Iran Table of Contents
Iraqi force severely damaged the port of Khorramshahr in October 1980
Iran's population, based on the preliminary results of the October 1986 census, was slightly more than 48 million, including approximately 2.6 million refugees from Afghanistan and Iraq. The population was expected, according to United States Bureau of Census projections, to increase to nearly 56 million in 1990 and 76 million in the year 2000. In 1986 the 18 to 30-year-old and 31 to 45-year-old male populations stood at about 5.2 and 3.5 million, respectively. In the absence of reliable information on Iran's war casualties, the significance of these figures was difficult to assess. Estimates of war-related deaths ranged between 750,000 and 1 million. Loss of life was especially high among the 18- to 30-year-old male population; a generation of young and potentially productive citizens had been cut by 15 to 20 percent, and the survivors had been physically and mentally scarred by the war.
Casualties also affected Iran's attempts at industrial recovery. The campaign to resuscitate steel, petrochemical, and other plants faced critical manpower shortages, raising criticisms from the more conservative elements in the regime. The manpower shortages were exacerbated by the 1982 military campaigns that had mobilized up to 1 million volunteers on more than one occasion.
Coupled with the deteriorating economic situation, the high human cost of the abortive Iranian thrusts into Iraq in 1981 to 1983 generated war-weariness and discontent even among the regime's staunchest supporters, the urban and lower classes. The number of recruits dropped because of disenchantment stemming from political divisions, which sometimes produced conflicts that turned violent in the streets of major cities. The Khomeini regime, relying on the total devotion of the Pasdaran and the Basij, appealed to national and religious feelings to rekindle morale. In a series of rulings issued in the autumn of 1982, Khomeini declared that parental permission was unnecessary for those going to the front, that volunteering for military duty was a religious obligation, and that serving in the armed forces took priority over all other forms of work or study. The government mounted a simultaneous effort to quell demonstrations by political groups like the Mojahedin and the Tudeh (see Internal Security , this ch.). The demise of left-wing guerrilla organizations, however, did not reduce opposition to the war. New elements calling for a settlement of the conflict with Iraq emerged. Because of this opposition, former Prime Minister Bazargan tried to negotiate an end to the war, realizing that Iran might fall victim to its own political rigidity. For the revolutionary regime, however, the war remained a legitimizing tool, despite its high cost.
Data as of December 1987