The dating revolution


29-Apr-2015 16:27

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“If you compare it to 10 years ago, expectations are higher, people are more demanding,” Mrs Mogadam tells me.

“If a woman has a degree, she won’t accept someone who doesn’t.” Saba Lotfi, a 28-year-old accountancy student at Tehran University, was one of Mrs Mogadam’s visitors.

Dating websites like Tinder are banned in Iran, but about 350 unofficial dating websites are believed to exist. It relies on traditional matchmakers like Malakeh Mogadam, who has converted her home into a lonely hearts call centre.

There, an army of matchmakers in her front room answer phones that never stop ringing - mainly mothers across Tehran calling on behalf of their single sons.

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Mohammad Kamand is preparing a young man for marriage at Tebyan, a government-approved website where arranged unions are strongly favoured over love matches. Profile pictures are forbidden and parents must accompany would-be couples on their first dates.

The aim of this website is to use Islamic principles to get single young people together.

The regime frowns on Western ideas like dating and this website is part of its campaign to keep strict controls in place.

Nearly half of all Iranians from 18 to 35 are single and Tebyan’s official raison d'être is to help the country escape a ‘marriage crisis’.

The number of births per woman of child-bearing age has fallen from 7 in 1980 to 1.8 in 2014 - below Britain's fertility rate, for example, of 1.9.

Anything that brings young adults together in a controlled way, in line with Islamic principles, is welcome, especially as the regime has an official target to double Iran’s population to 150 million by 2050.