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Some of these websites, though legal, offer what they call "sound advice," or tutorials, on ways to find a boyfriend or girlfriend, along with detailed guides.
These chat room administrators avoid trouble by simply offering guidance, as well as tips on how to be cautious and not allow others (generally men) to take advantage of you.
Online dating has increasingly become a way for young people in Iran to connect, and, as of late, even get married, though the latter is still quite uncommon.
Fariba, 31, is a newly divorced attorney living in Tehran who, in a phone conversation, tells Al-Monitor she blames her divorce on online dating.
What we do in Iran, however, is a big service, sometimes including sacrifices, given the risks we occasionally take, such as letting me be interviewed by Al-Monitor and trusting your word that the name of our website would remain unpublished." Another Iran-based website-owner, a 30-year-old software engineer who lives in Kerman, says he does all the site's technical work single-handedly.
In a phone interview, the source tells Al-Monitor, "I'm making much more money than most of my former classmates. Thanks to the website's success, I make a lot of money through ads.
Neda says she has been chatting online for almost four years, and her parents don't have a clue about it, which gives her a sense of liberation.
Neda says she arranges her outings before or after her classes at school, "so my mom thinks I'm spending time in the lab or have an extra class of some kind at the university." A few active chat rooms, which are closely monitored by the government, have serious rules and restrictions, and openly warn users about the round-the-clock presence of “designated observers” who, at times, may mediate conversations.
"All I knew," she says, "was that he was unable to hold a job. Once we moved in together on our wedding night, I found out that he is addicted to crystal meth.
Had we initially met in person, this would have been very unlikely." But, most young, tech-savvy Iranians who have found dates through chat rooms, continue to frequent these online spaces and enjoy chatting, even if it doesn't result in a real-life meeting or a serious relationship.
Fariba found her ex-husband in an Iranian chat room and met up with him after four chatting sessions.
He is a Sharif University graduate, brilliant and good-looking.