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Iranian Puppet Show Lampoons Societal Woes

"Red Hat" circumvents restrictions on freedom of speech to critique Iranian government policies that have led to serious economic problems.
TEHRAN, IRAN:  Iranian girls gather to watch a puppet show during a festival to mark the world puppet theatre day at the Iranian artist's house in Tehran, 23 April 2004. AFP PHOTO/Behrouz MEHRI  (Photo credit should read BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images)

A television program that stars a puppet called "Red Hat" is creating a stir among Iranian viewers this election season, touching on sanctions, inflation, lack of free speech and other topics of great sensitivity in the Islamic Republic.

The show debuted 23 years ago, during the early months of Hashemi Rafsanjani’s second term as president, and quickly became a favorite for Iranian viewers. The puppet, named for his red headgear, represents an orphaned village boy who comes to Tehran in search of a friend and gets into all kinds of mischief. The friend, the host of a kids’ television show, is known simply as Mr. Host. Red Hat, who lived with his grandmother in the village, used to watch the show at a TV repair shop. Mr. Host became Red Hat’s idol and he decided to come to Tehran to meet him.

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