Iraq bans online battle games, citing ‘negative’ influence

Iraq’s Parliament voted on Wednesday to ban popular online video games including PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds and Fortnite. (Shutterstock)
Updated 18 April 2019
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Iraq bans online battle games, citing ‘negative’ influence

  • The ban came “due to the negative effects caused by some electronic games on the health, culture, and security of Iraqi society

BAGHDAD: Iraq’s Parliament voted on Wednesday to ban popular online video games including PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds and Fortnite, citing their “negative” influence especially on the young in a country long plagued by real-life bloodshed.

Iraq held its first election in 2018 after years of devastating factional violence. Daesh militants held wide swathes of the country for three years until they were driven out in heavy fighting with US-backed forces in 2017.

Lawmakers approved a resolution that mandated the government to bar online access to the games and ban related financial transactions.

The ban came “due to the negative effects caused by some electronic games on the health, culture, and security of Iraqi society, including societal and moral threats to children and youth,” according to the text of the resolution.

Oil-rich Iraq has suffered for decades under the dictatorial rule of Saddam Hussein and UN sanctions, the 2003 US invasion and civil war it unleashed, and the battle against Daesh, over which Baghdad declared victory in 2017.

Corruption is rampant and basic services like power and water are lacking. Unemployment is widespread, especially among young people.

The new ban quickly drew online discontent with hundreds of Iraqi social media users criticizing lawmakers for what they said were misplaced priorities. Parliament has passed only one piece of legislation since it first convened, the 2019 federal budget law which was issued in January.

PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG), made by South Korean firm Bluehole Inc, is a survival-themed battle game that drops dozens of online players on an island where they try and eliminate each other.

North Carolina-based Epic Games’ Fortnite, with a similar premise, is seen as an industry game-changer by analysts as it signed up tens of millions of users for its last-player-standing “Battle Royale” format.

Both were launched in 2017 and have a huge global following.

Influential Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada Al-Sadr, whose political coalition won the largest number of seats in Parliament, earlier on Thursday urged Iraqi youth to shun PUBG, calling it addictive. Sadr called on the government to ban it.

“What will you gain if you killed one or two people in PUBG? It is not a game for intelligence or a military game that provides you with the correct way to fight,” he wrote in a two-page statement.


Libya’s Haftar says to fight until Tripoli ‘militias’ defeated

Updated 26 min 59 sec ago
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Libya’s Haftar says to fight until Tripoli ‘militias’ defeated

  • Haftar had justified the offensive last month by saying he was fighting against “private militias and extremist groups”
  • 100,000 people are feared trapped by the clashes raging on the outskirts of Tripoli

PARIS: Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar, who is leading a military offensive against the UN-recognized government in Tripoli, said in an interview published Sunday he will continue fighting until militias in the city laid down their arms.
Haftar had justified the offensive last month by saying he was fighting against “private militias and extremist groups” who he said were gaining influence in the capital under Prime Minister Fayez Al-Sarraj.
“Of course a political solution is the objective,” Haftar told the Journal de Dimanche newspaper in France. “But to return to politics, we need to finish with the militias.
“The problem in Tripoli is a security one.”
He offered an amnesty to fighters in Tripoli who laid down their arms, saying they would be allowed to “return home safe and sound.”
He also took aim at UN mediator Ghassan Salame, who has warned the country is “committing suicide” due to a conflict that 6-10 foreign states are involved in.
“Salame is making irresponsible statements,” Haftar said. “He wasn’t like that before, he has changed. From an impartial and honest mediator, he has become a biased one.”
Salame has warned that Haftar’s offensive is “just the start of a long and bloody war.”
More than 75,000 people have been driven from their homes in the latest fighting and 510 have been killed, according to the World Health Organization.
More than 2,400 have also been wounded, while 100,000 people are feared trapped by the clashes raging on the outskirts of Tripoli.