ones.

The revelation of his son’s application for permanent residency in Canada has prompted many Iranians to express their concerns on social media and demand more clarification.

Sadeq Hosseini, an Iranian journalist on X, said this case showed that ordinary Iranians weren’t the only ones contemplating leaving the country.

“Even within the most privileged families entrenched in power, who have reaped the rewards of the revolution, there exists a lack of confidence in the future and a sense of pessimism regarding the country’s prospects for improvement,” he said.

In 2022, during the third week of Ramadan, Ghalibaf faced another scandal when reports surfaced about his family embarking on a lavish shopping trip to Turkey.

Dubbed “Layettegate” on Farsi social media, the scandal involved Ghalibaf’s wife, daughter, and son-in-law, who were photographed at Istanbul airport with 19 suitcases filled with baby clothes, a bed, and a pram.

* Iranian press review is a digest of news reports not independently verified by Middle East Eye

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