Compulsory military conscription is becoming more controversial in Iran. Iran’s Fars News reported on Wednesday that more than 50,000 people in a short time had registering and signed a demand to support the elimination of military conscription and and support the army’s professionalization.

Back in March, reports indicated that the deputy speaker of Iran’s parliament had called for the end of compulsory military conscription. He argued that young people could do more for the economy if they weren’t drafted. Amir-Hossein Ghazizadeh-Hashemi tweeted in favor of a professional army, and noted that there are millions of people who have dodged the draft in Iran. The website Iran International reported on this in March. Iran has access to several hundred thousand conscripts a year who serve up to 21 months.

Fars said this week that “the issue of military service today is undoubtedly one of the mental concerns of young boys on the verge of service. In the campaign, the signatories also believe that conscription is a barrier to production and employment, and have cited the need to create a professional military as one of the solutions to this problem.” Fars News wonders how should the current procedure be changed or modified? “Basically, why and how much does our country need troops? Is voluntary military service fair? What exactly does professional military mean? Is it possible in our country? What are the cultural and economic requirements for implementing a professional military? What are the strategies for enriching and targeting the military, and which body is in charge of it, and are there any plans for this?”

It appears this issue will be addressed more in coming days. The large number of people who appear to oppose the draft means that the General Staff of the Armed Forces will take notice. Fars appears to indicate it will hold a roundtable with key figures and members of parliament.

“It is clear that the expectation from the media in these cases is to inform the demands of the people to the authorities and to analyze the various dimensions of the story and to open the mental knots,” the media says.

What is interesting about this open debate in Iran is that while the country is an authoritarian theocratic regime, the media has some leeway to discuss these issues. In countries such as Turkey any critique of government policy is usually declared “terrorism” and journalists are sent to prison for articles like this. Anyone in Turkey who signed a letter critiquing the army would likely be imprisoned. In Iran the degree to which some can discuss military conscription shows there is an opening by the regime to some critique as long as it is not directed at the supreme leader but rather within the existing regime.

Anyway, the professionalization of the army would not erode the power of the IRGC and the real power behind the regime, which is why it is considered an issue of debate. It is not clear how much the IRGC can use the conscription organizations in Iran for their own recruits. Past articles have indicated that Iranians were denied visas to the US because of the conscription law because the IRGC uses conscripts.

Source » jpost