What Drives Iran’s Population Rejuvenation Policy? & One Century and Two Uprisings toward the Women’s Liberation Movement

Recorded: January 22, 2023
Event: Bilingual Lecture Series

by Nadereh Chamlou and Mansoureh Shojaee

What Drives Iran’s Population Rejuvenation Policy? by Nadereh Chamlou

The protests that erupted in Iran in September 2022 after the death of Mahsa Amini, the young Kurdish-Iranian woman who was arrested and beaten by the morality police, have since been labeled the revolution of 1401 (the current Iranian year). The courage and sophistication of the protesters has amazed the world. Importantly, it has made visible the rift between the ruling regime’s orthodoxy and the demands and aspirations of Iran’s GenZ population (born 1997-2015). A host of underlying social and demographic factors, among them the rapid fertility declines since the 1990s, have resulted in a citizenry that has increasingly modern expectations and secular values. These herald an erosion of the regime’s political base. Last summer, the government introduced an urgent ‘population rejuvenation’ policy to presumably address the future graying of Iran’s population. Addressing the future size and structure of the population are legitimate components of a country’s long-term planning. However, despite considerable criticism of its mechanisms, the hurriedly rolled out program seems to intentionally cater to religiously conservative segments of the society that are accepting of its questionable incentives. The regime seems to want to bring about a differential fertility rate between its supporters and detractors, i.e. a faster growth of the former vs. the latter, and thereby replenish its future political base.

One Century and Two Uprisings toward the Women’s Liberation Movement by Mansoureh Shojaee

The women’s movement in Iran, since the Constitutional era (1905-??) began with three demands: The right to vote, the right to education, and the right to establish an association. In the past century, although women have had some successes in establishing proper legal recognition, discriminatory laws have prevailed in every historical cycle.  Yet, women have not only insisted on the recognition of their legal and equal rights, but also by the end of the century, they stood up to reclaim their confiscated bodies and identities from the Islamist government. From the first demonstration on March 8, 1979, to Homa Darabi’s self-immolation in the mid- 1980s, and with the phenomena of the girls of the Revolution Street and White Wednesdays in the late 90s, the seeds were sown in women’s everyday struggles for the emergence of the women’s movement, which included the Iranian Me Too movement. These successive moments, along with the protest of women, both secular and religious, against the state ban on running screening test during pregnancy, the ban on pregnancy prevention, and the state policy to increase the population, have all led to a physical stage of the women’s liberation movement in Iran. This lecture will enumerate the characteristics of women’s liberation in Iran, highlighting the impact of individual and collective contributions toward the women’s freedom movement in Iran.