The Guardian: The Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has called for a baby boom to almost double the country’s population to 120 million and enable it to threaten the west, as he boasted that the country’s nuclear capacity had increased “tenfold”. The Guardian
Robert Tait in Tehran
The Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has called for a baby boom to almost double the country’s population to 120 million and enable it to threaten the west, as he boasted that the country’s nuclear capacity had increased “tenfold”.
Mr Ahmadinejad told MPs he wanted to scrap birth control policies that discourage Iranian couples from having more than two children. Women should work less and devote more time to their “main mission” of raising children, he said.
His comments amounted to an attack on official policies sanctioned by senior Islamic clerics that are aimed at limiting Iran’s population, currently around 70 million. The government backs birth control measures including female sterilisation, vasectomies and mandatory family planning classes for newlyweds. Iran also has a state-owned condom factory.
Mr Ahmadinejad said: “I am against saying two children are enough. Our country has a lot of capacity. It has the capacity for many children to grow in it. It even has the capacity for 120 million people. Westerners have got problems. Because their population growth is negative they are worried and fear that if our population increases, we will triumph over them.”
He said he wanted to bring in legislation reducing women’s working hours based on how many children they had. Women could work part-time on full-time salaries, he said. Critics reacted with alarm and said the president’s call was ill-judged at a time when Iran is struggling with surging inflation and rising unemployment, unofficially estimated at around 25%.
The reformist Etemad-e Melli newspaper warned that Iran could pay a high price for such “ill-considered” comments. “He stresses the necessity of population growth and the triumph of Iran over western governments, ignoring the fact that what leads to such triumph is not population size but knowledge, technology, wealth, welfare and security.”
Mr Ahmadinejad’s call echoes a similar demand by the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini after the Islamic revolution in 1979. The policy led to a population explosion but was reversed because of the strain on the economy, and population growth dropped from an all-time high of 3.2% in 1986 to around 1.2% today, similar to that of the United States.
Separately, at a rally outside Tehran, the president boasted that western efforts to rein in Iran’s nuclear programme had failed. “They should know that today, the capability of our nation has multiplied tenfold over the same period last year,” AP quoted him as saying.
The remarks appeared aimed at whipping up public support as the UN security council prepares to consider a draft resolution imposing limited sanctions because of Iran’s refusal to halt uranium enrichment. Iran insists its programme is peaceful and Mr Ahmadinejad repeated that Iran was ready to negotiate with the west about its nuclear ambitions.