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Iran outlaws Barbies, may have the right idea

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It's no secret that Iran and the Euro-flavored blob collectively referred to as "the West" aren't the best of friends. But now Iran is hitting America where it hurts. Right in the Barbies.

Iran's morality police have begun cracking down on sales of the popular doll, asking shopkeepers to remove the flaxen-haired icon from their shelves. The top-heavy valkyrie has been out of favor in the Islamic Republic for some time, having been officially declared un-Islamic in 1996, but until recently the dolls were still being sold openly. Now as Iran's relationship with the West becomes ever more prickly, Barbie is the latest casualty.

Despite the crackdown, Barbies are apparently still selling well on the black market (which sounds rather less seedy when the product is a kid's toy) although Iran has done its best to offer a state-sanctioned, Islamic-law-abiding alternative.

A range of officially approved dolls launched in 2002 to counter demand for Barbie have not proven successful, merchants told Reuters.

The dolls named Sara, a female, and Dara, a male, arrived in shops wearing a variety of traditional dress, with Sara fully respecting the rule that all women in Iran must obey in public, of covering their hair and wearing loose-fitting clothes.

"My daughter prefers Barbies. She says Sara and Dara are ugly and fat," said Farnaz, a thirty-eight-year-old mother, adding that she could not find Barbie cartoon DVDs as she was told they were also banned from public sale.

While they appear to this correspondent to be a happy, healthy weight, this is a matter for the court of six-year-old opinion. And it's not exactly shocking that Mattel© can outdo The Islamic Republic of Iran© in an arms race to create the prettiest doll. A Barbie-ban would probably be going too far in the States, but considering the potential negative effects on impressionable kids, why not just regulate the dolls like cigarettes and alcohol? "Of course you can have a Barbie, dear. When you're eighteen."

But the bodacious career girl is only one of many vices that have been targeted in Iran in recent years, with a list that includes such moral hazards as squirt guns, dancing in kindergarten, ankle unveilings, chic clothes and something called "snow skiing."