The Chargé in Persia ( Williamson ) to the Secretary of State

No. 964

Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of the Department’s Instruction No. 682 of August 26, 1929, relative to the new Persian Nationality Law, a definitive translation of which accompanied despatch No. 952 of October 14, 1929.3

In reply to various points brought up by the Department, I have the honor to submit the following:

1. The competent official in the Persian Foreign Office has interpreted the first paragraph of Article I in the following sense:

This provision of the law is aimed at Persian subjects who have acquired foreign nationality in violation of the regulation which forbids [Page 742] the naturalization of a Persian subject without the Persian Government’s permission. The Persian objection to these persons is based on the fact that they often acquire a foreign nationality in order to gain the protection of a foreign Government in their native land. Such persons must prove that they have acquired their foreign nationality in conformity with the Persian Government’s regulations, before the Persian Government can recognize them as foreign nationals. The official in question stated definitely that no document bearing witness to the holder’s nationality would be “contested” unless there was reason to believe that he had formerly been a Persian subject; in this case, the nationality document would be “contested” until the Persian Government was satisfied that he had been authorized by it to expatriate himsell The records of the Foreign Office contain copies of all authorizations for relinquishing Persian nationality, and thus the Foreign Office will determine upon matters of citizenship.

Before a traveller can leave Persia, his passport must be submitted to the Foreign Office for an “exit visa”. At the present time all American passports presented to it are being “contested”, in that the records are carefully searched for evidence that the holders of these passports are or have been Persian subjects. No refusal to honor an American passport, however, has come to the knowledge of the Legation since the case of Messrs. Mooshy and Solomon, reported by despatch No. 793 of March 21, 1929,5 et seq.

2. The Persian Government’s recognition of the principle of dual nationality has not yet been obtained. Several Legations in Teheran have requested elucidation on this point, and the matter is being discussed by the competent Persian officials at the present time.

. . . . . . .

The Foreign Office official in charge of citizenship matters suggested in the course of a conversation that this Legation set forth the position of the United States in this respect, and as a result of several conferences with him a Note asking for a statement of the Persian Government’s attitude towards dual nationality was handed to the Foreign Office. A copy of this Note, No. 398 of October 15, 1929, is transmitted herewith.5 No answer has yet been received.6

3. In contradiction to the American Government’s position on the principle of inalienable allegiance, the Persian Government maintains its former thesis that a Persian subject may not lose his Persian [Page 743] nationality without “the authorization of the Council of Ministers” (Article XIII, paragraph 2).

By the new law, moreover, a penalty is imposed upon the Persian subject who legally divests himself of his Persian nationality (Article XIII, paragraph 3).

Such Persian subjects as acquire foreign nationality without the authorization of the Council of Ministers are subject to the forced sale by the Persian Government of their immovable property; they also lose important civic rights (Article XIV). There is no doubt but that the sale of their property under these conditions will in practice be tantamount to confiscation. In Persia, moreover, the loss of the privilege to occupy Government position is a serious social handicap to a man of good standing, since all but the peasant and small artisan class aspire to a position in the Government.

Thus, on the practical side the law seeks to penalize the Persian who becomes naturalized abroad; and on the legal side, the Persian Government denies the principle that a Persian subject has the right to divest himself of Persian nationality without the Government’s consent. Therefore, for the American Government effectually to protect the persons and property of Persians who have acquired American citizenship through naturalization remains a difficult if not hopeless task.

4. With reference to the phrase “the immovable goods” occurring in paragraph 2 of Article XIII of the text of the proposed law, I have the honor to draw the Department’s attention to Article XIII [XIV] paragraph 3 of the Nationality Law as finally passed (enclosure to despatch No. 952 of October 14, 1929), where the word “immovable” has been substituted for “movable”.

In conclusion, it may be stated as probable that the law as it now stands will be amended as a result of the verbal and written representations made by various Legations since the enactment of the law. The British have been particularly insistent on the recognition of the principle of dual nationality since some thousands of British subjects in South Persia are affected by Article I of the new law. The Russian Ambassador also is reported to have said that, should the Persians attempt to enforce the provisions of this law to the detriment of members of the Soviet, “there are two hundred thousand Persians in Russian Azerbaijan” who would feel the consequences.

I have [etc.]

David Williamson
  1. Not printed; it reported that the law was passed on September 7, 1929, by the Medjliss and signed by the Shah on September 15.
  2. Not printed.
  3. Not printed.
  4. In despatch No. 130, August 1, 1930, the Minister in Persia reported no acknowledgment had been received to that date, but that he had learned that the Persian Government took the position “that the question of dual nationality in Persia is a matter which should be decided upon by the Persian Government by virtue of a special law and that the Persian authorities do not at present consider it fit to take any steps in the matter” (891.012/23).