ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – An Iraqi lawmaker on Saturday announced she would be backing a proposal to ban a number of popular videogames, which she claimed “threaten the social and moral peace” of the country.
A Sunni Arab MP, Sami’a Ghulab’s words came during a press conference in the parliament in Baghdad, naming the widespread games PUBG, Fortnite, as well as Blue Whale, the former two especially popular among mobile users due to ease of accessibility.
“The Committee on Culture, Information, Tourism, and Archeology views with great concern the spread of the phenomenon of electronic games that is causing violence among children, and young boys and girls,” Ghulab, who chairs the committee, told reporters on Saturday.
These games “are affecting the social, psychological and educational level of everyone who practices it,” she said without providing evidence. Such statements are regularly made by officials and activists who also claim that it is the cause of violent behavior among children and youths without supporting evidence. In contrast, the region has been plagued by constant wars and civil strife, and concurrently is an area where parent’s physical disciplining of children remains largely accepted.
Sociological studies in the US into a possible link between the consumption of videogames and violent and anti-social tendencies are still inconclusive. While some researchers claim to have proven the existence of a link, others point out flawed analytical methodology.
In late November, a young male accidentally killed one of his friends with a shotgun, in what was said to be a “roleplay” of PUBG, which has been at the center of some controversy in Iraq and the Kurdistan Region.
Ghulab said that the spread of video games “requires a serious pause from all authorities to end this negative phenomenon through the issuance of legislation to prevent the circulation of these games.”
It is unclear how Baghdad would enforce such a measure if it became law. As video games are not easy to block and fall under personal freedoms, religious leaders have opted to use their voices to turn citizens away from them, apparently to little avail.
Late last year, Iraq’s top Shia cleric, Ali al-Sistani, advised the country’s people to be wary of becoming addicted to PUBG if it turned its players aggressive. A few days ago, another senior figure, Muqtada al-Sadr, called on youths to stay away from the game, claiming there were no intellectual or community aspects to it.
In October, an Islamic religious authority in the Kurdistan Region ruled it “Haram” (forbidden) to play PUBG for more than “a few minutes” a day, or if playing it impedes a participant's daily responsibilities.
The decision came during a meeting between the members of the Fatwa Committee of Sulaimani, a city in the Kurdistan Region, after they had received complaints from relatives of people reportedly “addicted” to playing the game and therefore causing familial disputes.
Editing by Nadia Riva