Renting a house in Iran’s big cities is complicated for a large part of the population due to the high prices; but divorced women face another problem apart from the economic one: social prejudice.
It took divorced teacher Mahshid Akrami Puya more than six months to rent an apartment in Tehran. She ended up asking her father for help in dealing with real estate agents and, in the end, they came to the conclusion that it was “necessary to lie” to get the landlord to agree.
“In the (lease) contract it says that I live with my children although they live with their father,” she told EFE. She married when she was “almost a child” and soon became pregnant, so she did not get divorced until six years ago, after 25 years of marriage.
Mahshid had to resort to this formula of living with her children to be able to rent both her first home and her current home in Tehran, after being rejected by several landlords because she was a “single woman.”
A part of Islamic culture
“It is a very serious problem (the rent) because normally the owners have that condition, that they do not give the house to a divorced or single woman,” says the professor, who did not consider separation until her children were older and she was financially independent.
In many cases, neither the owners nor the real estate agencies give reasons for the rejection but, according to Mahshid, the reality is that “they think that the house could be rented by men or that a woman is not capable of paying the rent.”
This pejorative image is deeply rooted in Iran, where it is much more difficult for women to get a divorce and the husband has the right to forbid his wife to even study or work.
Mahshid, who was allowed to study but on condition that she did not wear make-up and covered herself with the traditional “chador”, explains that “in a traditional society like Iranian society a divorced woman faces a lot of social discrimination.”
Discrimination comes not only from landlords, but also from people close to her: “Family and friends stay away from you because they consider you a danger to their marriages,” laments this Spanish teacher as she sips tea in the living room of her apartment.
Also in the workplace. Mahshid hid for two years that she was divorced at the pharmaceutical company where she worked, and when her case came to light, she says she felt “singled out” by colleagues.
Investigations and interrogations
Romaneh, another Iranian divorcee who prefers not to reveal her last name, was told by the owner of the apartment she wanted to rent that he had to “investigate her first.”
“I really liked the apartment and I was about to give in, but in the end, I thought they were going to be watching me and that I would have to explain myself even if a male relative came to visit me,” she told EFE.
The landlords or the neighbors themselves are often seen as a kind of defender of morality in a country where the theocratic regime in power since the 1979 revolution also imposes its Islamic principles.
Young unmarried men like Kaveh are also subjected to interrogation. One 32-year-old man, who has been independent for more than five years, told EFE that “most landlords refused outright” to rent his apartment to him.
“Those who were less reluctant questioned me about my background and asked me very personal questions about me and my family,” the .