During recent years, the Islamic Republic of Iran has started a new strategy aimed at increasing the country’s population. The policy is affecting many social issues, especially regarding women in Iran. These issues include marriage, education, employment, and social options available to Iranian women. However, despite the serious efforts of the clerics running Iran to persuade people to have more kids, these policies are not much changing the practical social facts which are directly influenced by economic realities and other factors.
The Mullahs that rule in Iran are serious in their attempts to persuade people to set aside the practice of having one or two kids and go for as many kids as they can produce. They are using the public places, especially the mosques and occasions such as the Friday prayers, to push the people towards having more kids as a Shiite religious duty, and to create a culture of “more kids are better”. They try to portray that family planning and programs to limit the pollution are Western oriented strategies and have no place in Muslim societies.
The higher the level of education is, especially among women, the less they think of having children.
The policy of persuading couples to have more children has been affecting the limits of access of women and men to stop or terminate their pregnancy. It has also limited employment opportunities for women, persuading women to stay at home and raise kids, and forcing the girls to attend branches of studies which are more related to housekeeping and raising kids.
The Leader of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, has said: “The birth rate must not be allowed to fall below a critical level, and that we must not allow a reduction in the number of infants and children, this being a vital issue, which must be pursued seriously.” An Iranian cleric speaking in the Iranian state TV, after instructions of the leader, has said: “Starting from right now, launch the operation of 5 to 14 children.”
Also, a couple of years ago, the then president of Iran, said: “Implementation of family planning (population control) policies means that in a matter of 40 years, nothing is going to remain from the Iranian nation.” He had also said that, “the country has the capability to respond to the needs of a population in the level of 150 million.” At that time, the current president of Iran (Hasan Ruhani) who was then a member of State Expediency Discernment Assembly expressed his negative views about this notion. Hasan Ruhani, said: “The administration has no right to make a decision on the increase of the population. These issues are among the key policies and this kind of policies, after review in the assembly, is reported to the Supreme Leader and if he approves, they are announced. […]when the problem of unemployment is removed, then we can think about increasing the population.”
The leader, in a rare practice, confessed that he had made a mistake. Khamenei said: “One of our mistakes was limiting the generation and this should have been stopped. The officials of the country made a mistake in this field and I had also my share of this mistake. I hope God and history forgive us for this mistake.”
Discussion of population increase is more reflected in the propaganda of official institutions and pro-government media and it has rarely received an expert review. Questions such as capacity of the country for population, in the light of economic, social and environmental conditions, have been left unnoticed in the current trend of population increase policies. The high officials of the regime in Iran try to justify the call for increase of population on economic grounds. They speak of the problems associated with the aging population and the need for creating a balance in the aging population and the active forces. But a close look at the motives of these figure reveal that the main reasons for their worriedness. It seems the regime of Iran is not really intending to increase the population in general in Iran. They have ideological aims here and when they talk about economic reasons, it is only a cover.
However, it seems that despite all of the regime’s persuasive tactics, the policy has not yet had much effect. First of all, many people who do not follow the religious practices do not really follow these recommendations. Secondly, the economic pressures, along with the new modern ideas about family and quality of life, have more influence in the choice of people for the number of kids. Young women make up are a large number of university students. They are usually the holders of the highest scores in the entrance examinations of Iranian universities as well as throughout their studies. The trend has continued in recent years, despite the increasing limitations the government is creating for attendance of certain branches of studies by women. The number of pregnancies and the level of education have had a negative ratio. It means, the higher the level of education is, especially among women, the less they think of having children.
The new surge in trying to increase the population of the country, whilst facing acute problems in responding to the needs of the current population, such as, the considerable number of Iranians living under the poverty line, has roots in the need of the regime for younger persons to be indoctrinated and made ready to fight in the line of the regime’s strategies. As the older generations are growing more “conservative” and doubtful about the rationality of the regime’s policies, the need for younger people with less experience and more excitement is expanding in Iran. However, a combination of the rising age for marriage, more men and women choosing to live as bachelors, the high-costs of married life and raising kids, increased awareness through communication systems, cramped living conditions such as small houses and apartments, unemployment, rising expectations, and social needs are collectively pushing Iranian society towards less kids.