There are no official statistics on the number of women living by themselves in big cities in Iran. But university professors, real estate agents, families and many young women all say that a phenomenon extremely rare just 10 years ago is becoming commonplace, propelled by a continuous wave of female students entering universities and a staggering rise in divorces.
The shift has left clerics and politicians struggling to deal with a generation of young women carving out independent lives in a tradition-bound society, away from the guidance of fathers and husbands. Desperate to stop the trend, the government introduced a campaign to promote quick and cheap marriages - but it backfired, experts said, by cheapening an institution deeply anchored in Iran's ancient culture.
That has left the young women to develop strategies to fend for themselves in a society where social codes are often based on deep suspicion of female sexuality.