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Iran's Intellectual Holocaust, Part III --- A Lost Generation

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The saga of Iran's missed opportunities during these past 30 years of Islamic theocracy would probably fill an entire University library. The prosperity and progress of our neighboring states (Turkey and Dubai) are simple to see. And it is even more remarkable when one considers that they have virtually no indigenous resources (except the resourcefulness of their populations). Contrast this with Iran's virtual status quo.

The shame is even more deeply felt, when one considers the huge imbalance of human resources of Iran compared to these other nations.

Iran has probably lost a complete generation of doctors, scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, you name it. A very large group of highly educated, trained and experienced professionals were lost to the '79 revolution. More than 1 million Iranians live overseas in a Diaspora of professionals producing more value and wealth (estimated at greater than $200 Billion) more than the entire nation of Iran today (with a GNP of $118 Billion). US census details and several other reports confirm that Iranian-Americans are the best- educated and most affluent first generation immigrant group in the US.

Iranians overseas have probably had more than $1 Trillion dollars invested in them through a combination of money sent originally by their families from Iran, side jobs while they studied at College supporting themselves and further investments by corporations and institutions investing in their professional development.

A wise government in Tehran would have recognized the immense value of this generation and found a way to harbor it to the nations benefit.

Consider, by contrast, China's economic transformation (from a GNP of about $100 billion in the late 70's to over $1.5 Trillion today...with over $450 Billion in foreign direct investment these past 30 years) was in large part due to investments by Chinese living abroad [in Taiwan, Hong Kong, US, and Canada]).

And, the Theocratic government in Iran has created roadblock after roadblock to attracting this Diaspora back home. It is true that the first large wave of Iranian emigration came right after the '79 revolution when the Islamic Theocracy began a crackdown of the former regime and started confiscating assets of Jews, Bahai's, and many wealthy families considered to be close to the previous regime. But, there was also a rather large community of students overseas who were never the less sympathetic with the prospect of democracy in Iran.

But almost immediately after the revolution, war broke out between Iran and Iraq and there was significant risk of military conscription upon even a casual visit to Iran. No one wanted to be drafted into a mindless war, with human waves being used to clear minefields or taste chemical bombs. Major cities were also targets of Iraqi bombing campaigns. Iran was not safe.

And so, during the war many more Iranians fled Iran, while those overseas chose not to return. It took a decade or so for the risk of war to subside. By the '90's Iran's economy had turned into a shambles with high unemployment, high inflation, and devaluation of Iran's currency. The war had also resulted in the consolidation of power by the Islamic Theocracy. All prospects of democracy had vanished. Even the new 'reformist' government turned out to be a soft face on a hard government that kept imprisoning and torturing dissidents, closing down newspapers, disqualifying political candidates, controlling all levers of power.

The Diaspora had now settled abroad with good jobs, good businesses and new families. The Diaspora had also witnessed tolerance; real democracy and alternatives to the atrocities of the brutal theocracy. The Diaspora has simply developed an alternate perspective with different ideas and different approaches. The Diaspora therefore presents a threat to the Mullahs and they know it.

The Mullahs can not and will not reconcile their perspectives with anyone else. The Mullahs cannot accept alternative visions of the future. Given a free and fair market for presenting ideas, the Mullahs can not trust the Iranian people to select the best idea choose its own future. They continue to disqualify political candidates and political parties. They insist on imposing their values on Iran.

This has not only kept the Diaspora abroad; but also created conditions for an continuing emigration. Iran still has one of the highest per capita rates of emigration especially among its well educated. The joke among the foreign reporters covering Iran is " to be prepared for every Iranian you interview in Iran to ask you for how they can get a visa to get out!" Although the Iranian emigration rate to the US has dropped since the mid-eighties, the lines outside US embassies in Dubai and elsewhere remain very long for Iranians. Europeans continue to see relatively high rates of Iranian applicants.

Not only are Iranians escaping Iran, but also Iranians are escaping the reality of day-to-day life in Iran through drugs. The narcotic traffic in Iran has surpassed all previous generations' experiences. Afghanistan now produces record volumes of opium that is easily smuggled into Iran. Iran's supreme leader by all accounts is a regular opium user. Iran now harbors a significant drug culture. It is estimated that Iran now has over 6 million infrequent drug users and in excess of 1 million regular opium smokers. This is absolutely horrific and unprecedented.

Iran's greatest asset is not its hydrocarbons, but Iranians at home and abroad. Yet, Iran's greatest resource has been squandered. The theocracy has caused a huge intellectual holocaust a systematic elimination of Iran's greatest asset.

What a tragedy? What a travesty? This is a crime against the nation of Iran inflicting Millions of Iranians and larger than the holocaust Hitler committed.
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www.faceofiran.com
Former Iranian Diplomat, now retired real estate investor in Delaware

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