Iran General NewsMiddle class threatened by victory of hardliner in Iran

Middle class threatened by victory of hardliner in Iran

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Daily Telegraph: Middle-class Iranians are considering their future after the election of a president who has vowed an affirmation of the values of the 1979 Islamic revolution. Among those already thinking of leaving the country are those who gave up comfortable lives in the West to reconnect with their homeland, or make money, or both. Daily Telegraph

Reports by Behzad Farsian in Teheran

Middle-class Iranians are considering their future after the election of a president who has vowed an affirmation of the values of the 1979 Islamic revolution.

Among those already thinking of leaving the country are those who gave up comfortable lives in the West to reconnect with their homeland, or make money, or both.

In many cases they are the offspring of the educated, western-leaning classes who were part of the exodus that followed the overthrow of the Shah and the return of Ayatollah Khomeini 26 years ago.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, then a young revolutionary guard, was on Saturday confirmed as the easy winner of the run-off presidential poll against the cleric and former president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.

In north Teheran, the most affluent part of the capital, the news was greeted badly. The wealthy fear that Mr Ahmadinejad will reverse the cautious freedoms they have enjoyed over the past decade.

They feel they may have been foolish for heeding the call by outgoing president Mohammed Khatami for expatriates to come home and rebuild the country.

“I haven’t booked my ticket just yet. But I’m definitely thinking of going back,” said Amir, 26, who has dual nationality after living in London since he was six. He returned to Iran last year and found work with a Japanese-Iranian joint venture tobacco company. “It’s always one step forward and 10 steps back in Iran.”

Some came to open the sort of basic business, such as fast food or coffee shops, that mushroomed as the economy was liberalised. There is concern such establishments could now be targeted in an anti-western drive.

“I would leave Iran if they interfered with my restaurant,” said Ali, 25, who grew up in London. “We are expecting them to be stricter on headwear, but if there was a policy of segregation of sexes it would make it very difficult for our business.”

His friend, Hamid, said: “Soon there will be no place for us to meet and chat. All we want to do is drink coffee.”

They all asked for their surnames to be withheld.

Mr Ahmadinejad’s win sent shockwaves through Iran’s commercial markets. The Teheran Stock Exchange took a massive dive in its index price. Foreign investors, as well as Iranian industrialists, have put investments on hold until the president-elect implements his policies when inaugurated in August.

However, Mr Ahmadinejad’s victory was in part a reaction to the Iran embodied by young bankers and businessmen.

The son of a blacksmith, the 48-year-old styled himself as the nation’s “street sweeper” and was seen by the less privileged as a campaigner against the failed promises of economic liberalisation that have left unemployment as high as 30 per cent.

His support also represented a rejection of corruption and clerical rule, however much he may have in common with the mullahs ideologically. “I voted for Ahmadinejad because as mayor [of Teheran”> he changed things. He built roads, bridges and hospitals. His word was backed by actions,” said Saeed.

Mr Ahmadinejad also benefited from the powerful backing of the conservative clerical circles that rallied for him at mosques criticising today’s Iran for being too lenient on social issues.

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