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Codes of Behavior, Iranian Experience
Last Updated: October, 2009

Male offspring is preferred amongst many particularly the poor for whom male children are still a source of financial support. However such practices are eroding with the modern generations. For many families the father or the husband makes most major financial decisions. It is more common for such males to consult with their male relatives or friends than their spouses. It is only recently that wives have started participating in such decision-making processes. Gender roles are normally well defined and clear. The priority for females is marriage and childbearing. Due to economic necessity and with the phenomenal increase in the number of highly educated Iranian women such culturally accepted norms are creating major problems for working mothers and challenging the status quo. So far the solution for most appears to be reliance on family members such as grandparents to look after the children. Day cares are not on the whole trusted and nannies’ are preferred if affordable.

Iranian culture is adult oriented with parents being involved in making major decisions for their children such as, whom they should marry and what profession they should have. Nevertheless children are much loved and are the priority with most families. Education is highly praised amongst all Iranians and quite often children are pressured to succeed academically. Mothers and recently fathers spent lots of time with their children and if they can afford it they will financially support them all the way untill they have finished all their education and beyond. It is quite expected with the rich to buy property and expensive cars for their children and provide them with a good life style from an early age. Children on the other hand are expected to trust and respect their parents and follow the guidelines designed for them. Family traditionally comes before the individual and family members are brought up and expected to understand and respect such notions.

Despite adaptation of western codes of behavior by many Iranians living in western countries spouse selection in majority of cases still involves parents and their approval. Class considerations are very important; many people regard it as degrading marrying into classes lower than their own. It is accepted for parents to look for suitable spouses from amongst relatives, friends and people they know and trust. Appropriate candidates will be introduced through such connections and with the young peoples’ approval, engagement and marriage will follow. Forced arranged marriages are a thing of past with modern urbanized Iranians. Many young people have no problems with the system but if they make their own choice and the spouse is not approved by the family major conflict is expected. Most Iranians have elaborate weddings and if they follow the traditional system of dowry and bride price the young couple will have to rely on parental financial support at time of marriage. Such practices in turn increase parental control over children. Groom’s family is expected to pay for all wedding expenses and if they do not, they will be looked down at. Bride’s family on the other hand provides dowry in form of necessary items such as furniture etc. The higher the status of bride and groom the more elaborate are the parties, jewelry, bride price (mahr) dowry etc. Though the younger generations are moving away from such practices nevertheless many Iranians still follow many of these traditions.

Interracial and out of religion marriages vary with different classes and are less common amongst traditional people and on the whole are not very popular. It is a lot more prevalent for males to marry non-Muslim foreigners than for females. This is mostly due to the fact that Muslim women are legally barred from marrying non-Muslims unless if the future spouse converts into Islam. Iranian family and inheritance laws favor males. These issues might create serious problems at times of divorce, custody rights and death.

If marriages are registered with the Islamic authorities the Iranian legislation will be applied to such marriages both in Iran and outside the country. In such cases when divorce occurs, the legal divorce document should be certified and validated at an Iranian consulate or Embassy plus getting an Iranian divorce as well to stop further complications. Children born from non-Iranian fathers even if the father has converted can not become Iranian citizens since it is their father’s nationality that matters and not their mothers. They are not able to own property in Iran, have an Iranian ID or passport. Such legislation has created immense problems for the Afghani refugees living in Iran who are married to Iranian women. Their children have difficulty attending schools since they have no legal status. If holding an Iranian passport, even non-Iranian wives may need their husbands certified permission to travel out of Iran. Father’s permission is also required for minor children traveling. If marrying an Iranian it is best to check all facts with the Iranian consulates before hand and be very clear about such matters.

It has become a common practice for many women to sign a prenuptial agreement with their husbands before or at the time of marriage. Such documents are incorporated in aghed nameh or marriage contract and contain various articles such as guarantying women/children’s right of travel without the husband’s permission, the right to initiate divorce and custody and property rights at time of divorce. Lawyers and notary publics can process all documentations but they have to be certified by Iranian authorities/consulates to be recognized as legal documents.

Male/female relationships seem to be a complicated matter for many Iranians. Educated and modern classes have little problems understanding the dynamics of such relationships and engaging in them. Both sexes respect and treat their partners as equals and most have left behind medieval courting habits generations ago. However traditional and less educated groups might have problems with western courting styles. Males belonging to such groups normally marry virgin women, could be controlling, expect obedience and may not involve their wives in decision making processes. Any socializing with the opposite sex might be regarded indecent and offensive. Dress codes are tightly observed and children are also controlled and expected to behave according to the communal codes rather than following their own individual styles or western ones. It is advisable to know the family and background of your Iranian mate before hand to avoid complications in the future. Divorce itself might be unacceptable amongst some families and again it is advisable to discuss it beforehand.

It is also recommended to discuss birth control and abortion issues since some Iranians may object to such matters based on tradition or religious conviction. Such issues might still be taboo for some Iranians and they might find it difficult to discuss such matters especially with the opposite sex. However it is important to know what is your mate’s standing on such issues to avoid complications.

On the subject of infidelity it is hard to make any conclusions without stereotyping. There is no statistical data available and one can only guess that Iranians are the same as others. It is more acceptable for men to be adulterous than women and in fact adulterous women and their lovers are severely punished in Iran. Traditional males may regard such acts as contrary to their religious codes, but may and could practice polygamy or acquire concubines to comply with their faith. There are modern high profile Iranian females married to super rich Muslim men in North America who have accepted polygamy. There is very little information on the practice of temporary marriage or concubines outside Iran, but there are known cases of single and married man practicing it. However such practices are rare and socially unacceptable and very few people will openly admit to engaging in them. This is despite that fact that becoming a concubine has become popular in Iran since the Islamic Revolution of 1979.

Though on the surface it is not acceptable for married men to have affairs but many have and most wives prefer not to know about such matters. However, with the modern generations women are loosing their tolerance with such behavior and divorce based on adultery charges have become more common than it has been in the past. On the whole one way to know an Iranian mate is to investigate their past and family background, habits and traditions. To socializes with their family and friends and talk to them extensively about all maters including, divorce, birth control, abortion and equality of sexes. All people marrying Iranians should consult Iranian authorities beforehand, with respect to their (and children’s) legal status after marriage in order to avoid complications in future.

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