Uzbekistan crushes Valentine’s Day

By Nicholas Nehamas

Good news for lazy boyfriends in Uzbekistan: the former Soviet republic has officially banned Valentine’s Day.

In Tashkent, roses for Hillary, thorns for Valentine's Day (Reuters/Kevin Lamarque)

The holiday has origins in the Christian Feast of St. Valentine and the Uzbeki government is said to be upset by its popularity in this predominantly Muslim nation. Last year, the newspaper Turkiston quoted authorities as saying Valentine’s Day was “the work of evil forces bent on putting an end to national values.”

Babur, eloquent in love for both women and men

Concerts and other events planned for the day have been canceled, the Russian news agency Ria Novosti reported. In their place, the capital city, Tashkent, will host public readings of poetry by Babur, a 16thcentury Mughal conqueror who is a hero in modern Uzbekistan and whose birthday happens to fall on February 14th. It’s unclear if the organizers will choose to read any of Babur’s love poems. If they do, it’s a safe bet that they’ll skip over these lines, written for an adolescent boy, soon after Babur’s first marriage:

May no one be so distraught and devastated by love as I;
May no beloved be so pitiless and careless as you.[1]

Homosexuality is illegal in Uzbekistan and the government isn’t crazy about sex, period. Last year, a district in Tashkent banned the sale of women’s lingerie.

Uzbekistan has been in the news lately for more serious reasons as well: it has been the United States’ primary supply route into Afghanistan since NATO helicopters killed twenty-eight Pakistani soldiers on Nov. 28 of last year. Meanwhile, human rights groups have accused Uzbekistan of routinely using torture in criminal justice proceedings while its Western allies turn a blind eye.

Last Thursday in Alabama an Uzbek man pled guilty to plotting the assassination of President Obama.

Uzbekistan, we have to ask, where is the love?

[1] Translated by Wheeler M. Thackston in his 2002 edition of the Baburnama, Random House, p. 153.

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