JAMAICA — With a population of less than 2 million, Iran is an emerging and prosperous democracy.
But a lack of university degrees is a problem.
That is especially true for young people who are expected to make up a significant share of Iran’s workforce, especially the country’s young professionals.
And they are often the first generation to go to college.
“We’re still building a pipeline, but I think we are a lot further along than the United States is,” said Daniela, who asked to be identified only by her first name, for fear of being deported.
She grew up in Tehran and attended school there.
At the age of 21, she applied to a state-run university in the capital, Tehran, but couldn’t secure a place.
She later graduated from the prestigious Hedayah University, and at age 22, she joined the elite Revolutionary Guards, one of Iran-watchers’ favorite political groups.
But while Iran has the most advanced universities in the world, the country has a relatively low rate of university graduates, said Farah Al-Jalil, an analyst at the University of Tehran.
Iran has about 12 million university students, but only around 5 million graduate, Al-Zaher said.
“Even if we are very selective about universities, we are still a poor country.
I think that we are getting worse,” she said.
Jailed in a prison for more than five years for allegedly spying on the United Nations, the young woman, who didn’t want to give her name, said she hoped to get her degree at the university in which she studied.
“It is a very good opportunity for us,” she told Recode.
“I hope to graduate at a university where I can help other young people, and if I can, I think it is the best way to go.”
Jalili said she was also considering enrolling at the same university that her father had graduated from in 2014.
But Iran has no accredited universities.
Instead, students are taken to private schools, which can be more expensive.
That’s where young people like Jazayera get into trouble.
For her, getting into a university is a no-brainer.
She said her education was “worthless,” as her father’s school was shut down in 2014, leaving her without an education.
Jazayero is an engineering student at a small engineering college in Iran’s southwestern province of Khorasan, where she has worked for about a year.
She has been offered a job working at an Iranian oil refinery in the province, but she is skeptical about getting a degree there.
Jahid, an engineering professor at the American University of Iran, told Recodecode that students who are rejected from colleges usually get jobs through the Iranian oil industry.
They then apply for jobs at the Iranian refineries and then find other jobs, said Jahid, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear that his family could be targeted by Iran’s authorities.
“This is a situation where the government does not want to admit young people and they do not want them to study,” he said.
Iran is an important source of young people for many Iranians, who are attracted to the country by its oil industry, jobs and its relatively high rate of literacy.
But many in Iran are concerned about the government’s role in fostering this generation.
According to an August 2016 survey by the Tehran-based International Center for the Study of Radicalization and Political Violence, around 10 percent of university students have participated in violent acts since the 2009 Iranian revolution, while more than a quarter of those who have committed violent acts are currently in prison.
Some say that young people in Iran face many difficulties in the labor market.
“They are really scared, and I think they are feeling pressure from the authorities to leave,” said Al-Haq, who also asked to remain anonymous for fear his family would be targeted.
For some, they also worry that the economic situation is worsening, with the country struggling to pay its debts and its oil reserves falling.
The government has stepped up economic restrictions to help the country meet its foreign debt obligations.
However, it has also been cracking down on dissent.
Al-Hamid said he received a letter from the Iranian authorities telling him that he could not go to a college because of his work on behalf of the opposition.
The U.S. State Department has urged Iran to reverse its policy of imprisoning students, saying that it undermines the “basic rule of fundamental rights that ensures that all Iranians can study.”
But Iranian officials have also defended their crackdowns, saying they are in fact part of an effort to help create jobs.
“These people have lost their dreams,” said one government official, who gave his name as Jahan, to avoid reprisals.
“If the government is afraid of the economy, it should have allowed the students to study.”