Iran’s nonsensical ban on a best-selling mobile game


By Amir Basiri

An Iranian government committee recently announced a ban on the famous mobile game “Clash of Clans,” claiming the game encourages violence and tribal conflict while having a negative addictive effect on teenagers.

If violence is a true concern for the Iranian regime, “Clash of Clans” should be the least of its worries, because the government is already knee-deep in inciting violence. There are public hangings and lashings, crackdowns on protests and peaceful events, broadcasts of propaganda against minorities, and military theme parks where children can fire at the United States flag with live ammunition, to name a few.

The truth is Tehran fears anything of historical, cultural, economic or political nature where people can find common ground and get together.

The real concern with “Clash of Clans” is the capability the game provides for people to socialize and interact beyond the regime’s control.

The regime’s hysterical mistrust of online platforms dates back to the country-wide uprisings following the rigged 2009 elections in Iran, which were organized and widely covered on social media. The regime has since been extremely wary of any online service that allows people to connect and exchange information, including video games.

In August, the government banned “Pokemon Go,” the augmented reality game that has seen sensational success across the globe since its July 2016 release. At least the regime was honest enough to cite security concerns, even though it didn’t specify how the game was a security threat. “Pokemon Go” has created events where thousands of people gather in one location.

The regime is extremely fearful of any medium that could be used to organize large gatherings, as it showed earlier this year in the crackdown of the Cyrus the Great gathering at Pasargade or the restrictions it imposes every year on the Persian fire festival ceremony.

The regime’s disdain of “Clash of Clans” — which already enjoys a millions-strong audience in Iran and has many socializing and communication features — is of a political and security nature rather than an ethical and moral one, and its ban is in line with the regime’s crackdown on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

This is not the first time the Iranian regime has resorted to near-comical excuses to justify its censorship of internet services. WhatsApp, the secure messaging app, was banned by Iran in 2014 after being acquired by Facebook, whose owner is Jewish.

With Iran’s next presidential elections looming close, we can expect the regime to resort to more excuses to push constraints on online services and games in order to reduce the chances of another uprising erupting.

These are the traits of a regime that lost its legitimacy years ago, and is paranoid of anything and everything, even mobile games, and vies for total control over every channel of communication.

As they’ve been doing in the past years, tech-savvy Iranians will no doubt find ways to circumvent the ban and continue playing the game, albeit with a little more unease. The regime’s excuse to cut access to the game will only become another subject of mockery on social media platforms.

Amir Basiri is a contributor to the Washington Examiner’s Beltway Confidential blog. He is an Iranian human rights activist.

Originally posted in Washington Examiner