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Tuesday, 5 March, 2002, 18:38 GMT
Muslim dolls tackle 'wanton' Barbie
An Iranian woman looks at the Sara (L) and Dara dolls
Toy sellers are welcoming the new characters
Meet Dara and Sara, Iran's answer to Ken and Barbie.

The Muslim dolls have been developed by a government agency to promote traditional values, with their modest clothing and pro-family backgrounds.

I think every Barbie doll is more harmful than an American missile

Toy seller Masoumeh Rahimi

They are widely seen as an effort to counter the American dolls and accessories that have flooded the Iranian market

Toy seller Masoumeh Rahimi welcomed the dolls, saying Barbie was "foreign to Iran's culture" because some of the buxom, blonde dolls have revealing clothing.

She said young girls who play with Barbie, a doll she sees as wanton, could grow into women who reject Iranian values.

"I think every Barbie doll is more harmful than an American missile," Ms Rahimi said.

Loving parents

Dara and Sara were born as characters in school books and their lives have also grown in stories that are being sold on cassette along with the dolls.

Dara and Sara are strategic products to preserve our national identity

Toy seller Mehdi Hedayat

They have been developed and are being marketed by the Institute for the Intellectual Development of Children and Young Adults, a government agency affiliated with the Ministry of Education.

The siblings help each other solve problems and turn to their loving parents for guidance.

100,000 dolls

The children are supposed to be eight years old, young enough under Islamic law for Sara to appear in public without a headscarf.

But each of the four models of Sara comes with a white scarf to cover her brown or black hair.

Another toy seller, Mehdi Hedayat, said: "Dara and Sara are strategic products to preserve our national identity.

"And of course, it is an answer to Barbie and Ken, which have dominated Iran's toy market."

Some 100,000 dolls have been manufactured - in China - and each will sell for 125,000 rials ($15) compared with 332,000 rials for a genuine Barbie and 25,000 rials for a copy.

See also:

08 Feb 02 | Country profiles
Country profile: Iran
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