Iraqi parliament bans online fighting games, citing ‘negative’ influence

BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Iraq’s parliament on Wednesday voted to ban popular online video games, including PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds and Fortnite, citing their “negative” influence, especially on young people in a country long plagued by bloodshed real.

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

Lawmakers, who were sworn in last September after months of contested results and ballot recounts, approved a resolution that mandated the government to ban online access to gambling and ban related financial transactions.

The ban came “because of the negative effects caused by certain electronic games on the health, culture and safety of Iraqi society, including societal and moral threats to children and young people,” the text of the statement reads. resolution.

Oil-rich Iraq has suffered for decades under Saddam Hussein’s dictatorial regime and UN sanctions, the 2003 US invasion and civil war it sparked, and the battle against Islamic State , over which Baghdad declared victory in 2017.

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

The new ban quickly sparked discontent online with hundreds of Iraqi social media users criticizing lawmakers for what they called misplaced priorities. Parliament has adopted only one piece of legislation since it was first convened, the 2019 federal finance law, which was enacted in January.

PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG), created by South Korean company Bluehole Inc, is a survival-themed fighting game that drops dozens of online players on an island where they try to take out each other .

North Carolina-based Fortnite from Epic Games, with a similar premise, is considered a game changer for the industry by analysts because it has signed up tens of millions of users for its “Battle Royale” format. last player.

Both were launched in 2017 and are hugely successful worldwide.

Influential Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, whose political coalition has won the most seats in parliament, on Thursday urged young Iraqis to avoid PUBG, calling it addictive. Sadr called on the government to ban it.

“What will you gain if you kill one or two people in PUBG?” It’s not an intelligence game or a military game that gives you the right way to fight, ”he wrote in a two-page statement.

Report by Ahmed Aboulenein; Editing by Mark Heinrich

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