TEHRAN (AFP) – A group of prominent MPs have called for the Italian clothing retailer Benetton to quit Iran, saying its fashions are a bad influence on female consumers, newspapers said on Monday.
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 came amid an ongoing crackdown by Iranian police on dress deemed to be un-Islamic, which has already seen warnings handed out to tens of thousands of 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 the retailer’s casual line of products for men, women and children.
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.
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 evident despite the police crackdown that began in April.
Police have also shut down stores selling skimpy clothing.