The head of the Political and Ideology Organization of the Iranian Army says procreation is a "jihad" to increase the number of Shiites to overcome "enemies".
In a session attended by the Iranian Army staff on Thursday, August 15, the mid-ranking cleric, Abbas Mohammad Hassani maintained that the "enemy" has devised a plot to shrink the number of Shiites in the world.
"Enemy" is a term frequently used by Iranian authorities for referring to Western powers, as well as Israel and Saudi Arabia.
Mohammad Hassani was echoing Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s repeated calls for increasing Iran's population up to 150 million. The country's current population is estimated at 83 million.
Based on reports filed by the Statistical Center of Iran (SCI), while the population growth rate in the country stands at 1.24%, the number of older adults is growing at 3.62%.
Several Sunni leaders have accused predominantly Shiite Iran of attempting to create a "Shiite Crescent," and spread its influence across the region, all the way across Iraq and Syria to the Mediterranean.
King Abdullah II of Jordan coined the term in 2004 at a time when Iran was reportedly interfering in Iraq in the run-up to the January 2005 parliamentary elections.
The term has developed since to encompass other areas of the Middle East with a significant number of Shiites, including Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and the Republic of Azerbaijan, and Yemen.
Disregarding the high rate of unemployment among Iran’s youth and new graduates, Khamenei has repeatedly insisted, "One of our most important and valuable assets is our educated young generation. I would like to digress and say that one of the mistakes that we made is that we should have abandoned the population control policy in the mid-1370s [1990s]. Our country will grow old if we continue in this way. Our families and youth should have more children."
Immediately after Khamenei's comments in 2012, Iran's government, under hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad put an end to all family planning projects, cutting their budgets.
Referring to Khamenei's remarks, the army’s ideology chief Mohammad Hassani said on Thursday, "Procreating and childbearing in the current circumstances is a type of jihad, and it would please the Almighty God."
Comparing procreation with obligatory duties of the Muslims, including the Hajj pilgrimage and fasting during Ramadan, Mohammad Hassani insisted that religious duties should be fulfilled, regardless of the hardship.
"Some present the state of livelihood in Iran as an excuse to oppose any increase in population," Hassani said adding, "It is a misinterpretation with no religious justification."
Furthermore, he also asserted that Muslim countries need "jihadi fighters," "defenders," and "guards," regardless of the enemies' plots.
The enemy has targeted Iran, Egypt, Lebanon, Tunisia, and Yemen, to deprive them of the required defenders of the faith, he added.
Apparently, Mohammad Hassani was referring to the role of foreign mercenaries who are fighting in Syria, under the command of the Iranian Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC).
"Therefore, all Shiites are duty-bound to take on the jihad of childbearing to neutralize the enemies, conspiracies," Mohammad Hassani said.
Iranian authorities are calling for a higher birth rate at a time that the World Bank's Global Economic Prospects report for 2019 estimated a 4.5 negative percent growth for Iran, making it the worst-ranked economy only ahead of Nicaragua. In 2018, Iran's GDP per capita was $5,037, less than half of the global average based on World Bank statistics.