CRF Blog

The Islamic Republic of Baby-Making

by Bill Hayes

In The Islamic Republic of Baby-Making, Foreign Policy magazine reports that Iran has accepted the use of cutting-edge fertility treatments.

 While the world’s attention has been focused on Iran’s nuclear program, the country has been quietly working on a different sort of breakout capacity. The Islamic Republic — governed by its strict mullahs, who’ve managed to botch progress in fields ranging from domestic manufacturing to airport construction — has unexpectedly transformed itself into the fertility treatment capital of the Muslim Middle East. Iran now boasts more than 70 clinics nationwide, which attract childless couples, Sunni and Shiite alike, from throughout the region. This initiative has raised challenges to traditional views on parenthood and marriage and has helped chip away at taboos about sexual health — even as it has left some of Iran’s conservative Sunni neighbors aghast.

“Doctors in the Gulf are horrified by the way the Iranians have allowed this,” says Soraya Tremayne, an Oxford University professor and an expert on fertility in Iran. “They say, ‘We would never allow this among us.’ ”

For generations of Iranians, infertility was once a marriage-unraveling, soul-decaying trauma. It was memorialized in films like Dariush Mehrjui’s Leila, in which a conniving mother bullies her son into taking a second wife when his first fails to conceive. The first wife, ashamed of her infertility and still in love with her husband, goes along with the plan, but the emotional strain destroys their marriage and the husband is ultimately left with a child, but bitterly alone. [more]