To launch their sites and remain online, Iranian chat rooms require permission from the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance.
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.
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.
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.
He is a Sharif University graduate, brilliant and good-looking."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.Match-making and dating websites are deemed illegal by the administration, so almost all the Iran-based websites for meeting people are chat rooms and not designated for match-making.
One such site offers guidance to both genders, such as "being handsome and saying no to girls" or "expecting lavish gifts and saying no to boys." Neda, a 27-year-old medical student who lives in Shiraz with parents she describes as over-protective, tells Al-Monitor the only way she can find boyfriends is through chat rooms.
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.