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By Safa Haeri

BONN 8TH Jan. The tragic death of some thirty Iranian immigrants trying to reach Germany from Serbia has alarmed both Iranian and international authorities, with a number of Iranian experts and sociologists warning about the dramatic consequence the desertion of such a large number, among them many brains and young, presents for the future of the nation.

As the Italian authorities announced the expulsion of more than six thousand illegal Iranian immigrants from Italy, authorities in several European countries like Britain, Germany, Austria, France, Scandinavia but also Australia, New Zealand and Philippines reported a noted increase in the number of Iranians seeking political asylum but mostly trying to enter illegally.

Western immigration officials confirmed the number of Iranians among illegal immigrants is rising steadily, making them one, if not the largest contingency.

British immigration authorities put the number of Iranians seeking political asylum in the last month of the last year at more than seven hundreds.

In Germany, where conditions for acquiring citizenship have eased, the number of Iranians registering for political asylum reached the record of more than six thousands.

Official statistics released by other European governments confirm the same trend, forcing the authorities to enforce tighter measures at their borders preventing illegal entries, organized by unscrupulous networks of international smugglers, some of them ruthless, not hesitating to abandon the poor immigrants in wrecked ships, or in some cases killing them when intercepted by local guards, as it happened recently in the former Yugoslavia.

Yugoslav smugglers when caught by German border patrols gunned down more than 70 immigrants, including 30 Iranians, among them women and children, said a shocked Iranian woman who saw her husband and two children shot, told an Iranian psychotherapist in Germany.

More than one hundreds Iranians lost their lives in the Sava River separating Bosnia-Herzegovina from Croatia when their ship sunk under fire from Croatian border guards.

Survivors from a Georgian-owned ship that broke in two parts after it hurt rock in Turkey said at 50 immigrants who lost their lives were Iranians.

There were Iranians among the hundred immigrants arrested two weeks agon an Australian coast.

Some hundred others are in custody at the French port of Calais, main crossing points for thousands of immigrants from poor third world countries, including China, Sri-Lanka, Iraq, Afghanistan, Iraqi and Turkish Kurdistan.

Philippine authorities turned back last week a group of one hundred Iranian immigrants using faked European passports. Manila newspapers described the group as Iranian "terrorists" en route to the Muslim-dominated Jolo island to join Al Sayyaf organization, the Muslim terrorists that kidnapped a dozen of French, German, Finnish, Malaysian and Philippine tourists as well as 4 French journalists.

Pakistan, Turkey, Azerbaijan and the Iraqi Kurdistan are the main points of passage for Iranians seeking to reach foreign destinations, mostly Europeans but also as far as Australia and New Zealand.

Western experts say each illegal immigrant pay between 1000 to 5000 US Dollars to passers, most of them totally unscrupulous, who often rob their clients, rape women and kill others before abandoning them in high seas.

Experts observes that the number of Iranians, the majority of them ordinary people, young ones of both sexes, middle class and in some cases aged ones has augmented to unprecedented levels after a period of stagnation that followed the surprising victory of Hojjatoleslam Mohammad Khatami in the May 1997 elections.

"Not only people started to hope, expecting better days and brighter future as promised by the new president, but also some Iranians who had left after the creation of Islamic Republic returned", observed Dr. Fariborz Ra'is-Dana, a professor of political science at Tehran University.

But as Mr. Khatami failed to implement his promises and as the conservatives tightened the rope, the economic, social, cultural and political situation worsened. The "pioneers" who had returned packed again, dismayed by bureaucratic bottlenecks, insults, deliberate provocations by hard-line controlled pressures groups, jalousie of the nouveaux riches, frustrations and above all restrictive measures imposed on the society by the zealots and encouraged by the lamed and fundamentalist leader of the regime, Ayatollah Ali Khameneh'i.

Officials revealed that some ninety percent of young Iranian "brains" awarded in various international Olympiads leaves Iran, employed by Western companies and governments.

And while they have also admitted that the age for female prostitution has lowered from over twenty to under eighteen and the number of hard drug addicts among the young ones has more then doubled, independent experts put the "starting age" for young prostitutes at 12, not taking into account the "temporary marriage", a form of religious-sanctioned prostitution named "siqeh".

Qasem Sho'leh Sa'di, a former deputy from Shiraz and a jurist said twenty years of systematic official propaganda and billions spent to raise the young generation in so-called Islamic values, the sad result is that not only a great majority of our young force that presents the future of any nation would leave for other destinations if doors were open, but prostitution, corruption and drug addiction have reached unprecedented levels.

Mr. Behruz Afkhami, an MM (member of the Majles, or the Iranian parliament) from Tehran who is also a movie director, faced a storm of criticism after he confessed that his son of twelve is urging him unabatedly to leave Iran for the United States.

"When I asked him why he so eager to go to the States, he said because every thing is there and nothing here", Mr. Afkhami explained to angry colleagues who accused him of treason.

"Faced by the tragic realities, authorities reversed their attitude from official silence to official acceptance of the facts", observed Mrs. Mehranguiz Kaar, a respected but dissident lawyer, human rights activist specializing in family affairs.

One of the most tragic aspects of this trend, encouraged in this case by the "apartheid" of a tiny minority of ruling Shi'ite fundamentalists led by Ayatollah Khameneh'i is the flight of religious minorities from a country that was a symbol of religious tolerance and togetherness throughout the ages.

The number of the Jews, who's written history in Iran dates to at least four thousands years has dwindled from over 100.000 before the Islamic revolution of 1979 to between 20.000 to 30.000 and continue unabated, specially after the condemnation of 13 Jews accused of espionage for Israel.

Even though, not only the Iranian Jewish community is still the largest among all Middle Eastern and Muslims-dominated nations, but also free to perform their rites.

The Baha'is, a religion that was born in Iran in the first years of the past century and unlike the Jews, Christians and Zoroastrians, has never been officially recognized, even under the previous regime, suffers utter repression and hardship, their temples destroyed by the authorities, facing imprisonment and assassination and forced to convert to sh'ism, have seen their number down from over a million before the revolution to a mere 250.000.

While about half of the 350.000 strong Christian community has left Iran, mostly for France and the United States, the Zoroastrians, probably the world first monotheist religion and Iranians first official faith before Islam are also living Iran.

"If this tendency continue and Iran loses its religious minorities, it would be Iran's most devastating tragedy", said Mr. Sadeq Saba, the BBC's senior commentator on Iranian affairs.

Experts cite unemployment, inflation, economic fiasco, worsening political situation, bundle closure of outspoken independent publications, imprisonment of influential journalists, intellectuals and popular politicians, endless feuding between opposing factions, President Khatami's tergiversations and hesitations, but above all harsh social and cultural restrictions imposed on the people, mostly the young ones, by religious zealots keen to impose outdated, inadequate Islamic dogmas as the main reason for Iranians to leave. ENDS IRANIAN IMMIGRANTS

©Copyright 2001, Iran Press Service

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