Though the holiday isn’t accepted everywhere in Iraq, the country has developed some of its own traditions. Iraqi Kurds believe in a feast of love. Specifically, that the preservation of a red apple with cloves representing Adam and Eve’s story, will bring prosperity and love, according to The Atlantic.
In a country where modesty is strongly encouraged and public courtship is traditionally oppressed, loosening laws surrounding romance mean a lot to citizens.
“You cannot imagine how happy I am today,” Usama Abdul-Wahab Khatab, a recent university graduate snuggling with his girlfriend at a park in Baghdad, told Reuters.
The couple spent time alone together on the day for sweethearts in 2009. But they still have to be careful. According to Reuters, if they’re caught holding hands by police, they may spend their dinner money on bribes.
For some citizens, Valentine’s Day symbolizes more than heavy petting. Last year, three youth protest groups rallied in Baghdad’s Liberty Square on Valentine’s Day, Radio Free Iraq reports.
“We chose February 14, Valentine’s Day, to prove to the world that we have made the Valentine’s Day of Iraq. We are here today to express our love for Iraq,” Nawf al-Falahi, an Iraqi protester, told Reuters.
“We are so upset. We can’t celebrate Valentine’s Day, because we have a lot of problems,” says another.