Iran is not at home to Pokémon masters, according to a judge who has banned the Pokémon Go app citing security concerns and the lack of government permission for the game to operate throughout the country. Iran is the first country to ban the game, though some other Islamic nations have expressed concerns.
Iran is a tightly monitored society with powerful clerics and an intrusive security apparatus. The country’s security services are apparently concerned about the game and the locations players might be tempted to visit in the hunt for rare Pokémon. Iran has nuclear facilities and a host of secure government and military buildings that may be the justification for the strange ban.
Pokémon Go has already fallen foul of Islamic authorities. An India Mufti – a senior official who interprets Islamic law – has issued a fatwa against the game, claiming it is dangerous and distracts people from their proper duties. The idea of running around chasing invisible monsters has concerned many Muslim religious leaders and ordinary Muslims have asked for advice on the morality of playing Pokémon Go.
Pokémon Go has been played in Mecca, Islam’s holiest site, prompting blistering criticism. Many people in Middle Eastern Muslim countries are tech savvy and rely heavily on their mobile phones. Cellphones and online messaging were crucial in organizing the uprisings during the Arab Spring.
Western governments are also concerned about the craze. There have been several accidents and cases of trespass since the game launched. Criminals have also used the game to lure victims to secluded areas. The risk of players wandering into secure government locations has been downplayed, while only the most extreme Christians believe Pokémon are demonic.