Image: Iranian shopkeeper
Vahid Salemi  /  AP
Shopkeeper Hamid Reza Delband displays Barbie dolls at his shop in Tehran.
updated 4/28/2008 3:04:30 PM ET 2008-04-28T19:04:30

A top Iranian judiciary official warned Monday against the "destructive" cultural and social consequences of importing Barbie dolls and other Western toys.

Prosecutor General Ghorban Ali Dori Najafabadi said in an official letter to Vice President Parviz Davoudi that the Western toys posed a "danger" that needed to be stopped.

"The irregular importation of such toys, which unfortunately arrive through unofficial sources and smuggling, is destructive culturally and a social danger," Najafabadi said in his 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 made its name on preserving Iran from Western cultural influences.

In Monday's letter, Najafabadi said the increasing visibility of Western dolls was raising the alarm among authorities who were 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," the letter said.

Smuggled imports pose threat
Najafabadi said Iran was the world's third biggest importer of toys, and these smuggled imports posed 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.

Authorities launched a temporary campaign of confiscating Barbie from toy stores in 2002, denouncing the un-Islamic sensibilities of the iconic American doll. The campaign was eventually discontinued.

That same year, though, Iran introduced a competing doll — the twins Dara and Sara, who promoted traditional values with their modest clothing and pro-family stories but they proved unable to stem the Barbie tide.

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.

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.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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