Sunday, February 14, 2010

Valentine's Day Massacre

Well, it's Valentine's Day again, and the annual banning for sale of all things red , heart-shaped, or construed in any way to be reflective of the holiday is in full swing here in Saudi Arabia. Red roses? Heart shaped boxes of chocolates? Strawberries? Sexy red lingerie or cute pink teddy bears? Any of these traditional Valentine's Day items are forbidden from being bought or sold in the Kingdom starting the week preceding this special day for lovers. These items are available on the black market during this time at gouged up prices of at least double or more what one would normally pay any other time of the year. The religious police have raided businesses and destroyed or confiscated inventory as well as closing down the guilty shops at a hefty cost to the business owners. On the TV news here today, I even saw a crowd of people, including small children, surrounding a man who was burning red teddy bears and heart-shaped boxes of chocolate. The really funny thing is that these items are available here the rest of the year without incident.

The reason for this prohibition is because the religious leaders in Saudi Arabia only support the celebration of two Islamic holidays in this country and any other holiday is forbidden and discouraged. But the religious police here seem to really step up their game in their fight to obliterate the enjoyment of Valentine's Day from the Saudi population, as opposed to other Western holidays.

Their interpretation of Valentine's Day of course has to do with sex because here in Saudi Arabia, in their minds, anything having to do with morality has to do with sex. The religious police are afraid that everyone, married or not, will be out looking for anyone to have sex with - that this is what happens on this day in the West - and their mission is to prevent this from happening. Which is rather funny in a place where men and women are not allowed to socialize together in mixed company anyway. The good people of Saudi Arabia cannot be trusted to behave themselves with the high moral standards that are drilled into them from childhood. So they need religious police here to keep everyone in line.

One of the reasons for the ban on Valentine's Day is because of its Christian origins. But how many people in the West really know the history of Valentine's Day? The truth is that not that many people know or even care. It's a day when we recognize and honor the people we love or who are special to us. And what's wrong with that? The religious police don't want anybody celebrating Christmas or Mother's Day either, but they don't make a big stink about it like they do for Valentine's Day. I get the feeling that many people here resent being treated like children who can't control themselves without the religious police breathing down their necks. In fact many people just react in defiance because of the absurdity of it all, by wearing red accessories or by purchasing red roses when they normally wouldn't. If the religious police didn't make such a big deal about it by having this publicized annual crackdown, to many people here, it would likely be just another day.

I find it ironic that a good intentioned holiday like Valentine's Day is forbidden in this country, while at the same time the women here are put in the uncomfortable position where they are forced to purchase their bras and panties from strange men in lingerie shops. It doesn't make a lot of sense, does it? The women of Saudi Arabia have now organized a two week boycott coinciding with Valentine's Day - rallying against the ridiculous situation of men selling underwear to women. I hope the boycott is a success and sends the message that these crazy confusing contradictions must come to an end... Happy Valentine's Day, Everyone!!!

To read more about Valentine's Day in Saudi Arabia and the boycott against buying women's undergarments going on right now, here are some articles:
Happy Valentine's Day...or Not!
Haia Sees Red Again
Ban Men From Selling Lingerie in KSA by SaudiWoman
Ban the Bra...Salesmen!
Peddling Panties

38 comments:

  1. Happy Valentine's Day Susie. But please, maintain your dignity and DO NOT take this day as an excuse to go out fornicating with strangers! (Hold off til tomorrow!)

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  2. Well, happy You-know-what Day to you, Susie.

    Great last picture; don't pull the pin!

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  3. Lol oh dear i better not go out in my car today as its red hahaha, hope you and adnan had a wonderful valentines day hun :) Trae, dan and jazz

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  4. Just how high can I make you jump? Surely, the brains of the people in SA are no different from anyone elses...why don't they use them? The use of intimidation is absurd. Good for the two week boycott.

    Have a very Happy Valentine's day...I hope you don't get frowned upon (or worse) if we say this to you on February 14th.

