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This Day in History - 11.7.2011

Iran: The Clash of Cultures and Commodities


By Dezie Bement

On November 7, 2002, as a part of a campaign against foreign cultural influence, Iran banned advertisements for American products on radio, television, and in other public places, including all public transportation facilities.  Islamic conservatives have attempted to divert the influence of Western brands for over three decades, but such efforts have largely backfired, as younger Iranians flocked to the now-subversive messages of Barbie and Coca-Cola.

The Iranian Parliament pushed for this ban in the name of protecting the country from “cultural invasion” from the West. Even today, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who is Iran’s spiritual leader and highest authority, defends the idea that Iran needs the ban to preserve the values and beliefs of Iranian culture.  However, not everyone in the Iranian government shares this conservative stance. For example, one member of the Iranian parliament, Ismail Gerami-Moghadam, believes that many of the laws drafted as a reaction to this “cultural invasion” are too strict amidst already tight policies.

The debate over how international commodities influence local cultures stands among the key questions of the twenty-first century, as globalization brings the world’s nations into ever-greater contact.