Iranian Lovers Sidestep Valentine's Crackdowns
February 14, 2004
TEHRAN - The word Valentine may be banned in Iran, but florists and chocolate shops are packed with romantic gifts and young Iranians have found ways to sidestep police crackdowns on the Western lovers day.
A quarter-century after the Islamic revolution, gift shops were brimming over on Saturday with candles, heart-shaped cards and cushions with Love written on them.
But writing Valentine on anything remains taboo.
I want to celebrate love on Valentines Day. I do not care if it is a banned Western cultural habit. I want to show my affection for my boyfriend, said Elmira, 23, carrying a teddy bear with a red heart stitched on it.
The Islamic Republic prohibits public displays of affection but has relaxed a touch since reformist President Mohammad Khatami won a landslide election victory in 1997. Some couples in Tehran now furtively hold hands and embrace in parks.
Moral police fail to deter shopkeepers
Even so, moral police cracked down on Valentines Day presents last year, closing or fining some gift shops and confiscating their decadent Western merchandise.
Shopkeepers are undeterred. We have been ordered by police not to display any gift with the word 'Valentine on it, but heart-shaped ornaments are not problematic, said one shopkeeper, wrapping amorous gifts in shiny paper.
Some reformist newspapers published pictures on Saturday of swans kissing and ran features on the significance of Valentines Day around the world.'We have been ordered by police not to display any gift with the word Valentine on it, but heart-shaped ornaments are not problematic.'
Vice President Mohammad Ali Abtahi, in an article called A bouquet of flowers for intimacy, praised the notion of a day dedicated to friendship and love.
Our Islam is a pioneer among other religions in encouraging people to express their love and affection, Abtahi wrote on his Web site (www.webnevesht.com).
Restaurant owners say they are fully booked for candlelit dinners and flower shops are packed with young people buying red roses 70 percent of Irans 66 million people are under 30.
But Amir, in his late 20s, went against the trend, saying he refused to surrender to what he called glitzy, tawdry U.S.-style profiteering. Why should I commercialize my love? he asked. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/4269105/