Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Trying to tempt the wrong crowd?

The Iranian government is trying to convince expatriates to reconnect with the land of their birth. Not very many people are happy about that.

Iran Expatriates Get Chilly Reception
Over the past year, conservatives here have often fulminated against the role played by Iranian exiles, who helped organize protests against the disputed 2009 presidential election across the globe.

But last week, the Iranian government paid for several hundred “highly placed” Iranians living abroad to come back for a three-day, all-expenses-paid trip. They were invited as part of a high-profile effort to repair Iran’s pariah image, win over some of the expatriates and, not least, draw some much-needed foreign capital to Iran’s troubled economy…

The event did not exactly go as planned...

[N]o sooner had the visitors arrived in Tehran than hard-liners condemned them as traitors. Some clerics were offended by [a] musical event, which featured women playing traditional music alongside men…

In short, the conference underscored an ambivalence that had been part of Iranian political culture ever since the Islamic Revolution in 1979: an evangelizing impulse coupled with a deep distrust of those who ventured outside the fold. As a result, an event that was aimed at polishing Iran’s image ended up showcasing many of the country’s bitter internal divisions…

Some critics of the government claim that as many as 200,000 educated Iranians leave every year, though estimates vary. In 2007, the International Monetary Fund said Iran had the worst “brain drain” of 90 nations it surveyed…

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