The Corner

Divorce in Iran

The Iranian divorce-rate crisis reported in the New York Times is actually nothing new, and it’s a story that recycles every few years. Certainly, one can see it as evident of the clash between traditional attitudes and the fact that women increasingly seek an equality more present in American society than Iranian society. In Tehran, especially, economics also play a role. The combination of high inflation and high liquidity has led the rich to invest in real estate. This has made the real-estate market boom to the point that young and even middle-age couples can’t afford to own and, often, even to rent apartments, and can lead to greater tension with in-laws when couples have to live with extended families.

When I was in Tehran about a decade ago, Iranian friends liked to take me to the movies because they could use the presence of a foreigner to cut in line. One film they took me to was an blockbuster entitled Qermez (“Crimson”), which, from memory, was about a woman who sought a divorce because she was in an abusive relationship. The judge, however, refused to grant her one — soliciting boos from the crowd in the theater — leading her to then go vigilante.

There’s also an Iranian joke about a young, religious woman who returns home one day to be told by her mother that she had arranged a marriage for the daughter. The daughter asks “to whom?” And the woman says, “To Hossein.” “But he’s an atheist, and his whole family are atheists,” she complains, “How can you do this to me?” “Don’t worry,” the mother replies, “Just marry him and together we will convince him that there really is a hell.”

Michael Rubin is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, senior lecturer at the Naval Postgraduate School’s Center for Civil-Military Relations, and a senior editor of the Middle East Quarterly.


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