Iran MPs warn over Benetton stores

TEHRAN, Oct 1, 2007 (AFP) -A group of prominent MPs have warned over the presence of Italian clothing retailer Benetton in Iran, saying its fashions are a bad influence on female consumers, newspapers said on Monday, August 1st.

Iranian policemen warn women about their clothing and hair during a crackdown to enforce Islamic dress code in Tehran, April 2007
Photo : AFP

The reformist Etemad-e Melli said the five MPs -- four members of parliament's cultural commission and a member of its legal commission -- had issued their warning in a written protest to parliament.

The protest comes amid a crackdown by Iranian police on dress deemed to be un-Islamic, which has already seen warnings handed out to over 100,000 women.

"The MPs on Sunday made a warning about preventing the influence of the Benetton investor in fashion and women's clothing design," the newspaper said.

It added that parliament speaker Gholam Ali Hadad-Adel received their protest by himself protesting that Benetton was not using Farsi language or script on its shop signs in the Islamic republic.

"The two shops that I have seen did not use Farsi inscriptions and all signs were in English, this must be prevented in line with the law," the newspaper quoted him as saying.

The ultra-hardline Siasat-e Ruz also carried the report, saying the MPs had warned the interior ministry "to prevent the influence of the Zionist millionaire Benetton in the field of women's clothing and fashion."

It also claimed that Benetton was operating "with the support of the municipality" led by Tehran mayor Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, a political rival of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

According to Etemad-e Melli, the MPs included Fatemeh Alia -- a female lawmaker who has taken a leading role in women's fashion issues -- and the cultural commission's deputy head Javad Arianmanesh.

Over the past year, several Benetton stores have been opened in Iran, mainly selling its casual line of products for men, women and children -- not the outer garments women have to wear on the streets in Iran.

According to the retailer's website, it now has four stores in the capital, two in Iran's second city of Mashhad, and one in the central town of Yazd.

Global brands were largely absent from Iranian malls after the 1979 Islamic revolution but in recent years glossy billboards advertising top labels such as Louis Vuitton, Dolce and Gabbana, and Dior have gone up in Tehran.

In 2006 Iran's parliament passed a bill to promote Iranian and Islamic fashion to combat the "cultural invasion" of the West and has encouraged fashion shows and exhibitions to show the right trends.

After the Islamic revolution ousted the pro-US shah, it was made obligatory for all women, including non-Muslims, to cover their heads and all bodily contours in public.

But tight coats, short pants and flimsy headscarves have increasingly become a feature of Tehran streets in recent years and are still widely evident in the capital despite the police crackdown that began in April.

Police have also shut down stores selling skimpy clothing and arrested men whose hairstyles were seen as too Western or clothing judged to be promoting Satanism.

Some moderates have condemned the crackdown as a waste of energy that could be channelled into tackling other social ills but conservatives have applauded the drive as necessary to "increase security in society".by Hiedeh Farmani

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