Iran’s Tebyan cultural center, affiliated with the country’s Islamic Propaganda Organization, offers marriage consulting on its website, answering questions such as, “One is introverted and the other is extroverted. What do we do?” and “Why can’t we talk?” This week, Iran took its official push to promote marriage amid rising divorce rates a step further, with the introduction of a state-approved Islamic dating app.
Hamdam – which in Farsi means companion – is a dating app meant to address concerns in Iran over fertility, divorce and marriage. Fertility has been declining in Iran for the past eight years, reaching a low in 2019 and contributing to a shrinking population growth rates. Marriage rates are dropping, and divorce rates are rising, too.
Tebyan Media Institute Director Kamil Khojasteh at the app’s unveiling said that family values are the “devil’s target,” and Iran’s enemies impose their own ideas onto it. The app, with its pink, purple and heart-filled interface, works against that.
Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, speaker of the Islamic Consultative Assembly, inaugurated the platform at a news conference. He said that choosing a spouse should come with rationality and awareness, adding that the platform is based on traditional family values and Islamic principles.
There are about 13 million single people aged 18 to 35 in Iran, the Associated Press reported. In 2019, the country reported over 170,000 divorces and 520,000 marriages.
The Iranian parliament has tried to stimulate population growth with the passage of a plan in March that includes health insurance for infertile couples, educational opportunities for student mothers, and medical services to pregnant women, the Tehran Times reported. The law also stipulates that higher education must raise awareness on the positive sides to childbearing. The government is financially supporting nongovernmental organizations that reduce marriage ages, facilitate youth marriage and encourage childbearing, the Times reported.
Rather than an open market, the app screens applicants with psychological tests, uploaded documents, and counseling to identify personality traits and characteristics. Then, applicants are offered the best choices from the platform’s point of view, the website stated.
A video of the app’s interface, posted to the Tebyan Cultural Center’s website, depicts an elaborate matchmaking process complete with questions with sliding scales, text boxes, and buttons.
In a Twitter thread, Aref Che, a content producer at Tebyan, said that the first appointment is only made in the presence of families and counselors, and dozens of consultants guide people through the process.
Not simply a matchmaking or dating system, the app supports families throughout their marriage through consulting, the platform’s Twitter page says.
In Iran, consensual sexual relationships outside of traditional marriage are criminalized.
The app is open to all people, including those who have a history of previous marriage, an app FAQ read. But it is only open to those desiring permanent marriage in the form of monogamy, it said.
According to the FAQ, the app does not use photos – which are “manipulative” and sometimes do not portray reality. “We have experienced many times in matching that the photo was not a good reason to reject or accept anyone,” the FAQ wrote. “What is achieved in a face-to-face meeting is much more complete than a soulless photograph.
A consultant for Hamdam, according to the app’s website, that the number of single people have increased – with one reason being that traditional methods of marriage – where parents were the actors – no longer work, compared to young people being the initiators of marriage today.