Fact Check: Is the Iranian Youth Parliament “illegal”?
Iran is a young country, with over 60 percent of its 80 million people under 30 years old. Yet the Iranian government has neglected many of this population’s essential needs and is now facing significant challenges as a result.
The role of youth in Iranian politics
For decades in the developed world young people have been recognized by their governments as actors with a legitimate role in the formation of policy. A Youth Parliament was first established in Iran to help fulfill this function after the second round of the 1997 elections. The Youth Parliament, made up of high school and university students, allowed young activists to conduct research and carry out consultations with MPs.
Nader Ghazipour, MP from Urumieh, recently said that the Youth Parliament is an “illegal assembly,” and that in it there are hidden motives to support specific political blocs. He added that the establishment of such an assembly requires a special process to be initiated and carried out in an open session of Majlis.
The Purpose of the Youth Parliament
In August 2015, the first session of the new Youth Parliament was held in the Majlis Research Centre. Ali Shahrokhi, Advisor to the Chairman of the Majlis Research Centre, announced a collaboration with youth to contribute to the Centre’s extensive research activities.
Mahmoud Golzari, Deputy of Youth Affairs at the Ministry of Youth and Sports, said that the goal of the Youth Parliament is to increase the participation of youth. He claimed that this idea was discussed during earlier reform efforts. However, a general lack of trust on anything related to youth prevented it from ever happening.
Mohammad Hassanzadeh, Head of the Centre for Strategic Studies and Research at the Ministry of Youth and Sports, said that the launch of the Youth Parliament will increase the responsibility of youth and would provide a mechanism for their political participation.
The Youth Parliament in Iranian Law
Ali Shahroukhi, Head of the Youth Parliament, says that the Youth Parliament is a purely consultative entity. However, many misunderstand it to be a body for ratifying legislation and creating regulations, and consider it illegal on that basis.
Two years ago, Kazem Jalali, MP and head of the Majlis Research Centre, said that in order to set up the Youth Parliament, Majlis’ Research Centre should establish an office for young people inside the Centre. The office could allow for Parliament to analyze views and suggestions coming from the youth.
Ali Larijani, the Speaker of Majlis, said that the Youth Parliament would not be illegal as long as it operates as a sort of think tank. He later said that one has to be careful to maintain the Youth Parliament’s purely consultative status. For that, the government first needs to pass a bill in parliament to make sure that the Youth Parliament’s consultative work operates within a legal structure.
The Constitution of the Youth Parliament has been in place since 2002. However, it has only been approved by the Revolutionary Cultural Council and not by Majlis. Fourteen years have passed since the Youth Parliament began its activities, and there has yet to be a substantive claim about the illegality of the Youth Parliament’s work.
As the Youth Parliament only has a consultative role, and as its views are wholly non-binding on the government, it can in no way be considered “illegal.” We therefore rate Nader Ghazipour’s statement to be “false.“