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Hearts, flowers and kisses are an integral part of Valentine’s Day, which has been celebrated with displays of romance, love and affection for centuries in most Western countries.

A survey of people in 28 countries around the world showed that a whopping 55% of respondents said they planned to mark the occasion with their partner.

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For people in some parts of the world, celebrating this day is taboo or even illegal.

Bans, mass arrests, even threats of forced marriage, are events that left some countries far from “love”.

Saudi Arabia

For decades, February 14 was just “another day” in Saudi Arabia, which banned the celebration of Valentine’s Day because it was against Islamic notions of propriety.

If anyone dared to exchange gifts and flowers in February, they risked being confronted by the religious police, which was the case until about five years ago.
The change came after Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman abolished the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Violence, an agency once responsible for enforcing strict religious rules.

Before the service was abolished, people who dared to celebrate Valentine’s Day were often arrested and shop owners were prevented from selling goods related to the day.

Since then, according to Al Arabiya English , Saudis have embraced the Valentine’s Day, with the prices of flowers and gifts dropping.


Valentine’s Day is a bone of contention for Pakistan. In 2016, the nation’s then-president Mamnoon Hussain urged Pakistanis to shun Valentine’s Day, telling a gathering of mostly female students that the holiday “has nothing to do with our culture”. The statements, which were interpreted as a sign of support by the nation’s Islamist hardliners, led to a 2017 ban by the top court and an order to remove all traces of Valentine’s Day from public spaces, as well as a ban on merchandise, advertising or promoting Valentine’s Day in the media.

This did not dampen the enthusiasm for some Pakistanis. Despite police intervention and surveillance, “romantic guerillas” find ways to celebrate Valentine’s Day, although most do so secretly.


Malaysian authorities also did their best to stamp out Valentine. In 2005, the nation’s Fatwa Council declared Valentine’s Day anti-Islam because it had “elements of Christianity.” Although Christian groups urged the council to reconsider, arguing that there is little connection between modern Valentine’s Day and Christianity, the ban remained.

Religious authorities increased security levels and began mass arrests, mostly of unmarried couples suspected of celebrating Valentine’s Day.


Religious authorities in Iran have turned to citizens, seeking allies against those who celebrate Valentine’s Day in defiance of strict religious laws. The government has long banned any association with the day, warning it is “anti-cultural” and has condemned Valentine’s Day as a sign of immorality and Western decadence.

But Valentine’s Day has become so popular that some hard-line Islamists are now encouraging people to observe an ancient Iranian holiday, Sepandārvāshvān. The holiday, which falls on February 23, is known as the Persian day of love in honor of Spandarmad, a Zoroastrian deity who represented a loving wife.

That hasn’t stopped many Iranians from secretly celebrating the popular Western holiday, despite a ban on the production and sale of Valentine’s cards and related items.


In India, extreme Hindu nationalists protested the celebration of Valentine’s Day and threatened those who celebrate it.

Specifically they attack, even young couples by cutting their hair or blackening their faces with dirt.

An anti-Valentine’s Day campaign was launched on social media platforms, where an estimated 518 million Indians were active and participating as of 2020. In 2015, a fringe far-right Hindu political party threatened to force those who made public displays of affection to their partner , in compulsory marriage.