February 14 — it's a day that we usually associate with Valentine's Day. But this modern holiday marks a lot more than your budding (or nonexistent) relationship.
Around the world, February 14th has meant life-changing events for individuals, countries and whole regions. From the execution of young activists to the takedown of gang leaders, today marks the anniversary of some transformative, historical events. From the Middle Ages to the modern day, Valentine's Day holds the memory of many important pieces of history.
If you're tired of the usual watering-hole conversation on dates and mates, these seven events will make for interesting and important discussion.
Cupid, you're interesting, but these stories are way more important:
1. Bahrain's Day of Rage
Inspired by the uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, Bahraini youth launched nation-wide protests against the repressive regime of Sheikh Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa. Taking to social media to spread the word, young activists called for the general public "to share in our rallies in a peaceful and civilized way to guarantee a stable and promising future for ourselves and our children." With calls for a more democratic government, marches drew members of all sectors of Bahraini society.
The government's inhumane response drew international attention. The Bahraini regime opened fire on unarmed protesters, carried out midnight raids of opposition leaders, detained and tortured prisoners (including children and doctors helping protesters). Their excessive use of tear gas was characterized as chemical weapon use.
The Kingdom largely suppressed the revolution, but protests continued well into 2013. This year's commemoration protests have prompted Amnesty International to release a statement warning of government violence.
2. Strasbourg Massacre
In 1349, February 14th marked the massacre of several hundred Jews. It was the first pogrom in pre-modern history. While disguised as a measure to protect citizens from the Black Plague sweeping the country, the massacre was driven by antisemitism.
The violence started when guilds organized a demonstration a few days before based on the belief that the power of the master tradesmen was too great and that then-leader Peter Swarber would put an end to protecting Jewish workers. But new leaders of the city did not care about the Jewish population, nor the financial impact their loss would have on the city. The gruesome killings are said to have lasted 60 days.
3. Dresden Bombings
In the final months of the World War II, British and American forces carried out a series of air raids on the city of Dresden, the capital of the German state of Saxony. Approximately 3,330 tons of bombs were dropped on the city, killing as many a 135,000 people. Dresden is said to have been targeted for its war factories producing ammunition for the Nazis. Others argue it was to punish Germany and weaken its morale.
4. Khomeini Calls for Rushdie's Execution
Twenty-five years ago today, Iran's former leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa calling for the hunt and execution of British writer Salman Rushdie. Rushdie's book "The Satanic Verses," which used magical realism to depict controversial topics such as the wives of prophet Muhammad and declared the infallibility of the Islamic holy book, the Qur'an, outraged Muslims worldwide. Religious organizations set a bounty on Rushdie's head at 2.5 million euros.The book was banned in several countries including India, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Pakistan. After failed assassination attempts, Rushdie was forced to live in hiding and then under police protection for 13 years.
5. Oscar Wilde's Defining Production
Oscar Wilde's most enduring play, "The Importance of Being Earnest," opened at the St. James's Theatre in London. The comedy follows a man who, in order to escape weighty social obligations, juggles made up personae. His play offers a funny critique of the strict social conventions that marked the Victorian era.
6. Arizona Born
President William Howard Taft signed the 48th state of Arizona into existence! Shortly after, the state added an amendment to its constitution allowing for the recall of appointed judges, an important political move in the state.
7. Al Capone's Rivals Gang Gunned Down
The dramatic Prohibition-era war between the South Side Italian gang led by Al Capone and the North Side Irish gang led by Bugs Moran was brutal. In 1929, the "St. Valentine's Day Massacre" took place in a Chicago garage as seven rivals of Al Capone's gang were gunned down. The bodies of the seven gang leaders were recovered in a freezing garage.