Amid nationwide protests, economic hardship and uncertainty about their future, more Iranians are emigrating, with Oman as a new favorite destination. 

The accelerating exodus is not limited to medical and engineering professionals anymore as many business owners have also started to transfer their businesses to nearby countries where trade transactions are easier, especially to the Persian Gulf littoral states. 

According to a recent article in the Tehran newspaper Arman Melli, during the past year about 30,000 personnel of different medical professions, including doctors, nurses, and paramedical technicians, have applied for Certificates of Good Standing with intent to immigrate to Oman. The paper claimed that within the last four years, 16,000 general practitioners have left the country. The high number of emigrations has become so alarming that the officials of medical organizations have warned of serious shortages of doctors in the near future. 

In April, Iran's Medical Council said about 4,000 doctors have applied for Certificates of Good Standing in the previous 12 months with the intent to leave the country. Council spokesman Reza Laripour said that the annual number of such applications was less than 600 between 2013 and 2015.

Head of the Medical Council of the Islamic Republic, Mohammad Raeeszadeh, said, "The medical community faces fundamental challenges in some specialties, so that we may not have graduates in some fields in the future.” He warned of the risk of regression to 40 years ago when it had to hire foreign doctors to meet domestic needs.

Head of the Medical Council of the Islamic Republic, Mohammad Raeeszadeh

Lack of a promising future is the main reason why professionals decide to leave. Incomes have sharply declined in the past years as Iran’s currency has lost its value by more than tenfold, and the state seems to become more inept and arbitrary in governing the country.

On the backdrop of Iranian doctors emigrating in droves, the health ministry in September increased the exit permit bond for medical, dental and pharmacy students to $5,000 per year. Deputy minister for education at the health ministry, Abolfazl Bagherifard, said that students in graduate levels should provide 1.5 billion rials ($5,000) to leave the country for a year and undergraduate levels should provide bonds worth $2,000. Students must provide an official letter of commitment to return as well as another person's guarantee by depositing a real estate bond or a bank guarantee.

Experts and social scientists in Iran and abroad have told the media that the brain drain in the past few decades, beginning with the 1980-88 war with Iraq, has been accelerated by lack of social freedoms in the clerical-dominated system, political upheavals, deterioration of the economy, and government repression.

The government has stepped up pressures and restrictions on students and graduates. Late in November, the parliament presented a proposal to ban students who participate in protests from traveling abroad for ten years. Recently, the Ministry of Science Research and Technology has also approved regulations that would increase the costs of receiving university degrees six to 10 times. 

All Iranians who study in government universities must work about twice the duration of their studies for a state institution before they can get their certificates. If they opt out of working for the government, they should pay the cost of their education to get their document. As per recent regulations, the fees to get their degrees have increased up to 10-fold. 

However, even those measures are not enough to stop Iranians from leaving the country, with many families deciding to either send their children abroad before starting university or forgetting about getting a degree altogether. Ali Sharifi-Zarchi, a professor at Tehran’s Sharif University of Technology, believes that the new measures would even accelerate emigration, saying that the new fees mean that the government is urging students to forget about Iranian universities and study abroad where they can find a job and help pay for their expenses.

Almost half of Iranian youth want to leave the country amid pessimism about their future, a recent opinion survey conducted from abroad shows.

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