Baghdad Valentine Day

February 13, 2012 by staff 

Baghdad Valentine Day, Iraq’s capital is embracing Valentine’s Day this year with a huge public display of affection in what its residents say is the nation’s most amorous celebration of the holiday ever.

Street corners across Baghdad are blanketed with the synthetic red fur of teddy bears, while silken nighties and lip-shaped satin pillows hang in store fronts.

It’s a vivid counterpoint to a place that’s still a far cry from warm and fuzzy – with bombings remaining a fact of life since the withdrawal of US forces two months ago.

“Valentine’s Day is for everybody – not only for lovers,” said Lina, a school administrator who would only identify herself by her first name. She was among the throngs browsing through an array of plush kittens, scented candles, red lamps and heart-shaped purses outside a store this weekend in the Baghdad downtown shopping district of Karradah.

“It’s for you and I, for me and my brother, even for someone on the street. It’s not just about me and my fiancĂ©e,” Lina said. “Iraqis need happy moments to make them forget what they have been through – we have had enough sadness.”

After decades of war and dictator rule, and with improving security, Iraqis say they are able to relax and enjoy Valentine’s this year. Others believe the recent burst of text messages, mobile phones and use of the Internet among Iraqi youth has helped foster romance like never before.

But Valentine’s Day may come with its own baggage.

Conservative Muslims, from Indonesia to Saudi Arabia, have strongly frowned on the holiday’s growing popularity around the world as an encouragement of perceived Western decadence and premarital sex.

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