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  5. It does seem kind of crazy. Funny that they think people are out having sex all over the place. SOOOOO not what happens. I am sure some young lovers might view it as a special day to celebrate physically,(but do they really need an excuse to do so???) but anyone married a while knows it certainly is not a day to get all hot and bothered. I think a lot of husbands view it with some trepidation...there is a lot of pressure in getting a gift for the woman. "If it isn't just right she may not think I love her enough". My husband once asked me if he could get me one Wowza of a gift and could it suffice for the entire year. He gets tense at times like this. some people put too much pressure on the romance of the day which, when under pressure romance can melt faster than snow in summer.

    I think if people are going to recognize the day they should just see it as a day of love for your loved ones. My husband, my daughter and myself go out for a nice dinner and maybe he buys me roses or a card. We don't make a big deal out of it.
    He shows his love for me everyday by getting up when it is still dark outside to go to work and take care of our family. He doesn't need one day to show us he loves us. Plus, as my daughter said to him the other day "Dad you are really lousy at the romance stuff". She's 10 and I am sure holding out hopes that one day her Prince will bring her flowers and a romantic dinner! LOL!

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  6. I'm not sure why, but reading your post made me wonder whether some don't just leave the KSA for a couple of days to celebrate? I guess they do since the research for my own post on Valentine's Day led me to Dubai's Hotel packages and the full celebrations in Dubai and other GCC and MENA countries.

    Any idea?

    btw I updated my post on the Lingerie ban for the kick off, with a short new one. That is another way to celebrate I guess.

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  7. Hi TheQueen - Thanks and same to you! I promise I'll try to control myself! Maybe it would be best if I just stay locked up inside the house all day!

    Hi Dina - Thanks! That last photo that you like is from a Green Day album.

    Hi Trae - You too! Thanks.

    Hi Lori - I don't think we'll get into trouble for wishing one another a Happy V.D. If these type of things made sense, it would be so much easier to understand...

    Hi Oby - I agree - we don't play it up big either. In fact, my husband had such a busy day today that he's taking me out for breakfast tomorrow and that's fine with me. My hubby is like yours - He says that for him, every day is Valentine's Day. Mine used to be pretty romantic, and he still surprises me occasionally. I have no complaints there...

    Hi Chiara - I'm sure there are some who do leave to celebrate. The kids are all off from school this week too, so I would think even more left the country than usual.

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  8. My MIL in KSA has never even noticed the ban (of course, maybe she's never looked for red lingerie on Feb. 14th...). She's from the eastern province (Shia territory) and I was wondering if things are just different there, or if she's just naive about the whole thing because it's unimportant to her.

    My Saudi husband and I had a wonderful Valentine's day here in the states complete with red roses, a heart shaped box of chocolates, and a victoria's secret gift card. The Saudi government needs to lay off on the whole "under their thumb" approach to people control. When people feel stifled, they have no choice but to act out.

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  9. Happy Valentine's Day, Susie!

    When I was a child this was just another fun day at school when we would have special art projects, sing songs, and make cards to exchange and eat candy.

    When I was older it was a day to buy or make cards for my parents and friends and to let the people I cared about know how much they meant to me. And eat candy.

    And now it is still a special day set aside to remind loved ones how special they are with a small gift, dinner, or card. And eat candy.

    I never knew, met, or heard of these people who use this day to behave badly. Strange ideas SA has of the West. This day has always been a family and friend appreciation day.

    Hope you have a fun day. And that you get to eat some candy too.

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  10. Callie...

    I like the candy theme that runs throughout your Valentine's day childhood to adulthood. YUM!

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  11. I find it amusing that the powers that be in your country place so much emphasis on how HORNY it's population presumably is or could be without it's safe guards.

    Seems to have the opposite effect if you ask me. Women are cloaked and mysterious.. unavailable.. And apparently too much for the average SA to control himself over!

    Does not bode well for the men in your society but then again little does from my Canadian eyes.

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  12. Seems like just another excuse to scare people away from Western ways. Are you Allowed to celebrate birthdays? Glady you and hubby will get a chance to celebrate in your own way. Nothing much happened here.

    I like Callie's idea, eat more candy.

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  13. I'm with Callie, lets eat some candy.

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  14. I repeat this again:

    Saudi men come to Egypt in the summer time, "marry" Egyptian girls for the vacation time, divorce them at the end of the holiday.

