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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 the morality police came to our shop, asking us to remove all the Barbies,” said a shopkeeper in a toy store in northern Tehran.
Sara and Dara, dolls that have been officially sanctioned for sale by the Iranian government. Iran’s religious rulers first declared Barbie, made by U.S. company Mattel, 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 about three weeks 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 told Reuters.
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 because she was told they were also banned from public sale.
Update: This has been going on for a while. Here’s a video from 2008.
Update: If there was evidence Ahmadinejad was behind this, I’d title this post “Iranian Shrimp on The Barbie.”