Sunday, February 17, 2008

Valentine's Slip over Effects in MENA

A decade ago St. Valentine’s Day was a north of Tehran occasion in Iran, and not many heard of it. Today even in Herat in west of Afghanistan shopkeepers decorated in red with hearts in windows because of Valentine’s Day. How this happened?

Although there is no statistical evidence to support this claim, but it seems we witness a slip over effect in the case of Valentine’s Day in Middle East countries. At the beginning the youth used this occasion to express their feelings, since it was something hip and cool. It became fashionable after a bit.

At the beginning it was a few shops in northern Tehran, then it became many stores in many cities, who learning there is demand they began to supply. Now it is a well known custom across the country. Ten years later the teens are all grown up adults who still use this occasion to express their feelings toward their spouses. A change many shopkeepers have noticed in Tehran, telling BBC that now they are shifting their stock to suite the taste of married couples, who happen to spend more than other couples.

Of course the transition is not smooth everywhere. In Saudi morality law enforcement announced that any display of color red in stores is forbidden and any sale because of Valentine’s Day is illegal and punishable. While in Iran authorities have decided to close their eyes and ignore the occasion, either because of upcoming election or the fact that now many married couples participate in it as well, elsewhere in the region hardliners are digging their heels to make one last stand to a matter of heart.

Still the increasing popularity of Valentine’s Day tradition in the region sets an example to what open access to information and cultural exchange can bring to the region. It also emphasizes that once public wants and demands something they hardly can be stop in pursuing it. Especially when domestic suppliers can supply the demand. After awhile the system either needs to adjust itself to new realities or to ignore it. … or to run to store and buy a chocolate box with a red rose if he does not want to sleep on sofa on Valentine’s Night.
* Photo is from BBC website

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