Iran cracks down on moral peril of Barbie peddlers

US-made dolls yanked off shelves as rumblings between Tehran, Washington continue
Iran cracks down on moral peril of Barbie peddlers
Shopkeepers have been told to hide Barbies behind locally-produced dolls
By Reuters
Wed 25 Jan 2012 03:54 PM

Iran's morality police are cracking down on the sale of
Barbie dolls to protect the public from what they see as pernicious western
culture eroding Islamic values, shopkeepers said.

As the West imposes the toughest ever sanctions on Iran and
tensions rise over its nuclear program, inside the country the Barbie ban is
part of what the government calls a "soft war" against decadent
cultural influences.

"About three weeks ago they [the morality police] came
to our shop, asking us to remove all the Barbies," said a shopkeeper in a
toy shop in northern Tehran.

Iran's religious rulers first declared Barbie, made by US
company Mattel Inc, un-Islamic in 1996, citing its "destructive cultural
and social consequences." Despite the ban, the doll has until recently
been openly on sale in Tehran shops.

The new order, issued around a month ago, forced shopkeepers
to hide the leggy, busty blonde behind other toys as a way of meeting popular
demand for the dolls while avoiding being closed down by the police.

A range of officially approved dolls launched in 2002 to
counter demand for Barbie have not proven successful, merchants said.

The dolls named Sara, a female, and Dara, a male arrived in
shops wearing a variety of traditional dress, with Sara fully respecting the
rule that all women in Iran must obey in public, of covering their hair and
wearing loose-fitting clothes.

"My daughter prefers Barbies. She says Sara and Dara
are ugly and fat," said Farnaz, a 38-year-old mother, adding that she
could not find Barbie cartoon DVDs as she was told they were also banned from
public sale.

Pointing to a doll covered in black long veil, a 40-year-old
Tehran toy shop manager said: "We still sell Barbies but secretly and put
these in the window to make the police think we are just selling these kinds of

Iran has fought a running battle to purge pervasive western
culture from the country since its Islamic revolution overthrew a
western-backed king in 1979, enforcing Islamic dress codes, banning Western
music and foreign satellite television.

As another swipe at the West, Iranians will soon be able to
buy toy versions of the U.S. spy drone that it captured in December, Iranian
media reported.

Models of the bat-wing RQ-170 Sentinel - which Iran's
military displayed on TV after it was downed near the Afghan border - will be
mass produced in a variety of colours, reports said.

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