Iraq Parliament Bans Online Battle Games, Citing 'Negative' Influence

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Iraq Parliament Bans Online Battle Games, Citing 'Negative' Influence

Iraq's parliament on Wednesday voted unanimously to ban the popular but brutal online game PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds for "inciting violence" in the war-torn country.

Often likened to the blockbuster book and film series The Hunger Games, PUBG game pits marooned characters against one another in a virtual fight to the death.

It is ubiquitous in Iraq, which has been ravaged by decades of consecutive conflicts - most recently the three-year battle against the Islamic State jihadist group. 

On Wednesday, Iraqi lawmakers unanimously voted to block video games which "incite violence," according to parliament's spokesman.

Specifically naming PUBG and its rival Fortnite, among others, lawmakers said the games "threaten social security, morals, civics and education" in Iraq society.

They asked Iraq's communications ministry and media commission to block access to the games, although a full ban will need approval by cabinet.

The vote came a week after powerful Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr appealed to young people to stop playing PUBG or watching football matches. 

Iraqi media had, for months, alleged that addiction to playing PUBG had caused marital disputes and even divorces.

But the vote was met with sarcasm online. 

"It turns out video games are the reason for violence in Iraq," wrote Twitter user Rayan al-Hadidi. 

Another, Mustafa Imad, wrote: "The biggest danger Iraq faces isn't video games, but the corrupt people that rule us today." 

PUBG, by South Korean firm Bluehole, has been downloaded more than 360 million times around the world since its release in late 2017. 

Nepal and India's western Gujarat state have also banned the game after concerns over its impact on the young. 

Around 60 percent of Iraq's nearly 40 million people are under the age of 25 and the population is set to grow by another 10 million before 2030. 

According to the World Bank, 17 percent of young men and a whopping 27 percent of young women are unemployed.

Since 1980, Iraq has suffered wars with Iran and Kuwait, a crippling international embargo, the US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein and years of sectarian bloodshed. 


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