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In Iran, Barbie seen as cultural invader

A veiled Muslim doll launched in 2002, the Iranian Sara, has failed to counter Barbie's popularity in Tehran.

Iranian shopkeeper Hamid Reza Delband displayed American Barbie dolls at his shop, in Tehran, in this April 28 file photo.

Vahid Salemi/AP/FILE

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According to Iran's judiciary, the most dangerous items in a Tehran toy shop are not the lifelike pistols and sub-machine guns in the display case. The authorities have instead singled out the hot-pink boxes showcasing Barbie dolls as the real portents of a Western "cultural invasion."

Illegally imported Barbie dolls are "destructive culturally and a social danger," Iranian prosecutor Ghorban Ali Dori Najafabadi warned in a letter last April. Barbie, Batman, Spiderman, and Harry Potter toys, he wrote, are a "danger that needs to be stopped." He added: "Undoubtedly, the personality and identity of the new generation and our children, as a result of unrestricted importation of toys, has been put at risk and caused irreparable damage."

The curvaceous and often scantily clad Barbie dolls with peroxide-blond hair and a suggestion of unbridled Western fun are seen here as a direct challenge to the conservative and religious sensibilities officials hope to encourage. But a decade-long, anti-Barbie campaign waged by hard-liners has met with little success.

Toy sellers have yet to hear about new rules limiting the sale of Barbie, once famously labeled a "Trojan Horse with many cultural invading soldiers inside it."


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