A provincial governor has created an uproar in Iran by telling medical doctors that they are not indispensable, and they can leave the country if they wish.
The highly controversial remark came amid calls by Iran's President and other officials on educated Iranian expats to return to Iran where their services are badly needed.
"Doctors who threaten to leave Iran are free to go and I will see them off," said Mohammad Hadi Imanieh the governor-general of Fars Province and the longest serving dean of the medical school in Shiraz, the capital of Fars Province.
He has also been quoted as having said that he would be willing to pay the travel cost of medical doctors who wish to leave Iran.
Iranian lawmakers and social media users have described Imanieh's comment as "outrageous". Some social media users have also disclosed that Imanieh took advantage of his position and transferred his son, a student of veterinary medicine in Urmia in northwest Iran to Shiraz University and changed his major to Medicine. Other students accused him of forcing medical students to spy on their classmates for him.
Two weeks ago, a conservative lawmaker, Kazem Mousavi, said those who want to listen to music and keep dogs as pet should leave the country. Mousavi was harshly criticized by Iranian musicians and other people including a state television presenter who told him on live TV that he should leave the country rather than trying to impose his ideas on the public.
But these were not the only people who have told other Iranians to leave the country if they do not like what is going on. Earlier, a woman in Islamic outfit who was presented as an expert on family affairs told other Iranians on TV to leave the country if they follow a different lifestyle than what is being mandated by the Islamic Republic’s clerical government.
Like all other Iranian officials who often claim their comments were misreported once they prove to be controversial, both the lawmaker and the governor general claimed their remarks were distorted by the media.
According to Aftab News in Tehran, Imanieh's remarks attracted harsh reactions by the medical community. Former lawmaker Dr. Ali Nobakhtcalled on the Iranian Medical Council to launch an investigation into the matter. He called the remarks by Imanieh "naive and insulting." Several other medical doctors including the chairman of Iranian Consultants' Society Dr. Iraj Khosrownia reminded the governor that "We do not need your permission for leaving the country or remaining where we are." The doctors demanded an apology from the governor-general for his politically incorrect comment.
Other doctors said it was regrettable that the governor, himself a medical doctor, has made such annoying comments instead of trying to encourage doctors not to leave Iran. One doctor, Behrouz Boroumand charged that during the 12 years when Imanieh was the dean of the medical school in Shiraz he hardly had any achievement. He also charged that Imanieh was not qualified enough for the post of governor-general.
Deputy Chief of the Iranian medical council Mohammad Mehdi Qiamat said that Imanieh has hardly ever worked as a medical doctor.
On social media, one Twitter user remindedthat Imanieh has launched his Twitter account only two months ago and has posted 13 tweets, but he has created a lot of controversy with his remarks during this short period.
Another social media user from Shiraz reminded that Imanieh had earlier threatened to expel all private banks from Shiraz. The user jokingly advised the governor to hand over his phone to his wife and stop making remarks for a while after “smoking something”.