Ken and Barbie, Not Welcome in Iran

Back in 1996, religious leaders in Iran declared Mattel’s Barbie un-Islamic because of “destructive cultural and social consequences,” but toy sellers largely ignored their edict. Starting in December of last year, though, Iran’s morality police initiated an official ban on the doll (and her companion, Ken). Who will fill the empty shelves? Enter Sara and Dara, created by the Iranian government’s Institute for the Intellectual Development of Children and Young Adults in 2002 “to promote traditional values, with their modest clothing and pro-family backgrounds.” The pair of dolls are modeled after eight-year-old children, and even though that is young enough for Sara not to have to wear a headscarf in public under Islamic law, one is provided with each of her outfits. Quoted in Islam for Today, Masoumeh Rahimi, a toy seller in Iran, welcomes Sara and Dara’s arrival. “I think every Barbie doll is more harmful than an American missile,” she said. Another shop owner, agreed, calling Sara and Dara “an answer to Barbie and Ken, which have dominated Iran’s toy market.” But a Reuter’s report quotes a toy seller in Tehran who has a different opinion of the changes: “We still sell Barbies but secretly and put [dolls covered with veils and wearing loose-fitting clothes] in the window to make the police think we are just selling these kinds of dolls.” And Famaz, a 38-year-old mother, said, “My daughter prefers Barbies. She says Sara and Dara are ugly and fat.” Made in China, a Sara doll sells in Iran for about US$15, compared to US$40 for a real Barbie, and US$3 for a copy.

(Mitra Amiri, “Iran: Morality Police Cracking Down on Barbie Dolls,” Huffpost World, January 16, 2012; “Dara and Sara—Iran’s Islamic Alternative to Ken and Barbie,” Islam for Today)

[the photo is of girls in Iran with a Barbie backpack: “Picture 980” by cordelia_persen, used under a Creative Commons license]