The Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has once again urged Iranians to have more babies amid economic and social crisis.
Calling on government officials to render support to families to increase the population of the country, Khamenei reiterated that increasing the number of children should become "a cultural norm" in Iranian society.
The 80-year-old Ayatollah made the remark in a meeting with a group of newly married couples last March, but his news website published it on Monday, August 5.
Iran is currently experiencing a deep recession, with minus 6 percent growth predicted, with more than 40 percent inflation and millions of unemployed young people.
Describing marriage as "a prophetic tradition" advised by the Prophet of Islam, Mohammad, he urged the youth to get married and start a family.
It is said that Prophet Mohammad officially married at least thirteen times but had only one child.
Although Khamenei has time and again called on Iranians to have more children, Iranian society has remained unresponsive.
Earlier, fearing a population explosion in the 1990s the Islamic Republic had offered free contraceptive services, and even issued "religious edicts in favor of vasectomies."
Nevertheless, in 2012, under direct guidelines issued by Khamenei, the government of the ultraconservative President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made a U-turn and reversed progressive laws on family planning by outlawing voluntary sterilization and restricting access to contraceptives.
Khamenei, a proponent of an Iran with at least 150 million people, insisted in 2011, "The country would face an aging population in the not-too-distant future if couples refuse to have more children."
Critics immediately stepped forward, noting that his concerns were unfounded as about 70% of the country's 77 million people were under the age of 35.
Nevertheless, President Ahmadinejad's administration went ahead and eliminated the budget for family planning.
In his remarks from last March, Khamenei once again defended his position on the necessity of increasing Iran's population, presenting China and India as two good examples of countries benefiting from large populations.
"In China and India, having a larger population is recognized and respected as social, political, and international advantages," Khamenei argued, adding, "and that is why they have had some achievements."
Nevertheless, Khamenei stopped short of elaborating on China and India's "achievements," while ignoring the fact that both countries have had policies restricting population growth for years.
Moreover, Khamenei disregarded the fact the highest fertility rates are found in poor countries in Africa, Niger where the rate is 7.2, followed by Somalia with 6.2. Iran's total fertility rate in the current year is 2.5 children per woman.
Khamenei also claimed that the larger the population in a Muslim country, the higher the number of “righteous” people will be. He did not explain how the ration of “righteous” versus non-righteous people will change if population increases.
In the meantime, Iran is struggling with dire environmental problems, including intermittent water shortage that a larger population could easily make them more complicated.
Referring to Iran's "water shortage" or "water bankruptcy," the head of the Islamic Republic's Department of Environment (DoE), Isa Kalantari said last year, "Stop repeating the shibboleth and saying our country is great. Our resources are limited."
Warning that Iran will be left with no water in less than fifty years, Kalantari noted, "Without guaranteed imports, it will not be wise to increase the country's population."