Iran’s middle class flooding into Turkey - Sunday Times

Faced with a crippled economy hit hard by U.S. sanctions and a hard-line Islamist regime, Iran’s wealthy are increasingly seeking refuge in Turkey, one of the few countries they can travel to without a visa, the Sunday Times said.

Last year 30,000 Iranians fled to neighbouring Turkey, the article said, noting that the bulk of the expatriates are educated, secular entrepreneurs who see the country as an ideal location for their investments and a place to escape their own country’s Islamic laws.

A wave of protests have erupted in Iran, whose economy has been crippled by U.S. sanctions reimposed since President Donald Trump withdrew from Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with major powers.

Demonstrations spread across the country last week after the government announced gasoline price hikes of at least 50 percent, prompting protesters to demand that top officials step down.

“It’s much easier here,”  Maryam Seda, who moved to Turkey three years ago told the Sunday Times. “In Iran it’s impossible at the moment. The economy is so bad and the protests make me very fearful. I haven’t heard from my mother for days.”

Iranians with money are taking advantage of a Turkish government scheme that grants citizenship to anyone who invests £200,000 in property, the article said, adding that Iranians bought 3,000 homes in Turkey in the first eight months of this year, almost double the number of 2018.

“All of them are looking for a plan B,” Ali Guden, a Turkish lawyer whose clientele includes ever more wealthy Iranians, said. “Their country isn’t stable. They feel free in Turkey. Here they can drink; they can wear what they want.”

According to Ali Vaez, head of the Iran project at the International Crisis Group, many factors push Iranian youth out of the country.

“Intolerance to any kind of dissent, no opportunities for a brighter future and the inability [of the state] to reform itself has created a state of despondency,’’ Vaez told the Sunday Times. 

“The government prefers to blame Iran’s foreign enemies instead of acknowledging people’s demands,” he added.