When Shoukoufeh, an English literature student from a backwater town, set out to rent an apartment for herself here in the capital, she first stopped at a jewelry store and picked up a $5 wedding ring.
Accustomed to living with lies to navigate the etiquette of Iranian society, where women are traditionally expected to live with their parents or a husband, the 24-year-old would prominently flash her fake white-gold band to real estate agents and landlords who would otherwise be reluctant to lease an apartment to a single woman.
“To them and my neighbors, my roommate and I are two married women away from their husbands to pursue our studies,” she explained. “In reality, we are of course both single.”
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.