By Farangis Najibullah and Hossein Ghavimi, RFE/RL
"Your account doesn't have enough funds to choose a match.
Please refer to the gallery of free images."
(cartoon by Naeem Tadayyon, Shahrvand daily)
Worried that Iranians are staying single too long, the authorities are backing a new matchmaking website meant to help more people get hitched.
But some members of the target audience are treating the initiative with all the enthusiasm of a dubious blind date arranged by an overbearing relative.
In comments on the website of RFE/RL's Radio Farda, Iranians voiced suspicion that that its creators are less interested in sending them off into marital bliss than in adding a new tool of observation and control to the authoritarian government's arsenal.
"It's a very good idea to create such a website, but it has far too many personal questions," said a reader identified as "Hamid" from the city of Isfahan. "For instance, it asks about applicants' political views, which has nothing to do with choosing a potential spouse."
"Where is the guarantee that applicants' personal information would not be passed on to security services?" wrote another reader, "Freeman."
Launched on June 15, the hamsan.tebyan.net website promises to arrange 100,000 marriages in the next 12 months.
Authorities in the Islamic republic hope it will help reduce the number of young single adults -- currently 11 million -- and ease fears of a population decline in the nation of 80 million people.
During the launch ceremony in Tehran, Deputy Youth and Sports Minister Mahmud Golzari said Iran faces a "family crisis" and needs to promote marriage and family.
"There are many people who are single, and when that happens it means no family, no children," Golzari said.
Elaborate List Of Questions
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who wants Iran's population to reach 150 million by 2050, has urged officials to take steps to improve the birth rate.
People who commented on Radio Farda's website said some of the questions the matchmaking site asks potential brides and grooms seem suspiciously off the mark.
"The website asks about family background, it asks whether you like satellite television channels and whether you want to live abroad in the future. How is that relevant to a matchmaking website?" wrote "Freeman."
"I will never give my personal details to such a website," wrote a reader identified as "Meysan."
Indeed, the application form on the website includes an elaborate list of questions ranging from age, height, weight, and eye color to information about social, financial, and educational background as well as smoking habits, taste in clothes, and sporting abilities.
It also includes questions about applicant's political inclination and religious affiliation, even asking which ayatollah they follow.
"It seems like the mullahs want to use this site to put people under the microscope and gather information about them," an anonymous comment sent to Radio Farda said.
The website also includes articles in Farsi, English, Russian, French, Arabic, Kurdish, and Urdu -- many focusing on the importance of marriage, family values, and respect for parents. They also include religious teachings and stories from the lives of Islamic figures, as well as health and lifestyle tips.
Iran's rulers exercise powerful control over broadcast media and the Internet. Many Western television channels are jammed, and the authorities have also blocked social networking sites and banned dating websites.
Hamsan.tebyan.net says it has a network of matchmakers -- from mullahs to doctors and teachers -- who review the applicants' questionnaires and try to pluck a suitable match from the website's database.
If the mediators come up with a potential match, the pair is asked to undergo psychological tests and consult with their families to further ensure compatibility.
"Hamid" said parents should not participate in the online matchmaking process: "Don't you think two grown-up people who are looking for a future spouse can make their own decision without involving families?"
More Pressing Concerns
Many others suggested that, if the government wants young people to commit to marriage and family, it needs to do much more than just matchmaking.
Readers said unemployment, economic troubles, and the rising cost of living have forced many Iranians to postpone marriage.
"There is no need for such a website. All young adults like to get married. They are capable of finding a suitable partner. But they have economic hardships standing in the way," wrote "Ali."
"Create well-paid jobs and give the young people freedom and the problem will be solved," wrote another reader, "Keyvan."
"Getting married with what money? With house prices that have reached millions?" an anonymous commentator wrote.
Many comments sent to Radio Farda's website focused on the lack of freedom in Iran as a barrier to the bond of matrimony.
"You need to be able to have freedom to meet and choose a suitable partner for a successful marriage," an anonymous comment said.
Another reader, identified as "Panda," put it this way: "Pandas don't have children in captivity. Pandas have children only when they have freedom and financial security. I don't want to bear a child who would live in captivity."
With reporting by AFP
... Payvand News - 06/14/15 ... --