Iran has established a secretariat for the Committee for the Return of Expat Iranians, inside Iran’s Intelligence Ministry, the Deputy Foreign Minister for Consular, Parliamentary, and Iranian Expatriate Affairs Hassan Qashqavi said in an interview with Tadbir News Website. “The Committee’s meetings are regularly held at the Intelligence Ministry, and the Intelligence Ministry has achieved good results in this area,” Mr. Qashqavi told Tadbir, adding, “Reports of these meetings will soon be published.”
Immediately after his election, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani asked Iran’s Intelligence and Foreign Ministries to facilitate the return of Iranians living abroad.
In November 2013, Qashqavi had announced the formation of a committee to facilitate the return of political activists outside Iran to their home country. Qashqavi said at the time, “The reason many Iranians do not return to Iran is the [fear] induced by Iranian opposition groups abroad. In my opinion, many of these fears are self-made. This fear has no root.” Earlier, Iran’s Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi had also said, “We guarantee that any individual who has not committed a violation will not have a problem,” adding, “We will resolve the unfounded fear of those who did not commit any crimes during the 2009 events.”
A large wave of emigration followed the violent crackdown against protesters in the aftermath of the 2009 disputed presidential election. Even so, not all emigrations from Iran have been politically motivated. With the growing economic and social problems in Iran, many have left to escape the uncertainty and the lack of a positive outlook for their and their families’ future.
“Every year, about 150,000 of our elite emigrate from Iran, costing our economy $150 billion,” said Iranian Minister of Science and Technology Reza Faraji Dana earlier in January 2014. According to the International Monetary Fund, Iran has the highest rate of brain drain in the world: “For the Islamic Republic of Iran, the fraction of the population with a tertiary education living in OECD countries is around 25 percent.”
Qashqavi said last month that other than individuals “with judicial cases,” all Iranians living abroad are “free” to travel back and forth to Iran. He also provided an email address where Iranians could write to inquire about their travel permission status from the Foreign Ministry. In July 2013, Iran’s Prosecutor General and Spokesperson for the Iranian Judiciary Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejehi said at a press conference that everyone is allowed to return to Iran, but not everyone is allowed to leave the country. “If an individual commits a crime and leaves the country, or if he commits a crime against the state abroad, as soon as he returns to the country, he will be arrested by the judicial system.” Regarding individuals who were involved in the 2009 post-election events, which Mr. Ejehi referred to as “the 2009 Sedition,” he said, “If these individuals return to the country, they will be prosecuted immediately upon arrival.”
Hassan Qashqavi is a familiar figure within Iran’s Foreign Ministry who has seemingly made an easy transition from working in Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s cabinet in the same position after serving as Spokesperson for the ministry for several years, to working in Hassan Rouhani’s cabinet. Many remember him as the public official who welcomed َAli Vakili Rad back to Iran in May 2010, after serving 18 years inside a French prison for the 1991 murder of former Iranian Prime Minister and opposition Leader Shapur Bakhtiar. He was also the official who in July 2010 welcomed a man by the name of Shahram Amiri, whose complicated case of disappearance, defection to the US, and voluntary return to Iran made headlines. After Qashqavi hosted a formal state reception for Amiri, the latter’s whereabouts have remained unknown.