Iranians celebrate Valentine's Day, despite its being banned

TEHRAN, Iran — Some Iranian youth are celebrating Valentine's Day even though authorities have banned the celebrations as part of "decadent Western culture."

Coffee shops and restaurants are crowded with boys and girls celebrating with their loved ones and exchanging red-colored, romance-themed presents.

Since 2011, Iranian authorities have prohibited any advertisement, sale of goods or unisex tours with the Valentine's Day name or symbols.

But shopkeepers said teddy bears, chocolate boxes with heart signs and other gifts suitable for lovers were available in abundance.

The annual Feb. 14 homage to romance, which tradition says is named after an early Christian martyr, has become popular in recent years in Iran and other Middle East countries.

The backlash in the Islamic Republic is part of a drive against the spread of Western culture.

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