Sara & Dara: Muslim avatars of Barbie & Ken
Posted: 25 Sep 2008

'Sara' and 'Dara' dolls are the Iranian Government's answer to the 'harmful effects' of their American counterparts, Barbie and Ken. Made by the Institute for the Intellectual Development of Children and Young Adults, the Sara and Dara are part of the government's effort to promote traditional Muslim values in the country.

The toys come dressed in modest clothing, and have pro-family backgrounds. Each of the four models of Sara comes with a white headscarf. The toys cost just a third of the price of a Barbie doll.

Barbie & Ken, American dolls

Toy seller Masoumeh Rahimi hailed the new dolls. She said that the image of Barbie as buxom, blonde and wearing revealing clothing was "more harmful than an American missile". She was of the view that playing with Barbie dolls could lead young girls to grow into women who rejected Iranian values.

Sara & Dara, Iranian dolls

"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," the Telegraph quoted Mehdi Hedayat, another toy seller, as saying.

Dara and Sara started out as characters in schoolbooks, and their lives have also grown into stories that are being sold on cassette along with the dolls. The siblings help each other to solve problems, and turn to their loving parents for guidance. They are both supposed to be eight years old, young enough under Islamic law for Sara to appear in public without a headscarf.

Around 100,000 dolls have been manufactured in China.

Marketed to children of Islamic and Middle-Eastern countries as an
alternative to Barbie, Fulla was created by a UAE manufacturer from Dubai.

This is not the first time that Barbie has faced tough competition from a Muslim rival, for a veiled doll named Fulla appeared on the shelves of Egypt's toy stores in 2003, to meet demands of the people who did not want to buy Barbie dolls for their daughters.

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