Unwelcome and Prohibited Places for Valentine’s Day

Unwelcome and Prohibited Places for Valentine's Day

Unwelcome and Prohibited Places for Valentine’s Day


Hearts, flowers and kisses are an important part of Valentine’s Day, which has been celebrated in a romantic and affectionate way in some Western countries for centuries. In an Ipsos survey of people in 28 countries around the world, a whopping 55% of respondents said they plan to celebrate the occasion with their partner. But for people in some parts of the globe, celebrating the holiday — the one that marks the Christian martyr Saint Valentine — is taboo or even illegal: Religious edicts and concerns about the spread of Western business culture have been lifted for a year. Once February 14 Valentine’s Day.

From bans to mass arrests and even threats of forced marriage, embracing the day here is discouraged, or downright dangerous.

Khobar, Saudi Arabia

While florists in Saudi Arabia openly celebrate Valentine’s Day today, in earlier years, merchants hid their red flowers during the holiday week to avoid punishment by the country’s Committee for the Promotion of Morality and Prevention of Evil, which was once tasked with enforcing strict law enforcement. religious norms.

Photo by Tasneem Alsultan

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Saudi Arabia

For decades, February 14 was just another date in Saudi Arabia, whose ban on Valentine’s Day ran counter to Islamic notions of etiquette. While some discreetly exchanged gifts and flowers in February, they risked clashes with the country’s religious police until about five years ago.

The change comes after Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman stripped in 2016 many of the powers of the country’s Council for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Evil, which had been accused of enforcing strict religious norms. Before that, those who dared to celebrate the holiday were regularly arrested and shopkeepers were prevented from selling Valentine’s Day merchandise.

Thereafter, the report Arabic EnglishThe Saudis have openly embraced the holiday, and prices for flowers and heart-shaped gifts — long rising because of the holiday’s secrecy — have fallen.

Please respect copyright. Unauthorized use is prohibited.

Please respect copyright. Unauthorized use is prohibited.

Karachi and Lahore, Pakistan

Valentine’s Day in Pakistan used to have rose vendors and heart-shaped balloons racing down the streets until the country’s High Court banned promotions and celebrations in 2017.

Photo by Masroor, Xinhua via Redux (left) and Jamil Ahmed, Xinhua via Redux (right)


The holiday is a bone of contention in Pakistan. In 2016, the country’s then-president Mamnoon Hussein urged Pakistanis to avoid Valentine’s Day, telling a gathering dominated by schoolgirls that the holiday “has nothing to do with our culture”. The remarks, widely seen as a sign of support from the country’s Islamist hardliners, prompted the country’s high court to issue a ban in 2017 and a decree to remove all traces of Valentine’s Day from public spaces and ban merchandise, advertising or promotions. Media holiday.

This has not dampened the enthusiasm of some Pakistanis. Despite police intervention and surveillance, romantic rebels find ways to obtain flowers and send sentimental holiday gifts to their sweethearts, though most do so in secrecy.

“People still go out and do their own thing and have fun — maybe just in a different way,” a villain who plans to cook a romantic breakfast for his wife on Feb. 14 told the outlet. New York Times 2018. “You can’t forbid love.”

Shah Alam, Malaysia

A Malaysian couple poses for a photo in front of a light installation on the eve of Valentine’s Day. In 2005, the country’s Supreme Islamic Law Council declared the holiday anti-Islam.

Photo by Alamy

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Malaysian authorities have also done their best to cancel the holiday. In 2005, the National Fatwa Council, responsible for interpreting Islamic law and making decrees, declared Valentine’s Day antithetical to Islam because it had “Christian elements”. The ban remains despite Christian groups urging the council to reconsider, claiming there is little connection between modern Valentine’s Day and Christianity.

Religious authorities have since upped the ante, starting mass arrests of couples suspected of celebrating the holiday. In one incident in 2011, authorities in Selangor and Kuala Lumpur targeted couples in budget hotels and parks, calling holidays synonymous with “evil activities”, the BBC reported.


Iran’s religious authorities have turned to the public to prosecute those who celebrate holidays in defiance of strict religious laws. The government has long banned symbols of the day, warning they are “countercultural” and condemning Valentine’s Day as a sign of immorality and the West’s depravity.

But Valentine’s Day has become so popular that some Islamic hardliners are now encouraging the celebration of Sepandārmazgān, an ancient Iranian holiday. The holiday falls on February 23 and is known as Persian Love Day in honor of Spandamad, a Zoroastrian god who represents a loving wife.

Despite the ban on the production and sale of Valentine’s Day cards and other trinkets, that hasn’t stopped many Iranians from secretly celebrating Western holidays.

Kolkata, India

An artist prepares Valentine’s Day decorations in Kolkata, India. Hindu nationalists in the country often protest that the festival is an invasion of immoral Western influence.

Photo by Tumpa Mondal, Xinhua News Agency via Redux

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In India, extreme Hindu nationalists protest the festival and threaten those celebrating, even attacking young couples, cutting their hair or painting their faces black.

A high-profile anti-Valentine’s Day movement has centred on social media platforms, where an estimated 518 million Indians are active as of 2020. In 2015, a fringe far-right Hindu party threatened to force those who openly express their love on social media to marry for Valentine’s Day, and threatened to force anyone it found celebrating the festival in public to also attend impromptu weddings.

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