Love in the air for Iranians defying Valentine's ban

Tue Feb 14, 2012 10:05am EST
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TEHRAN (Reuters) - Young Iranians abandoned thoughts of sanctions, nuclear power and economic hardship on Tuesday in favor of shopping for gifts and making dinner plans to celebrate love on Valentine's Day.

Despite rising tensions with the West over its nuclear ambitions, many Tehran restaurants were fully booked and young Iranians could be seen out browsing gift shops in the capital to buy presents for loved ones in defiance of a ban on Valentine's Day items aimed at preventing the spread of "Western culture."

Iranian authorities banned the sale of Valentine cards and other heart-shaped products last year and police have warned that action will be taken against those who violate the ban.

"This year they told us not to sell any red roses otherwise we can face the closure of our flower shop," said a 40-year-old female florist in north Tehran.

Tension has been mounting between Iran and the West over the Islamic state's nuclear program, which Washington and its allies say is a cover to build bombs. Iran denies this, saying it needs nuclear technology to generate electricity.

Foreign sanctions imposed on Iran over its refusal to halt the country's sensitive nuclear work, has had a negative impact on the country's economy.

Despite the hardship from sanctions and the state ban, many gift shops in Tehran are decorated with red ribbons, lights and candles to attract young customers, who mainly buy three red roses - one for each word in the English phrase "I love you."

Heart-shaped red balloons and soft toys are also a favorite, while rich Iranians opt for perfume and jewellery.

"I am certain, like previous years, we will run out of roses as lots of people have already ordered flowers for their loved ones," the florist said.   Continued...

<p>An Iranian woman looks for Valentine's day gifts in Tehran February 14, 2010. REUTERS/Morteza Nikoubazl</p>