Iran’s president Ebrahim Raisi has said that young Iranians are not attracted to Western culture any longer, while hundreds of thousands emigrate every year.
In the 35th International Conference on Islamic Unity in Tehran on Tuesday Raisi said, “Western culture and political-economic systems are not attractive for the youth. If young [Muslim] people in the past wished to live in a Western cultural environment and lead Western lifestyles, today they do have such demands.”
Raisi’s statement comes across as a contradiction to years of statements by Islamic Republic officials who have been voicing alarm at the high rate of emigration and what is usually dubbed as a “brain-drain”.
On the same day when Raisi spoke, a prominent economist, Bahman Arman, told the Iranian Labour News Agency (ILNA) that 700,000 people leave Iran every year, citing figures by the Statistical Center of Iran. While economic reasons exist for migration, religious restrictions on social life is an important factor in encouraging relocation to other countries.
Raisi’s statement also contradicts a huge morality police force that arrests young people daily, especially women for preferring a free lifestyle and defying obligatory hijab and restrictions on mixed-gender social gatherings.
In 2017, a top official in the ministry of roads said that 1.5 million professional and educated Iranians are waiting to emigrate to Australia and Canada.
The Islamic conference is a public relations event organized by the Islamic Republic to show that there is unity among Shiites and Sunnis and to carve a place for the clerical regime among other Muslims.
Raisi in his speech also praised Qassem Soleimani, the former commander of the Qods (Quds) Force, claiming that the general who was killed by US drones in January 2020, was a leading figure in promoting Islamic unity. In fact, Soleimani was seen by many Sunnis as a dividing figure, bent on arming and using Shiites to advance Iran’s foreign policy goals in the region.
Raisi also said that after the second World War “the ruling system” only saw one power on its way to full domination and that was Islam. The statement is not compatible with history that witnessed an epic rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union, or capitalist democracies and Communist dictatorships. Political Islam did not emerge as a force until the late 1970s.
Iran’s hardline president went on to say that there is an “Islamic awakening” now that should not “go cold”. He accused the West of conspiracies such as allegedly creating the Islamic State group and dividing the Muslim world. He called on the participants in the conference to unite against conspiracies and defend the Palestinians, which he said is the most important issue for the Muslim world.
Raisi told the conference that the Islamic Republic pursues stability in Muslim countries while “the enemy” is bent on creating instability. The term ‘enemy’ for the Islamic Republic usually means the United States and Israel.