The government of the Islamic Republic of Iran issued a ruling today banning Iranians from playing the popular mobile app Pokémon GO, citing unnamed security concerns.
The ruling came from the Supreme Council of Virtual Space, a body set up in 2012 by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to monitor and control the internet. The council did not detail why it has banned Iranians from playing the game, saying only that "security concerns" had led to the ruling.
Although Iran is led by a revolutionary Islamic government; the ruling did not seem to happen over religious concerns. The Supreme Council of Virtual Space is comprised of president Hassan Rouhani, Information Minister Mahmoud Vaerzi, Culture Minister Ali Jannati, and numerous officers from Iran's police force and the high-ranking military Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
Iran is not the first country in the Middle East to rule on whether citizens may be permitted to play Pokémon GO. A Saudi cleric recently renewed a 15-year-old fatwa against Pokémon in response to the game's popularity, though his ruling is not enforced by law.
But despite sentiment by some authorities in the Middle East, the game has seen massive popularity among players. Many pictures from the front lines of the conflict in Syria and Iraq have made their way to social media, showing fighters playing the game in front of rifles, mortars, and machine guns.
And in Egypt, even before the game made its official debut, hundreds of players downloaded the Android APK and took to the streets of Cairo to catch virtual Pokémon. But even in Egypt, which hasn't officially banned the game, playing can come with some risks. Players have taken to traveling in groups to minimize risk, and have largely avoided playing around government buildings like that of the Egyptian Ministry of the Interior, despite many of these buildings containing Pokéstops.