Valentine’s Day celebrations are being banned in Iran, including exchanges of gifts, flowers, and cards. The celebrations will be termed as crimes in the Islamic nation.
Iran says it is cracking down on Valentine’s Day celebrations and shops engaging in them will be guilty of a crime. Iranian news outlets reported the police directive Friday according to the Associated Press.
Trade unions of coffee and ice cream shops in Tehran have been informed by the Police to avoid any gatherings in which boys and girls exchange Valentine’s Day gifts, calling it, “the promotion of Western culture through Valentine’s Day rituals.”
The Human Rights Activists News Agency reported that the exchange of Valentine’s Day gifts between males and females is also deemed a crime.
The annual February 14 homage to romance, which tradition says is named after an early Christian martyr, has become popular in recent years in Iran and other Middle East countries.
The Green Revolution in Iran in 2009 and the uprisings that began with the elections that gave a second term to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in office triggered Iran’s government. It is particularly sensitive toward the practice or promotion of Western customs, with increased scrutiny against young Iranians since then.
This is not the first time, though, that Iran is cracking down on the celebrations. In January 2011, the Iranian regime outlawed Valentine’s Day. The state media announced the following.
“Symbols of hearts, half-hearts, red roses, and any activities promoting this day are banned. Authorities will take legal action against those who ignore the ban.”
Melik Kalyan wrote in the Wall Street Journal then, against the Whack-a-Mole approach to any social ripple not dreamt of in its philosophy.
“The Iranian state has pronounced against unauthorized mingling of the sexes, rap music, rock music, Western music, women playing in bands, too-bright nail polish, laughter in hospital corridors, ancient Persian rites-of-spring celebrations (Nowrooz), and even the mention of foreign food recipes in state media. This last may sound comically implausible, but it was officially announced by a state-run website on Feb. 6. So now the true nature of pasta as an instrument of Western subversion has been revealed.”
In a country where 70 percent of the population is said to be under the age of 30, Valentine’s Day has naturally captured the minds of the people. The internet and social media have added to this phenomenon, where the young like to follow the customs and rituals of the Western world and consider is fashionable.
But Iran has a history of such crackdowns and moral policing over Western culture. In 2010, the government provided a list of approved hairstyles for Muslim men. They banned long hair, ponytails, and mullets, later adding spiky haircuts to the list.
Last month, the Culture Ministry censored the word “wines,” names of “foreign animals,” and “dignitaries from any books published in the Islamic Republic”, The Telegraph reported. The decision to censor books published in Iran is to ensure that Iranians are protected from a Western “cultural onslaught”
The Indonesian city of Banda Aceh has banned celebrations of Valentine’s Day this weekend, arguing the holiday violates Islamic law. Saudi Arabia has also sought to stamp out Valentine’s Day but it’s celebrated widely in nearby places like Dubai.
Pakistani Minister for the Interior Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan also banned the holiday in the capital city of Islamabad, threatening “strict action” against anyone who celebrates the romantic day. Officials said the holiday is an “insult to Islam.”
Saudi Arabia has also sought to stamp out Valentine’s Day but it’s celebrated widely in nearby places like Dubai.
The backlash in the Islamic Republic is part of a drive against the spread of Western culture.
The whole culture of bans and moral policing in the Islamic world has been prevalent for decades and Iran has been no exception. But the younger generation continues to be influenced by the Western world and its practices, making it ever more difficult for the regimes to control it.
[Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images]