01/21/2012 05:19 pm ET

Iran Targets Barbie, Shutters Toy Stores For Selling The Dolls

When American businesswoman Ruth Handler first launched Barbie back in 1959, she probably didn't expect the dolls to become as controversial as they are popular.

In an apparent effort to shut out Western culture, Iranian authorities have closed toy stores in Tehran for selling Barbie dolls, according to Associated Press.

The dolls first attracted criticism from Iran's strict religious leaders back in 1996, but have been openly on display in toy stores since then, notes Slate.

But earlier this week the country's "morality police" began instructing shop owners to refrain from selling the dolls.

Islam For Today writes that the country does have Islamic alternatives to Barbie, known as Sara and Dara, but the dolls are reportedly not as popular as their blonde counterparts.

Iran is not the only country in the Middle East to outlaw Barbie. In 2003, according to the Sydney Morning Herald, Saudi Arabia banned the dolls after declaring them a threat to Islam due to their revealing clothes.

Nevertheless, according to TIME, two-thirds of Barbie sales come from 150 different foreign markets.