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Middle East

Police raids aim to stamp out sales of Barbie dolls


Iran has opened up a new front in its propaganda war with the West – by cracking down on the sale of Barbie dolls. Iran's feared morality police has raided shops selling Barbie dolls, confiscating the popular toy from stores and forcing some shopkeepers to close.

The semi-official Mehr news agency quoted a police officer as saying that it was a "new phase" in its long-standing efforts to stamp out "manifestations of Western culture".

The move comes as tensions between the West and Iran over Tehran's nuclear ambitions take on a new hue.

In a country where women are required to wear a headscarf in public and dress in loose-fitting clothes, Barbie, with her nubile figure and wardrobe of scanty miniskirts, is considered an affront to norms of modesty by the clerics who have assumed responsibility for Iranians' moral conduct since the Western-backed Shah was overthrown in 1979.

Iran first banned the Barbie doll in 1996. More recently, Iran's judiciary suggested that Barbie dolls and other Western toys posed a "danger" to Iranian society. But their utterances did little to dim sales of the doll.

Since a new order banning the sale of Barbie dolls came into effect just under a month ago, many shop-owners continue to sell Barbie in secret, but hide her behind other more modestly-dressed dolls.