The Iraqi parliament has proposed banning online multiplayer video games, amid fears they are corrupting young people and getting them hooked on violent fantasies.
Iraq’s cultural parliamentary committee submitted a draft law over the weekend seeking to ban the games, singling out the multiplayer deathmatch game PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG).
Islamic clerics have also raised concerns about young people becoming absorbed in scenes of glorified violence, considering their country’s own long history of war, destruction and bloodshed.
“The committee is concerned about the obsession over these electronic games that ignite violence among children and youth. Its influence has spread rapidly among Iraq’s society,” committee head Sameaa Gullab said at a press conference in Baghdad.
The draft law, awaiting revision by parliament’s Speaker, follows reports in the Iraqi media about young people spending vast stretches of time playing the so-called "battle royale" games. There were also reports of a wave of divorces and suicides being linked to the games and their hold on young people.
Last Thursday, high-profile Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr wrote on Twitter, the social media website : “It saddens me to see our youth are brainwashed by PUBG. Iraq’s society is deteriorating as its youth are occupied by the fighting in PUBG’s battlefields.”
Iraqi society has for 16 years been straining under immense pressures, including invasion, nearly endless war, and the destruction and on-going reconstruction of much of the Iraqi state.
The country has what demographers call a ‘youth bulge’, with young people accounting for around 60 percent of the country’s 60 million people.
Their future is daunting, to say the least, with long-standing security challenges, frothing sectarian tension, unemployment well above 20 percent, and a government dogged by corruption allegations. For some of Iraq’s young people, video games offer an escape from all of this, along with the added bonus of keeping players off the streets and out of trouble.
Baghdad PUBG player Hassan Ahmed Ali, 21, told The National that if Iraq’s parliament wants to ban the game, it ought to consider a substitute for Iraqi youth to "keep us occupied".