Shops in Iran have been banned from selling Valentine cards and gifts, the ILNA news agency reported on Sunday, as the traditional lovers' day gains increasing popularity in the Islamic republic.
"In the run-up to Valentine's Day on February 14 the printing works owners' union issued a directive banning the printing and distribution of any goods promoting this day," ILNA news agency reported.
Advertisement"Printing and producing any goods related to this day including posters, boxes and cards emblazoned with hearts or half-hearts, red roses and any activities promoting this day are banned," the union said in the directive.
"Outlets that violate this will be legally dealt with," it warned.
Over the past three decades Iran's conservative Islamic regime has sought to prevent the spread of Western culture among its overwhelmingly young population.
But Valentine's Day has become very popular in Iran over the past decade, with young men and women exchanging chocolate, flowers, perfume, teddy bears and other gifts on February 14.
Every year gift shops in large cities are festooned with Valentine's Day paraphernalia and restaurants in Tehran are packed with young men and women out on a date.
However, the trend has been harshly criticised by conservatives who see no room in Islamic culture for such celebrations.
Some nationalist Iranians have also suggested replacing Valentine's Day with Mehregan -- a pre-Islamic but obsolete festival in early October -- marking the autumn equinox and honouring the ancient Persian angel of love, Mithra.
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