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Ahmad Shaja’i, the country’s chief of forensic medicine, has told the Iranian Students’ News Agency (ISNA) that suicides increased nearly 5 percent since last year, with 952 Iranians taking their lives during the first quarter of the Iranian year, which began in March, compared with 870 the same time last year. More than 70 percent of the suicides were men.

Mehrdad Khonsari, a former Iranian diplomat, told the independent news website “The Media Line” that suicide rates in Iran have always been higher than in the West, but that the aggravated economic and social conditions may have contributed to the new peak, mainly among the country’s youth.

“Iranians don’t live a normal life,” Khonsari told the website. “There are barriers to interaction between youth, forced marriages, and many young couples must live with their parents because they can’t afford housing.”

Iran’s population of 71.5 million has doubled since 1975, leaving its young population to struggle with the unofficial unemployment rates estimated to be as high as 30 percent. However, Iran has greatly invested in its public health sector over the past 20 years; and with an average life expectancy of 72, it tops most countries in the region.

“The government seems intent on crushing any sign of joy and happiness among Iranians,” Potkin Azarmehr, an Iranian blogger and opposition activist living in London, told The Media Line. “There used to be room for people to do as they wished at least inside their homes, but now even that is taken away from them.”

The Iranian morality police arrested 17 teenagers last week in the southern port city of Bandar Abbas for staging a water fight in a public park. Azarmehr said that strict government supervision left Iran’s youth hopeless. “Every Iranian knows someone who got in trouble with the morality police,” he said.

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