TEHRAN, Iran – A top Iranian judiciary official warned Monday against the "destructive" cultural and social consequences of importing Barbie dolls and other Western toys.
In the latest salvo in a more than decade-old government campaign against Barbie, Prosecutor General Ghorban Ali Dori Najafabadi said in an official letter to Vice President Parviz Davoudi that the doll and other Western toys are a "danger" that need to be stopped.
"The irregular importation of such toys, which unfortunately arrive through unofficial sources and smuggling, is destructive culturally and a social danger," said the letter, a copy of which was made available to The Associated Press.
Iranian markets have been inundated with smuggled Western toys in recent years partly due to a dramatic rise in purchasing power as a result of increased oil revenues.
While importing the toys is not necessarily illegal, it is discouraged by a government that seeks to protect Iranians from what it calls the negative effects of Western culture.
Najafabadi said the increasing visibility of Western dolls has alarmed authorities and they are considering intervening.
"The displays of personalities such as Barbie, Batman, Spiderman and Harry Potter ... as well as the irregular importation of unsanctioned computer games and movies are all warning bells to the officials in the cultural arena," his letter said.
Najafabadi said Iran is the world's third biggest importer of toys and warned that smuggled imports pose a threat to the "identity" of the new generation.
"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 damages," he said.
Mattel Inc., the maker of Barbie, had no immediate comment Monday on the Iranian action.
Barbie is sold wearing swimsuits and miniskirts in a society where women must wear head scarves in public and men and women are not allowed to swim together.
In 1996, the head of a government-backed children's agency called Barbie a "Trojan horse" sneaking in Western influences such as makeup and revealing clothes.
Authorities launched a campaign of confiscating Barbies from toy shops in 2002, denouncing the un-Islamic sensibilities of the iconic American doll. But the campaign was eventually dropped.
Also in 2002, Iran introduced its own competing dolls — the twins Dara and Sara — who were designed to promote traditional values with their modest clothing and pro-family stories. But the dolls proved unable to stem the Barbie tide.