Iran is a wonderful country with rich history, stunning architecture, breathtaking nature, kind and helpful people, though with loads of strict rules controlling social life. In principle, separate wedding parties for men and women, no kissing and touching in public, secret dates, staying reserved about matters of sexuality.
However, I suppose young Iranians must have found their way how to live with this phenomenon. Young people are usually so witty and courageous in overcoming any obstacles in love.
I wanted to know more. How Iranians fall in love, get married, how they live their love lives in Iran. Luckily, I have some Iranian friends who answered my curious questions.
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They date like young people in the West. Almost.
The very first thing I wanted to know about dating in Iran was where young Iranians go for a date. “In the beginning we usually go to coffee shops, to the cinema, parks or restaurants. Later, as dating goes on, also to the mountains, national parks or beaches”, acknowledged all my Iranian friends.
And where do potential couples meet? “There are many opportunities from universities to
workplaces, through families, friends, parties and social media – mostly Instagram. Dating apps are filtered in Iran, so those are not really easy to reach,” says Tahereh, a 26-year-old Tehrani girl currently studying in Luxemburg.
Interesting. It seems like there is absolutely no difference compared to the Western world. However, it is not so easy as it appears.
“When boys and girls go out, they often experience some kind of fear. If a man and a woman go out and they are not officially related, which means they are not family members, nor husband and wife, the police can ask them to clarify their relationship,” explains Sadeq, a 27-year-old Mashadi. However, it does not happen often. The police are mostly checking younger guys,” continues Sadeq. “You know, Mashad is a religious city, so it happens more often here than in other Iranian cities.”
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One day in Tehran, in a big park close to the Tabiat Bridge, a van full of policemen stopped by a couple that was sitting in the park. Morality police typically detain women seen without the proper hijab head-covering in public. In this case, however, the police interrogated both the girl and the boy and escorted them to the police van.
(Latest update: Iran relaxed headscarf arrests few weeks ago. Women failing to wear a headscarf will no longer be automatically arrested nor will judicial cases be filed against them. Such women will be sent to educational classes. Read more here: www.independent.co.uk)
Surely, not every date ends in a police van. Soon we noticed another couple in the park. I approached them, because they seemed so lovely and cute and I had lots of questions in my head.
“Guys, you are a couple, right? It must be quite difficult for you to date with all these restrictions,” I said to them. “Restrictions? There are no restrictions,” says the guy cheerfully. There was a hint of inner freedom in the way he said that. His name was Mohammad.
“So, Mohammad, do your parents know that you are dating a girl?” “Yes, of course, and they are very proud of me,” answers the confident Irani. They were both students of medicine and they met at their university. “So, what about you, Samin, do your parents know about your relationship with Mohammad?” “No! They do not! It is a secret,” replies the pretty young lady.
We all laughed and at that point I realized that true love knows no obstacles. The situation is not as dark and gloomy as it appears to a foreigner like me. It seems like locals accept the rules and live with them. At the same time, they find their little innocent ways out.
In principle, having a girlfriend is forbidden
Sadeq has been asked to go to the police station about six times in his life. Ones he got “caught” with his coworker while driving. Although they were not even a couple, they were suspicious enough to be stopped by the police.
“The policeman asked us politely about our relationship. In such a situation you never say, that the girl next to you is your girlfriend. Even if the coworker had been my girlfriend, I would not have told the truth. One would rather say it is his sister or something like that,” explains Sadeq.
“Then, we were both taken to the police station. The police called the girl´s parents. Her mother came to pick her up and signed some papers. She was totally OK with the situation, because she knew her daughter well and knew what was going on.”
Even though there was no parental complaint, Sadeq had to go to court on the next day to clarify the situation.
“In Iran it is unacceptable that a young man has a girlfriend. Therefore, the judge asked me if I would accept such a relationship in case it had happened to my own sister. I said yes, which really surprised him. I was taken to a detention room for an hour and then interrogated again. I had never been in such a place before. There were thieves and criminals. My heart was beating fast. In the end I had to sign some documents and they let me go. But, as I said, these things do not happen often,” concludes Sadeq.
Holding hands is acceptable, but no kissing, please
Young people go out for a date freely, but there are some limitations regarding their behavior in public places.
“It is generally forbidden to hold hands if you are not married. Therefore, couples that are only dating, are officially not allowed to hold hands in public, but nobody is really checking it and bothering the young couples if they do so,” explains Tahereh. “More affection in public, such as kissing and hugs, is unacceptable in public. However, some people do it anyway. Others prefer to go to more private places such as parks, for example.”
