TEHRAN (Reuters) - The Simpsons are corroding the morals of Iranian youth, an official said on Monday, as dolls based on Bart, Homer and the rest of the American cartoon family joined the shapely Barbie among Western toys targeted by a new crackdown in Tehran.
"The Simpsons dolls are merchandise from an animated series, of which some episodes are even banned in Europe and America," Mohammad Hossein Farjoo, whose agency oversees what Iranian children can play with, told the Sharq newspaper. He did not elaborate on what episodes might have been censored elsewhere.
"We do not want to promote this cartoon by importing the toys," added Farjoo, whose full title is Secretary for Policy-making at the Institute for the Intellectual Development of Children and Young Adults in Tehran.
Though Iran's economy is labouring under Western sanctions against its nuclear programme, foreign goods, including genuine and counterfeit toys like Barbie and the Simpsons, are widely sold. Merchants say new efforts to implement bans that have been in place before mean the merchandise is getting harder to obtain from wholesalers and shops prefer not to display the wares.
The Islamic Republic's morality police, fighting "Western intoxication" as the dispute over nuclear technology has raised fears of war, last month went on a drive against Barbie.
The American doll's full figure and revealing wardrobe particularly offend Iran's leaders, who decree that women must be fully swathed in loose-fitting clothes in public. "Imports of all kinds of dolls that display full adult figures are banned because they promote Western culture," Farjoo said.
It was not clear in what regard the irreverent Simpsons family had offended Iranian regulations - most versions of the cartoon dolls are hardly anatomically accurate.
However, while Farjoo said that all-American super-heroes like Superman and Spiderman were still welcome in Iran - because they do battle for the oppressed - the values of the Simpsons, a famously self-centred and irreligious bunch, were not.
Their popularity in Iran is hard to gauge; those with access to foreign satellite channels are familiar with the Fox Television cartoon. But it is not shown in Iran, relieving local networks of finding a translation for Bart Simpson's singular response to tiresome instructions of all kinds: "Eat my shorts!"
Reporting by Mitra Amiri; Editing by Alastair Macdonald and Paul Casciato