A conservative member of Iran’s parliament says family planning activists with a population control agenda have “infiltrated” state agencies and presented officials with “manipulated and doctored” statistics showing the country’s population growth must be curbed.
Speaking to the conservative Young Journalists Club (YJC) website, the MP from the city of Mashhad, mid-ranking cleric Nasrollah Pejmanfar, accused senior members of government of complicity in what he describes as a campaign to mislead officials on the issue of population control.
After the 1979 Islamic Revolution, population growth was encouraged and family planning services became scarce. At the same time Iran experienced a rapid growth in the birth rate.United Nations data show that Iran’s population doubled in just 20 years — from 27 million in 1968 to 55 million in 1988.
During the period following the Iran-Iraq war in the late 1980s and early 90s, Iran’s economy was in tatters, with high unemployment leading to severe over-crowding in the cities as people flocked to them in search of work. This led to a dramatic policy shift on family planning. Contraceptives became widely available, politicians and religious leaders alike encouraged women to wait a few years between pregnancies and have fewer children, and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini even issued fatwas making birth control acceptable for conservative Muslims. Abortion remained illegal except to save the life of the mother or in the case of grave birth defects, but the push for family planning lead to a plateau in population growth.
Recently, however, the current Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has criticized these family planning policies. Labelling birth-control a “disorder," Khamenei issued an edict in May 2014 calling for population growth to "strengthen national identity" and counter "undesirable aspects of Western lifestyles.”
"The policy (birth-control) made sense twenty years ago, but its continuation in later years was wrong,” Khamenei argued, adding, “the country will face an aging and declining population if the birth-control policy continues.”
Since then, many conservative allies of Khamenei have accused President Hassan Rouhani and his cabinet of failing to implement the Supreme Leader's edict.
Earlier, Fars, a news agency affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) reported that one of the Islamic Republic's intelligence entities has arrested an unknown number of people “active in the field of population control.” The news agency also accused the detainees of being infiltrators employed by "foreign enemies.”
President Hassan Rouhani's top advisor, Hossamuddin Ashna, derided the report on Twitter, saying “After arresting a number of environmentalists and shrouding the field of ecology and environmentalism in security and intelligence affairs, now they have entered the domain of demography."
According to Pejmanfar, decreasing Iran's population is “part of the enemy’s assault that is indeed an all-out war against the Islamic Republic.” The “enemy” (code for the U.S., Israel, and Arab countries, specifically Saudi Arabia) has employed these elements to infiltrate the local research centers and decision-making departments, Pejmanfar says.