Iranian girls want to be chased
In the Western culture it is becoming quite frequent that girls are hitting on boys. The idea of a hardly reachable princess is somehow disappearing. What about dating in Iran? Who makes the first step?
“It is very rare that a girl would flirt with a boy. Iranian girls want to be chased. If a girl shows affection towards a man, she does it very decently. She would try to get closer to the guy and talk to him, but she would never behave too pushy. This scenario happens mostly when the guy is rich or very handsome. I remember, there was a girl at university who was interested in me. So, I asked her why she likes me. She replied that I am a sarbazir, which means something like looking down, not flirting with girls but focusing on my studies. University is basically a public place, where people often talk behind your back if you date someone. So, I preferred not to date anybody that time,” recalls Sadeq.
“But, when I was a first-year student, I did in fact like a girl. She was very cute, but I was too shy, so I asked a friend of mine to go and talk to her on my behalf. She rejected me, because I did not act like a gentleman. She just did not fancy the way I handled the situation.”
I imagined the situation and I was wondering, how a man can actually tell, that he likes a girl visually, as the hijab and the manto or chador cover quite a lot, so basically only the girl´s face is visible. Maybe a little bit shallow, but important question, that is what I thought.
“Well, first of all, I care about the girl´s behavior a lot. But ladies in Iran often wear tight clothes, so men can actually have a brief glimpse. Probably not as much as in Europe, I suppose,” says Sadeq wittily.
Virginity as a precondition
“Even though the young generation is not following the common traditional rules that much, I dare say, the expectation that the bride should be a virgin is still prevailing. Some very conservative and religious families would even take the girl to a doctor in order to get a certificate of virginity for the future husband´s family. According to the law, if the husband declares after the wedding, that the girl was not a virgin, he has the right to ask for divorce. That is very rare, though. These rules are slowly vanishing. So, nowadays, if the girl is not a virgin, the father prefers not knowing about it and the husband accepts it,” such is Tahereh´s point of view on virginity.
Sadeq´s opinion is very similar. “You know, some decades ago a girl who lost her virginity before marriage was regarded as a catastrophe. But peoples´ mindset is slowly but surely changing,” confirms the young man.
Such is our culture and we accept it
Another Tehrani friend, the 26-year-old Sara, says her mother knew that she was dating someone during her university studies. Two years later that man became her husband. But not all parents and families are so benevolent in these matters.
“Families in Iran are different. In some families the parents know about the relationship of their daughter or son. However, most of the Iranian families, especially traditional families, do not accept such a relationship unless the couple decides to marry. According to Iranian culture women are more sensitive than men and if they did not marry the boy who they have been dating, it would make them overly sad, so that it could have a negative impact on their future life. That is why the rules may appear stricter for girls.”
However, there are some quite opposite examples as well. Some young Iranians date for many years without getting married. Still, they can not move together if they are not married.
“I was surprised that in Europe couples often move together or they even have a child before marriage. This is not very acceptable in Iran. So, if a girl is pregnant before getting married, it is quite a disgrace and people often look at her as if she committed a sin,” says Tahereh.
The next question inevitably arises in my head. How do Iranians feel about it? Are they frustrated or indifferent in relation to these rules?
“Such is the system in my country. Some people accept it, some others do not and for those it is quite difficult,” says Sara.
The mother´s word is often more powerful than the wife´s word.
The queen in the house
After marrying a girl, the husband usually takes good care of the wife and the family.
“In Iran women have constant support from their relatives, parents and especially their husband, which is less the case in Europe. In the family the man is mainly responsible for the financial support of the family,” compares Tahereh the life in Iran and Europe.
“Nowadays, most of the men respect their wives and they do everything possible to make them feel comfortable. By the way, Iranian men love their mothers a lot. You have no idea how much!” says Sara cheerfully and she quickly adds an example. “If the mother says something, the son does it immediately and he accepts everything the mom says without objections,” explains the young lady jovially.
Well, I guess mama boys are not that rare in the rest of the world either… So, I asked Sara if the mother´s word could be even stronger than the wife´s word. “In most of the cases, yes,” she replied smilingly.
Would you like to get some travel tips on Iran? Check out my Top 15 things to see in Iran.
Are you wondering whether Iran is safe for a female solo traveler? Yes it is. Read more about tips and tricks on Solo female travel.
And last but not least, these are the books I recommend if you plan to go to Iran:
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