TEHRAN – 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 on Monday.
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 U.S. 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 three weeks ago, forced shopkeepers to hide the leggy, busty blond 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 Barbie’s. 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 Barbie’s but secretly and put these in the window to make the police think we are just selling these kinds of dolls.”
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.
Instead of the original RQ-170 Sentinel drone, the Islamic Republic said Tuesday that it will send President Obama a tiny toy replica of the plane.
Iranian state radio said that the toy model will be 1/80th the size of the real thing. Iranian citizens can also buy their own toy copies of the drone, which will be available in stores for the equivalent of $4.
The White House formally requested return of the drone after the Iranians displayed it on state television. The U.S. says that the craft was operating over Eastern Afghanistan.
The Iranians claim they detected the drone well inside Iran’s border and then took control of the craft electronically and brought it down safely. The U.S. has denied that the craft came down for any reason other than technical malfunction.
On Dec. 11, after President Obama said he had requested the return of the drone, an Iranian general said that it was not going to happen. The general also warned on Iranian television of a “bigger response” to the “hostile act” of crossing into Iranian airspace.
“No one returns the symbol of aggression to the party that sought secret and vital intelligence related to the national security of a country,” Iranian Islamic Revolution Guards Corps [IRGC] Lt. Commander Gen. Hossein Salami said, according to Iran’s Fars News Agency.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that “given Iran’s behavior to date, we do not expect them to comply” with Obama’s request. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta also said he didn’t expect Iran to hand over the drone, but told reporters, “I think it’s important to make that request.”
By RANDY KREIDER
- Obama to Iran: Please Give Me Back My Drone (news.firedoglake.com)