Iranians have a duty to boost the country’s population, and they must start now, cleric and TV network director Seyed Mohammad Hossein Ghazvini told a television audience last week. He appealed to all Shi’as to take part in reversing Iran’s dwindling birth rate, calling for the faithful to have “five, eight, 12 or 14 children”—beginning “tonight.”
Ghazvini called on all Shi’as to rid themselves of the “shameful” ideology of promoting families of only one or two children. Shi’a families should aim to have at least five children, he said, though 14 would be even better, as this would fit in nicely with the 14 “immaculate” Shi’a saints.
Shortly after broadcast, the clip was uploaded to YouTube, generating a wealth of humorous feedback and mock appreciation on social networks, blogs and online forums. Below is a selection of comments and responses:
— Iranian filmmakers must make a movie entitled “14 Years Pregnant”, which will attract even bigger audiences than “12 Years A Slave”.
— If a woman marries at 20, she has to be constantly pregnant until she turns 34.
— Use carbon paper instead of condoms.
— Four wives can do the job collectively, by each having 3.5 children.
When the announcement was initially broadcast, the show’s host was said to be visibly struggling not to laugh.
It was only a matter of time before such an initiative was launched. When Ayatollah Khamenei said on Iran’s Women’s Day that a woman’s first duty is to her home and family and that employment for women is not a key concern for Iranians, it followed that someone from the clergy or hardliner community would take it upon themselves to apply the statement to everyday life.
Ayatollah Ghazvini runs satellite network Worldwide Velayat (or “guardianship”) Network and has made a name for himself by attacking Wahhabism, the official brand of Islam in Saudi Arabia. This latest announcement perhaps reveals his plans to expand his reach.