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Iran Puts New 'Restrictions' On Returning Expats


President Mahmud Ahmadinejad (left) applauds as Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, head of his office, prepares to speak at the conference.

President Mahmud Ahmadinejad (left) applauds as Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, head of his office, prepares to speak at the conference.

The Iranian government has set new restrictions on Iranian expatriates coming into the country, RFE/RL's Radio Farda reports.

Mohammad Sharif Malekzadeh, head of the High Council of Iranian Expatriates, said on August 11 that Iranians residing abroad can return to Iran for academic reasons only after being approved by certain institutions, ILNA reported.

Asked if the "Iranian expatriates with political problems" who want to return to Iran to take part in academic activities would face any difficulties, Malekzadeh said that "certain institutions will do their duties in this regard."

He implied that the institutions he was referring to were the security organs.

Malekzadeh organized the August 2 Grand Conference of Iranians Living Abroad, a state-run gathering of Iranian expatriates in Tehran. He claimed that some 200 expat academics are willing to teach at Iranian universities.

Paris-based lawyer Abdolkarim Lahiji told RFE/RL on August 11 that such restrictions violate both the Iranian Constitution and Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

"Iranians have been repeatedly barred from leaving the country for their social or political activities. Now they are prevented from returning to their homeland," said Lahiji, director of the League for Defense of Human Rights in Iran.

"Such policies of the Iranian government -- which have become more severe since Mahmud Ahmadinejad became president -- are used merely to intimidate Iranians abroad not to return to their country," he added.

The government paid for a three-day trip to Iran for the several hundred expatriates who took part in the Conference of Iranians Living Abroad last week. But many hard-line clerics and government officials criticized the event and called the expatriates "traitors."

There are estimated to be between 3 million and 5 million Iranians who were born in Iran living outside the country. The majority of them emigrated after the Islamic Revolution in 1979.
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