Posted at 10:48 AM ET, 01/17/2012

Iran removes Barbie doll from shelves — what else do ‘morality police’ do?

Iran’s morality police are cracking down on the sale of Barbie dolls, Reuters reported Tuesday. Over the past three weeks, the police have visited a number of shops in Tehran and demanded the dolls be removed.

Barbie. (AP)
The ban on Barbie, first instituted in 1996 for the doll’s “destructive cultural and social consequences,” has since been flouted by many shopkeepers who don’t agree with the ban. But the morality police say Barbie must now be removed to protect the public from the erosion of Islamic values by Western culture.

Present in schools, universities, factories, state and private institutions, and on the streets, the morality police have a mandate to “promote virtue and prevent vice.” They effectively act as “the regime’s eyes and ears,” according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies. And when they aren’t cracking down on Barbie, they have quite a few other duties, according to Radio Free Europe. These include:

Enforcing the wearing of the hijab; arresting women for violating the dress code; prohibiting male-female fraternization; monitoring citizens’ activities; confiscating satellite dishes and “obscene” material; intelligence gathering; and even harassing government critics and intellectuals.

According to reports, the morality police have also found it in their mandate to arrest youths for pistol water fights, stop kindergartners from dancing and crack down on women who show their ankles.

In November, 70 fashion designers were rounded up and more than 400 shops were closed by morality police for selling “improper” dresses, The Post’s Thomas Erdbrink reported. The week before, the same police had cracked down on women skiing without a male guardian. They also enforce the rule that plastic mannequins in shopwindows are not allowed to have heads.

But compared to Saudi Arabia's morality police, Iran’s forces are considered soft. In 2002, Saudi value-enforcers prevented men from saving girls from a burning school building because the girls were not wearing correct Islamic dress. Dozens died in the fire.

Erdbrink reports that the mandate of the morality police is growing ever larger, as hard-liners try to get rid of reforms enacted under then-President Mohammad Khatami. 

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By  |  10:48 AM ET, 01/17/2012

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