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Iran: Notes on Past and Present: Education and Religion

By Syma Sayyah, Tehran

Many of those who are involved in education, trade, and in particular industry, agree that one of the worst things since the 1979 revolution in Iran is the fact that many of her educated elites, before and since, have left the country.

The Brain Drain is a devastating issue, and unfortunately it is not easy to address it. Indeed, this needs serious consideration and must be analyzed thoroughly until solutions are found. Yet a most critical issue like this cannot easily be addressed without political reforms. Actually, many in the ruling elite think that it is best if these people leave so they can be left in peace. This way they do not have to give in or accommodate to their needs and requirements! However, the consequences for the nation, in the long run, cannot be dismissed and even they themselves know this.

In my experience, with a very few exceptions, Iranians, no matter how long or how far they have been away from motherland, have not managed to cut off their umbilical cord with her. These expatriates are more involved with Iran and what happens here than what might be happening in their next door, no matter where that is. I doubt that any of these professionals, scientists or technocrats will come back to stay in Iran and to work here. We all have our lives settled by now after so many years, and it does not matter where that is or if we like it that much. We come and go on short visits, but home is where your job, your family and recent friends are. Old friends you know are there for you, no matter how long you have not seen them; you take it up with them where you left it last time.

However, recently I was talking about this to a university science professor from Sharif University, considered one of the best technical universities in the region. This professor assured me that the brain drain is not too bad nor that serious! He said that about 25% of the good science graduate students who remain behind are dedicated and passionate about becoming successful, and this group would carry the need of the nation. I do truly wish that I could believe him. I am afraid that needs of the industry all around the country are bigger than that.

I was told about the wonderful science researches that are taking place at Sharif; and that Iran is number one with respect to increase in rate of papers published in international journals. I learned that other scientists refer to them often, and that rate of citations for Iranian science scholars is pretty high. This was still not reassuring to me. Many of the very same scientist and scholars may eventually leave the homeland just to be able to take their research further. It is possible that while many are choosing to leave, some are deciding to return, among those who are younger. I can only hope so and pray that nobody will find the need to leave and never come back.

It is not all bad though; we talked about good things too. One good thing that has happened since 1979 is the fact that sanctity of religion is gone. As another good friend puts it, religion lost its power in Europe when it left political arena; in Iran, it lost its true power base when it entered political arena. Wise people always stand outside the race so that they are always there and are always heard and they can exert true and positive influence on the outcome. They say that most fascinating and intriguing of all mistresses in the world is Power, pure and simple. Even good men do change when they are given it, let alone when they are given the ultimate one. Somehow, soon one will do anything to retain and keep this Mistress. We, for certain, have witnessed a great fall of many despite loud and obvious calls of wisdom, which usually go unheard. If those in power wish to stay and want part of their system to survive, they must take a step back and give-in. The problem, I guess, is the fact that if a little is given, like Pandora's box no one knows what the outcome might turn out to be. We ought to learn to be patient gracefully as this required patience must be seen or taken in a historical sense of time, rather than the time span of our own lives.

Things will not change just because we do not like them. We must realize that things will only change if we know what we want, find ways how to get it and above all be prepared to give and do what it takes to achieve it.

... Payvand News - 1/14/04 ... --

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