Iran launches State-Run Dating Website

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Young singles in Iran have long been using Western online dating sites to meet each other, with over 300 operating within its borders. But now, the government wants to get involved in residents’ personal lives by creating its own online dating website – drawing users away from Western sites, which are perceived to encourage sex before marriage.

The move is prompted by a growing divorce rate among young couples – especially those under 30 – which has the country’s leaders concerned. Government officials link the high divorce rate to the “immoral” tendencies of the way Western dating sites operate, which they perceive are intended for more casual hook-ups. So now, the government is appealing to young peoples’ technologically-savvy tendencies to push their own agenda among online daters. The big question is: will it actually attract users?

In a country where Internet access and social media is tightly controlled by religious authorities, it seems an unusual step for the government to jump on the online dating bandwagon. The Iranian government has long been weary of online dating sites, but now with rising divorce rates, they want to turn things around.

The challenge comes with the dating site itself – is run by the Islamic Development Organization, an institution under the supervision of the Supreme Leader that “promotes the Islamic lifestyle,” according to a report by the BBC.

Basic profile information is not shared among users – including pictures, hobbies, and interests like favorite movies or food. Religious authorities deem this type of sharing as “immodest.” Instead, users are only able to see things like a match’s height, weight, and parents’ professions.

There are some government-approved dating websites that operate in Iran, which offer for a young couple to meet and date under the supervision of a cleric, typically in the cleric’s office. The couples’ parents can be brought in if it seems there is likely a match to be made.

Single residents of Iran used to Western online dating sites are skeptical of the government-run site. One told BBC Persian: "Matches would be chosen by the people running the website, and I can't trust that they would make the right decision. Other websites have arithmetic that match candidates according to their likes and dislikes, but this one is entirely arbitrary," he said.

Right now, the service only operates in Tehran, but the government plans to open it to other cities.