Khomeni’s Army

June 13, 2009

Sullivan’s gidy:
The key force behind this is the next generation, the Millennials, who elected Obama in America and may oust Ahmadinejad in Iran. They want freedom; they are sick of lies; they enjoy life and know hope.
This generation will determine if the world can avoid the apocalypse that will come if the fear-ridden establishments continue to dominate global politics, motivated by terror, armed with nukes, and playing old but now far too dangerous games. This generation will not bypass existing institutions and methods: look at the record turnout in Iran and the massive mobilization of the young and minority vote in the US. But they will use technology to displace old modes and orders. Maybe this revolt will be crushed. But even if it is, the genie has escaped this Islamist bottle.
Historically, family planning in Iran has had its ups and downs. The nation’s first family planning policy, introduced in 1967 under Shah Reza Pahlavi, aimed to accelerate economic growth and improve the status of women by reforming divorce laws, encouraging female employment, and acknowledging family planning as a human right.
Unfortunately, this promising initiative was reversed in 1979 at the beginning of the decade-long Islamic Revolution led by Shiite Muslim spiritual leader Ayatollah Khomeini. During this period, family planning programs were seen as undue western influences and were dismantled. Health officials were ordered not to advocate contraception. During Iran’s war with Iraq between 1980 and 1988, a large population was viewed as a comparative advantage, and Khomeini pushed procreation to bolster the ranks of “soldiers for Islam,” aiming for “an army of 20 million.”
This strong pronatalist stance led to an annual population growth rate of well over 3 percent. United Nations data show Iran’s population doubling from 27 million in 1968 to 55 million in 1988.
During postwar reconstruction in the late 1980s, the economy faltered. Severe job shortages plagued overcrowded and polluted cities. Iran’s rapid population growth was finally seen as an obstacle to development. Receptive to the nation’s problems, Ayatollah Khomeini reopened dialogue on the subject of birth control. By December 1989, Iran had revived its national family planning program. Its principal goals were to encourage women to wait three to four years between pregnancies, to discourage childbearing for women younger than 18 or older than 35, and to limit family size to three children.

Sullivan on events in Iran:

The key force behind this is the next generation, the Millennials, who elected Obama in America and may oust Ahmadinejad in Iran. They want freedom; they are sick of lies; they enjoy life and know hope.

This generation will determine if the world can avoid the apocalypse that will come if the fear-ridden establishments continue to dominate global politics, motivated by terror, armed with nukes, and playing old but now far too dangerous games. This generation will not bypass existing institutions and methods: look at the record turnout in Iran and the massive mobilization of the young and minority vote in the US. But they will use technology to displace old modes and orders. Maybe this revolt will be crushed. But even if it is, the genie has escaped this Islamist bottle.

He’s absolutely right to see this as generational, though there’s another layer I want to point out here. For Iran, millennials aren’t just one generation among others; they are a generation intentionally created by the revolutionary government’s policy of dramatically restricting  access to family planning with the the stated purpose of building an Islamic army.  Of course, for a nation with seriously limited resources, this wasn’t a viable policy for the long-term, and hence the birth rates dropped in the late 80s, but not before it created the population bulge that now seems intent on major political change.  So those crowds now milling the streets of Tehran were supposed to be an unstoppable army for the Revolution. Irony of ironies that they seem to want a revolution of their own.

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