Uzbeks reject government ban on Valentine’s Day

Authorities in the central Asian state of Uzbekistan have canceled several Valentine's Day events as part of attempts to encourage the population to commemorate the birthday of the first Moghul emperor Babur instead, the BBC reports.

Zahir-ud-din Muhammad Babur was a descendant of Genghis Khan who founded the Moghul empire in India in 1526.  He is credited with spreading Persian cultural influences across South and Central Asia, and Uzbekistan's Education Ministry has organized several readings and poetry festivals in his honor.

An official from the ministry's Department for Enlightenment and Promoting Values, who wanted to remain anonymous, told the BBC that an internal decree had been issued "not to celebrate holidays that are alien to our culture and instead promote Babur's birthday".

The news has met with mixed reactions.  

One resident of the capital Tashkent argued in favor of calling off the concert.  "It's the birthday of our great ancestor Mohammed Shredding Babur. Why should we celebrate some artificial, lightweight event? It doesn't fit our mentality and our history," he said.

Among the events canceled is a pop concert by local star Rayhan, which has been held every Feb. 14 for the last ten years.

"It's a shame that instead of going to a concert we'll have to waste a couple of hours at some tedious event the university will put on,” one student reportedly said.

The BBC says local publishers had previously reported that the state information agency warned against publishing Valentine's Day material in the past.  However, it refers to the independent Uzbek news website,, which conducted an informal survey and found that most of those questioned were planning to celebrate as usual, eating out or going to a club.

The Uzbek authorites have reportedly cracked down on other so-called Western influences in recent weeks, for example attacking soap operas from Mexico and Latin America as "too explicit" and accusing them of undermining local values and traditions.

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