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Iran Lawmakers Say Family Members Of Officials Residing Abroad Must Return

Iranian Member of Parliament from the city of Qom, Mojtaba Zonnour, in a session of parliament on August 31, 2017.

A group of forty lawmakers in Iran are working on a motion to force family members of high-level government employees to return from abroad and live in Iran.

Based on the "double-urgency" motion, all immediate relatives of the Islamic Republic officials residing abroad, including their spouses and children, should return to Iran, the spokesman of parliament’s influential Commission for National Security and Foreign policy, Hossein Naqavi Hosseini said.

"Iranian officials with family abroad will be given three months to bring back their immediate relatives to the country. Otherwise, they should step down from their positions," the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC)-run Tasnim news agency cited Naqavi Hosseini as saying on Sunday, August 18.

Meanwhile, according to Naqavi Hosseini, the students and university lecturers with the Ministry of Science scholarship, as well as foreign-based government employees will be excluded from the new restriction.

The case of top Islamic Republic managers with dual citizenship and their immediate relatives living abroad initially emerged in 2011 when the Chairman of the Board and Managing Director of Bank Melli, Mahmoud Reza Khavari fled Iran after being allegedly involved in a $2.6 billion embezzlement scandal. Khavari joined his family, who were already living in Canada.

Furthermore, the chairman of the Nuclear Subcommittee of the National Security and Foreign Policy Committee of parliament, Mojtaba Zonnour claimed in July 2018 that President Hassan Rouhani's son had British and Canadian nationality. A Rouhani aide immediately dismissed the claim as unfounded and "disgraceful."

Nevertheless, in an interview with the pro-reform daily Etemad, mid-ranking cleric Zonnour (Zolnoor), who is a hardliner, went further and asserted that only thirty to forty children of top Iranian officials were "studying" in the United States, while the majority were "wasting Iranian public assets" living "extravagant lives" there.

Most of the politicians who publicize the issue of foreign residency or citizenship belong to the hardliner camp, and it is possible that their outcry is aimed at discrediting the reformists.

Parliament subcommittee of the Investigation and Probe Commission has also announced in a report in August 2018 that "many children" of top Iranian officials have gained citizenship abroad and are active in the public and economic sectors in Iran.

The report has directly named the children of Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Oil as well as several presidential aides and advisors, as those who carry dual citizenship.

The Minister of Oil, Bijan Namdar Zangeneh, has already admitted that his two children are living abroad.

The son and daughter of Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif have also been born in the USA, and probably live abroad.

Based on reports published by local news outlets, the son of Deputy President Masoumeh Ebtekar, Eisa Hashemi is holding a Green Card and resides somewhere in the U.S.

Ms. Ebtekar was the spokesperson of the students who took 52 American diplomats hostage for 444 days, less than a year after the establishment of the Islamic Republic in 1979.

The same news outlets have also claimed that President Rouhani's former Chief of Staff, Mohammad Nahavandian, holds a Green Card.

But almost all of the officials named in public belong to the reformist camp and are somehow connected with president Rouhani.

Having dual nationality is against the law in Iran.