Surfing Files to Find Your Twin Flame? By Behnam Saremi Jafar Savalan-Pour Ardabili Ever since its establishment, the cyberspace has come to the help of people in a multitude of ways. An even more innovative use of the tool has been to help men and women of different races, religions and nationalities to hunt for their life partners. The online matrimonial agencies, though, usually fall short of their promises to match marriage-minded men and women, with many simply turning into virtual dating places. A cleric, Jafar Savalan-Pour Ardabili , is perhaps the first Iranian and one of the few people worldwide, who has committed himself to the task of helping young unmarried people find their soul mates–making use of both the Internet and a small privately-run office for the purpose. Sitting in his crowded Tehran office, a middle-aged clergyman claims to run the first authentic marriage agency in Iran and the region. Ardabili, the founder of Amin Family Consultation Center, has launched an Internet site since 2000 in a bid to provide an opportunity for singles to find ideal matches depending on their personal criteria–an initiative which seems to be mind-boggling in a country wherein many youth still follow traditional patterns of marriage. “Primary research by the center indicated that the main obstacle in the way of marriage among Iranian youth, especially the educated, was lack of reliable grounds for finding an ideal spouse, rather than sole economic concerns. Hence, I focused on matching cases for marriage via the Internet and benefited from the help of well-known experts and psychologists in this job,” said Ardabili, who calls himself a chat-lover. “Registration is conducted via the Internet (wwww.ardabili.com or www.aifci.com) and between 500 and 1,000 people register per day, among them even foreigners and Iranian expatriates,” he pointed out. The smiling cleric, who has received several foreign journalists at his so-called Islamic coffee shop’, said 1,600 marriages have been brokered by the 15-member group, none of which have ended up in divorce yet. Six of the Web marriages are related to foreign spouses with different nationalities who had not even met each other before. These people are still in touch with the center for post-marriage consultation. Ardabili says the method creates an opportunity for girls to get directly involved in shaping their own future, to pick out their desired spouses instead of surrendering to fate, to make choices that are honest and feel right for them–an initiative which had not been experienced in the Middle East ever before. Elaborating on the agency’s routines, the cleric said, “The clients register via the Internet or through personal visits. Hence, their records enter the database. They need to fill in forms for a complete profile that includes personality tests.” At this stage, he explains, the clients would be allowed to examine profiles that match their criteria (age and educational background). “Next, photos are exchanged and the two are invited over to the office for a face-to-face meeting. The clients would undergo psychological tests. Once they announce their approval, they are ready for subsequent dating and phone talks,” he said. Ardabili said that in normal cases, the prospective spouses attend seven sessions which totally cost 600,000 rials per client. He, however, mentioned that most clients should spend more time and expenses to reach a final decision which, he claims, would be a true one. In response to a question about educational and social status of the applicants, the cleric said 93 percent hold graduate degrees–of which 12 percent are Ph.D. and 34 percent master’s degrees holders. Women constitute 65 percent of the applicants. The cleric says female applicants are mostly between 23-30 years of age, while men belong to the 25-30 age group. Concluding his remarks, Ardabili expressed hope that the government would provide assistance to the center, which is presently only sponsored by donations of benevolent individuals. During the short interview, a Canadian man registered on the site, writing in Persian that he was looking for a loyal Iranian girl. Two Australian and Japanese nationals were also doing the same.
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