Agency: Iran shuts down shops selling Barbie dolls

January 20, 2012 - 2:15 PM
Mideast Iran Barbie Dolls

FILE - In this file photo taken Monday, April 28, 2008, Iranian shopkeeper Hamid Reza Delband displays a doll at his toy shop, in Tehran, Iran. Police have closed down dozens of toy shop for selling Barbie dolls, part of a decades-long crackdown on signs of Western culture in Iran, the semi official Mehr news agency reported Friday, Jan. 20, 2012. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi, File)

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Police have closed down dozens of toy shops for selling Barbie dolls in Iran, part of a decades-long crackdown against "manifestations of Western culture," the semiofficial Mehr news agency reported Friday.

Barbie dolls are sold wearing swimsuits and miniskirts in a society where women must wear headscarves in public, and men and women are not allowed to swim together.

A ban on the sale of the Barbies, designed to look like young Western women, was imposed in the mid-1990s. In its latest report, Mehr quoted an unidentified police official as saying authorities confiscated the dolls from Tehran stores in a "new phase" of the campaign.

In 1996, a government-backed children's agency called Barbie a "Trojan horse," sneaking in Western influences such as makeup and revealing clothes.

Authorities started confiscating the dolls from stores in 2002, denouncing what they called the toys' un-Islamic characteristics. The campaign was eventually dropped.

Iran that year also introduced its own dolls — twins Dara and Sara, designed to promote traditional values with modest clothing and pro-family values — but those proved unable to stem the Barbie tide.

Despite bans on many Western books, movies, satellite TV channels, music, haircuts and fashion, young people maintain their interest in that culture.

Iran's state TV channels broadcast several Western and Hollywood films every week. Islamists have repeatedly tried to fight what they see as a cultural "invasion" since 1979 Islamic Revolution that ousted a pro-Western monarchy.

Since then, importing Western toys has been discouraged by the regime.

In 2008, the Iranian judiciary warned against the "destructive" cultural and social consequences and "danger" of importing Barbie dolls and other Western toys. Even so, Iranian markets have been full of them. One-third of Iran's population of 75 million is under 15.