Iran has launched a state-approved dating app named Hamdam, in what is believed to be an attempt to increase marriage rates and address the problem of an ageing population in the ultra-conservative Islamic republic.

Hamdam launched in early July 2021 in Iran, where dating apps such as Tinder and Bumble are banned by the leadership. Ebrahim Raisi, Iran’s president-elect, won a leadership election in June 2021 that many critics said was rigged.

State television said that Hamdam, which translates to “companion” in Farsi, launched to promote “lasting and informed marriage”, reported The Guardian. Iranian police chiefs said that all dating apps apart from Hamdam were illegal.

Hamdam was created by the Tebyan Cultural Institute, which is part of Iran’s Islamic Propaganda Organization. The app is free to use, but users are required to undertake a psychology test and input their national identity number.

Users can select parameters such as height and weight for potential matches. They can also choose whether potential female matches they see wear the chador: the full body-length cloak that covers a woman’s head.

When matches lead to marriage, “service consultants” will be made available via the app to facilitate introductions between the users’ families. According to the app, these consultants will “accompany” the happy couple for four years after their nuptials.

Still from a Hamdam promotional video

In 2015, Tebyan launched a matchmaking website for Iranians that flopped. Although dating apps other than Hamdam are banned in Iran, a report by The Times [subscription required] outlined how many young people there use virtual proxy networks (VPNs) to get past internet blocks and use apps such as Tinder.

The Times report documented a vibrant dating scene among young liberal Iranians, in defiance of the conservative and religion-based laws and norms reinforced by the leadership.

It also noted the government’s likely goals behind the launch of Hamdam: promoting marriage and family-building. Half the Iranian population is aged over 35, population growth has fallen and divorce rates are rising.

The Iranian government is looking into providing financial incentives for couples marrying and having more than two children.

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