Living out of wedlock in Iran

More and more couples in Iran are living together despite the fact that they are not married – in face of law and tradition. Conservative Islamic groups are trying to push the government to reverse this trend.

Iranis a theocracy. Islamic law is omnipresent and the government treats offenders harshly. But the draconian laws often collide with the realities of people’s lives. Many young Iranians are looking for ways to live a live more of their own choosing.

It is illegal for unmarried couples to live together in one apartment. But there are more and more young people who are defying the law – especially in larger cities and among those with a university education. According to the Iranian news agency IRNA, a member of the Tehran city council has already spoken out against “that new trend that is not good for society.”

Atefeh is a 22-year-old engineering student in Amol, a small city in the north of the country. For about two years she’s been living together with her boyfriend. “Of course not everybody knows about that,” she told DW. “Our friends know it, but most of them also live together with their partners.”

How to deal with partners living together out of wedlock is not clearly defined by Iranian law. But sexual relations between unmarried people are illegal and are punished. It is, Atefeh said, “a risk that we’re taking.”

In most cases it’s neighbors or pro-regime citizens who keep an eye on who is living in their building. If they are suspicious, they inform parents or authorities. But Atefeh is not concerned about her parents. “They know about it, which is why I am much less concerned about them then many of my friends where the parents do not know.” But there always remains the fear of being told on. “We are always very careful. When we leave the building, we take care that no one takes notice.”

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