Iran: Mullahs forced to open dating agency to try to persuade Iranians to marry

Iranian family: there just aren’t enough. Source. (Photo is actually taken in Canada. It is hard to find family photos from Iran itself).

IRANIAN CLERIC ARDABILI SPEAKS WITH CLIENTS IN TEHRANJafar Ardabili, who runs a dating agency

AT A loss to explain why most youngsters are delaying marriage or altogether shunning the idea of a happy union, Iran’s government is taking action. In Hamedan province, a senior ayatollah recently warned unmarried public workers to find a spouse within a year or risk losing their jobs. A gentler approach, announced in January, is the launch of a matchmaker website which, the government hopes, could lead to as many as 100,000 marriages.

For those who fret about such things, there is much to stoke concern. The traditional family unit is falling apart in Iran, as elsewhere: around one in three marriages in the capital, Tehran, fails.

The Shia form of Islam practiced in Iran allows sigheh, or temporary marriage that can last for as little as an hour. The government would prefer more durable pairings, however.

In any case, under-30s, who make up 55% of Iran’s population of 77m, seem far more interested in brief flings than marriage. Hence some 300 “immoral” Western-style dating websites have sprung up of late. Unable to close them all down, the state’s moral guardians have decided to turn matchmaker instead.

But its website, which launches later this month, is unlikely to make much impression beyond religious neighbourhoods where, in any case, there is little premarital nookie. “I would never put my name on a government-run site… no matter how desperate I felt,” says Farhad, a 32-year-old who has been single for the past three years.

For many of his peers the method is simply outdated. Rather than let their parents or the government arrange their future, many adolescents find inventive ways of meeting. One of the most common is dor-dor (“turn, turn” in Farsi) where telephone numbers are exchanged out of the windows of cars in the street—about as public as flirting can get in Iran. Facebook, although blocked by government censors, is also popular among those who have the illegal software to get around internet controls. So too are house parties.

For some, tying the knot has simply lost its appeal. Women make up more than 60% of university students and the better-educated no longer long to be wives first.

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