    Saudi men also party, drink, use protitute services.

    Saudi women come here for holiday, unveil themselves, look like any Western woman, end of the holiday before leaving the hotel, they cover themselves again.

    What does that tell about these people and their religion?
    At home you behave like this and abroad like that?

    Why Saudi men can do what ever they want to do but women should be like prisoners?

    Fundamentalists are the worst in this world.
    No human being shouldn't be in any god's position.

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  15. Dear Susie, I just read your comment and it really put a warm smile on my face!! Thank-you sooo much, my friend -- wallah I appreciate it <3

    Now about this post...

    There are so many things that the Saudi is doing wrong -- what seems to be a constant urge to control the masses -- the un-healthy segregation of the sexes -- WOMEN NOT BEING ALLOWED TO DRIVE...

    I could go on and on and while I'm sure there *are* good things about Saudi, it's just a shame that we don't really see the positive aspects of Saudi culture being communicated. And the students coming to my old city in Canada sure don't do anything to help their image... Meanwhile, I don't celebrate Valentines' Day because I am aware of the history behind it and it's not something I feel all over-joyed with love & happiness. That being said, I do celebrate non-Muslim holidays such as Thanksgiving Day with my non-Muslim family. You'll find people going crazy with the whole "that's haraam!" but in our religion there is something called balance & moderation, and being strong enough in our `aqeedah (creed) to be able to control ourselves in regards to the many different situations today. Unfortunately many Muslims fail to educate themselves or understand this concept.

    Oh well...

    PS I am being Anonymous for now but I think u know who this is ;-)

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  16. Very interesting blog. You're a brave woman writing these things on the web. Happy Valentine's anyway!

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  17. happy valentines day ms.susie...

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  18. I am currently in Amman and the past two days I have noticed a considerable number of cars and men from KSA... I was wondering what brought so many of them here so suddenly and this post has solved the mystery... Valentines Day! It's a pretty big deal here in Jordan, and I guess these Saudis wanted in on the fun. I had no clue.

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  19. visiting via Bloitise.
    You are really brave to have this blog.
    Just reading it makes me kinda scared shitless...

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  20. It's just another stupid commercial holiday.
    I prefer getting gifts and flowers just because he thought of me, not because the expectation is there a pagan day.
    You should also know ,it's known as a very depressing day for a lot of single people,newly widowed or divorced and some poor kids at school feel left behind.

    Sara

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  21. I found the post interesting - I didn't know about how Valentines Day is observed (or not) in Saudi Arabia or the Muslim world in general. I assumed it just wasn't a big deal, I didn't know it was banned. It might technically be a saints day and therefore a Christian holiday but it's plenty secular. In fact, I was chatting to an Israeli friend the other day and she says everyone in Israel celebrates it (as well as the Hebrew day for lovers in the summer), except for the Orthodox.

    I found it interesting that you describe it as "a day when we recognize and honor the people we love or who are special to us." It does seem in the US that people give Valentines cards or gifts to friends or family. Where I come from (Australia) it is very much just for lovers. You'd never give a Valentines card to your mother, for example.

    It's not really my favourite holiday - it has to be the worst day of the year to eat out, the flowers are overpriced and I don't like the tat. I have other special days that I observe with my husband instead, so we don't miss out on the romance. This year I took a very minimalist approach - one single card sent to the object of my affections/desire (my husband) from a secret admirer. Fun without being a drama.

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  22. Callie said: "When I was a child this was just another fun day at school when we would have special art projects, sing songs, and make cards to exchange and eat candy."

    This is what I was getting at in my last comment. This is very foreign to me. Valentines Day is definitively not for children in my culture. It's not anything until you reach dating age.

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  23. Hi Susie, I've been a long time reader and am starting up my own blog, hope it's okay that I link to yours for this Valentine's Post.
    Thanks!

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  24. It always amazes me how hypocritical fundamentalists are when it comes to actually practicing what they preach. Do they think no one notices that that are not "men", let alone "men of their word" when they cavort in foreign lands? To use religion as a tool to suppress women reveals an immaturity and deep set fear. This unadaptable tribal mentality will implode the nation one day.

