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

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.


Cairo turns to Tokyo for a lesson on education

Updated 23 August 2019

Cairo turns to Tokyo for a lesson on education

  • The Japanese education system is recognized as one of the top five worldwide

CAIRO: Egypt is seeking Japan’s help to improve its education system, which has fallen to 130th place in international rankings.

The Japanese education system is recognized as one of the top five worldwide, and Cairo is hoping to apply key aspects of Japan’s approach to the Egyptian curriculum.

Education has played a major role in transforming Japan from a feudal state receiving aid following World War II to a modern economic powerhouse. 

During a visit to Japan in 2016, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi discussed political and economic development with Japanese officials, and was also briefed on the Japanese education system.

The Egyptian leader visited Japanese schools and called on Japan to help Egypt introduce a similar system in its schools.  

As part of Egyptian-Japanese cooperation, Japan’s embassy established cultural cooperation as well as technical and professional education links between the two countries. Collaboration has been strengthened from kindergarten to post-university, with Japanese experts contributing in various education fields.

Japanese experts have held seminars in schools across the country, focusing on basic education. 

During one seminar, Japan highlighted the importance of enhancing education by playing games during kindergarten and primary school, encouraging children’s ability and desire to explore.  

Education expert Ola El-Hazeq told Arab News that the Japanese system focuses on developing students’ sense of collective worth and responsibility toward society. This starts with their surrounding environment by taking care of school buildings, educational equipment and school furniture, for example.

“Japanese schools are known for being clean,” El-Hazeq said. “The first thing that surprises a school visitor is finding sneakers placed neatly in a locker or on wooden shelves at the school entrance. Each sneaker has its owner’s name on it. This is a habit picked up at most primary and intermediate schools as well as in many high schools.”

Japanese students also clean their classrooms, collect leaves that have fallen in the playground and take out the garbage. In many cases, teachers join students to clean up schools and also public gardens and beaches during the summer holidays.

El-Hazeq added that neither the teachers nor the students find it beneath their dignity to carry out such chores.

The academic year in Japan continues for almost 11 months, different from most other countries, with the Japanese academic year starting on April 1 and ending on March 31 the following year.

Japan’s school days and hours are relatively longer in comparison with other countries. Usually the school day is from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Teachers normally work until 5 p.m. but sometimes up to 7 p.m. Holidays are shorter than in other countries. Spring and winter holidays are no longer than 10 days, and the summer holiday ranges from 40 to 45 days.