Washington D.C. based non-profit OCCRP, the Government Accountability Project, and more than a dozen media partners including Zamaneh Media, have obtained the names of 7,700 people who bought into Dominica’s ‘citizenship by investment’ program which allows the purchase of a passport for a base price of $100,000. These passports allow visa-free or ‘visa on arrival’ travel to more than 130 countries and territories, including the European Union. The number of Iranians on this list is astonishing, reaching 1,500 people between the years 2007 and 2018 alone. Among the Iranians who purchased Dominica passports, there are several criminals, ex-criminals, fraudsters, tax evaders, thieves, and bribe-takers, many of which are cronies or family members of Islamic Republic officials and their circle of power.
In a recent survey on Zamaneh Media’s Opinion Panel, we asked panelists about their views on the “Golden passports” and the Iranian holders of these passports.
According to the survey, about 40% of respondents believe that buying a passport and citizenship in general, “is not a problem.” On the other hand, 39.5% think that the purchase of passports should be “terminated” altogether.
According to 81% of respondents, golden passport buyers are, “mostly rich people close to the Islamic Republic,” while 8% said they are “mostly rich people who do not depend on the government.”
48% believe “the existence of golden passports is fundamentally unfair,” but 13% agree with the unconditional purchase of passports. When it comes to regulations, about 35% of respondents expressed that countries should review the regulations for granting these passports to refrain people from using them for purposes of tax evasion or hiding from justice.
The “Golden Passports” survey collected data from Zamaneh survey panel members and audience between October 25th and November 1st. A total of 291 respondents participated in the survey, with 247 having completed the survey in its entirety.
In terms of demographics, 62% of respondents live inside Iran and 38% live outside Iran. 82.5% of respondents identify as “male” and 16% as “female,” and 1.5% selected “other gender.”
|Two or More Passports||18.5|
75.5% of the respondents “have a passport of one country,” and 18.5% have “passports of two or more countries.” Other respondents described their situation as “asylum seekers” or currently having “passports of no country.” See Table 1.
Only 2% of respondents indicated having purchased a passport to another country.
Should people be allowed to buy passports and citizenship?
40% of respondents believe that buying a passport, in principle, is not a problem. On the other hand, 39.7% think that the purchase of passports and citizenship should be “terminated” altogether. See Figure 1.
27% of those living in Iran said that the purchase of citizenship should be abolished, while this number stands at 60% for those living abroad.
Opinions regarding golden passports vary. 48% of respondents believe that “the existence of these passports is fundamentally unfair because only the rich can benefit from it,” while 34% think that “the regulations for granting these passports should be reviewed so that people cannot use them to evade taxes or hide from justice.”
Another 13% believes “being rich and enjoying the benefits of wealth, including buying a golden passport, is not a crime.” See Figure 2.
Among those who chose this option, 9% are “asylum seekers without passports,” 75% have “one passport,” and 16% have “two or more passports.”
49% of female respondents consider the existence of golden passports fundamentally unfair, a figure identical in male respondents (49%).
Who are the Iranian buyers of golden passports?
According to 81% of respondents, Iranians who pay several hundred thousand dollars to buy passports for themselves and their families are “mostly rich people close to the Islamic Republic, cronies, families of officials and people in the circle of power.” 8%, however, said that they are “mostly rich people who do not have any relation with the government and want to get rid of life under the Islamic Republic.” See Figure 3.
81.5% of respondents believe that Iran’s legal system should recognize dual citizenship, that is, having the citizenship of two or more countries. See Table 2.
|I have no opinion||10.5|
By no surprise, the 89% of respondents who answered to having two or more passports believe that Iran should recognize dual citizenship.
According to Article 989 of the Civil Code of Iran, “Any Iranian citizen who has obtained foreign citizenship after 1901 without complying with the legal regulations, his foreign citizenship will not be recognized and he is recognized as a citizen of Iran.”
The main reason as to why Iranians are keen to have passports of other countries, according to the panelists of this survey are as follows. See Figure 4.
What challenges do Iranians face when traveling to and settling in Western countries?
82% stated that the “aggressive international policies of the Islamic Republic” play a “large” role and have contributed to the restrictions that Iranians face today when traveling or migrating to Western countries. See Table 3.
|To some extent||14|
41% believe the main reason is “regional and global geopolitical conditions.”
29% said that “xenophobia in Western countries” has a “great” role in this matter. See Table 4.
|To some extent||39.5|
52% of respondents believe that Western countries “have the right” to be strict about Iranians, “middle easterners”, and Muslims traveling to these countries and staying in them. On the other hand, 39.5% believe these strictures are “unfair.”
46% of male respondents agree with the universal and unrestricted right to reside and travel. 51% of female respondents favor the universal right of residence and without travel restrictions.
75% of the respondents with who identify as “other gender” agree with the universal right without restrictions on residence and travel.
|I have no opinion||8|
The right to free movement and residency
47% of the respondents favor the free and universal right of travel and residence without restrictions for everyone in any part of the planet.
According to 49%, however, every nation has the right to restrict the travel and residence of citizens of other nations in its territory and country.