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  25. it doesn't have any christian origins, in fact its a pagan ritual. that is why its banned in Islam. we don't ONE day to feel love for someone, we have the whole year thank God.

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  26. Actually Valentine's Day has both pre-Christian Roman and Christian origins, as I discussed in my post on the topic:

    St Valentine, His Day, and Its Celebration

    Saudi is certainly free, in my opinion, not to celebrate, and is spared the violence that has occurred in India and Indonesia over it, but the holiday is definitely not a holy day, and barely ever was one in the Roman Catholic liturgical calendar.

    Celebrating one's love everyday, and on a special day are not required, but not mutually exclusive either.

    I do hope you will read the post if you are interested.

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  27. This is totally unrelated and it just came to my mind because I saw the picture of the woman veiled reaching for the candy: Do men cross dress there? It would seem so easy for this to occur.

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  28. look at the pic more closely, its the back of her. Not the front.

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  29. if you look closely she is touching her sunglasses in the front (what at first appears to be the back of her head).

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  30. Did you celebrate Valentine's Day with your husband?

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  31. You must be exhausted by the legalism! I am and I only live in "Q8". I am guessing in spite of all their best efforts, fornication still exsists in KSA.

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  32. Thanks so much for all the comments! Sorry I got behind in addressing each one individually, but I was without internet for a few days...

    Hi Nikki - The more that things are forbidden, the more people will want it. It's human nature!

    Hi Callie - As a confirmed chocoholic, I must say that your ideas about Valentines Day are totally in sync with mine!!!

    Hi Anon @7:44AM - Exactly! Everything points to sex here. They can throw sex into a "What if?" situation like nowhere else. I have never ever thought that way before in my life!

    Hi Gaelyn - Some people here DO celebrate birthdays, but many people do not. The only two holidays that are recognized officially here are religious.

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  33. Hi BlogItse - Some Saudi men act deplorably when they are out of the country. They are poor examples of their religion. But I also have to say that there are many Saudi men who are decent, fair and good human beings. To me, the women who dress differently in and out of this place are obviously forced into wearing the garb here in KSA and that it is NOT their choice.

    Hi Anon @ 1:40PM - XOX!!!

    Hi Helena & MightyDacz - Thanks - and same to you, even though I'm late now...!!!

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  34. Hi Caitlin - I think if the religious police didn't make such a big deal about it each year, and let things be, there would really be not much out of the ordinary happening. It's their method that ticks people off and makes them defiant. In the US, it's really more a day of being nice to everyone, but of course, much more special when you are in love!

    Hi Monica - I'm honored! Best wishes with your new blog!

    Hi Linda - So true.

    Hi Anon @10:39AM - Most people don't know it, but SAINT Valentines Day started as a Christian holiday, named after a Christian martyr.

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  35. Hi Yoli - Yes, men have actually been arrested when they are caught cross dressing as women.

    Hi Pat - He usually takes me out for dinner, but this year, he was so busy on that day, there was no time - so he took me out for breakfast the next morning. I'm okay with that. In past years in the states, he made a bigger deal about it, with flowers, candies, etc., sometimes even a romantic weekend getaway.

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  36. Another shocking post. I won't say more, I'm sure you know what I think.


    Thanks for bringing all of this to us Susie. I hope you had a happy non-special day anyway.

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  37. Valentine's Day is for everyone, I think. To me, it's just a good reason to buy presents for people whom you care about.

    My dad always made sure that all the ladies in the family, from the great-aunts to the littlest niece, had their heart-shaped box of candy with all the frippery on top. The great-aunties appreciate being remembered, and the little girls get all bug-eyed over red satin (you know how it is!)

    I usually buy for family and friends, but this year, since I'm far from home, it was the cleaning ladies and secretaries at work who got all the red-wrapped chocolates. Valentine's day doesn't have to be for couples. It's for showing that you appreciate and like someone for who they are.

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  38. Hi Crystal - They try very hard to control morals here, but those in charge of that are only human themselves, so it can make for some interesting news articles...

    Hi Nathalie - You're welcome. Thanks - my day was good - I have no complaints...

    Hi Anon on Feb.28 - Your idea of Valentine's Day is exactly like mine. It's not just for lovers. Thanks for your comment.

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