Pokemon Go Is Spooking Middle East Governments

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by Jeremy Luedi via GlobalRiskInsights.com,

Pokemon Go is creating headaches for Middle Eastern governments, as concerns over security and subversion prompt calls for intervention.

Pokemon Go has quickly become a global phenomenon, the latest viral sensation boosted by social media and our ubiquitous smartphones. The app is all over the news, as are stories of foolish players getting in trouble, lost, or accidents. While elsewhere these events have been shrugged off as frivolous or ultimately harmless, Pokemon Go is no laughing matter in the Middle East.

A host of governments in the Middle East are treating Pokemon Go as a potentially serious destabilizing force. Said regimes have cited religious, cultural, and national security reasons to support their calls for action against Pokemon Go.

From fatwa to farce, Pokemon Go has been on the receiving end of a range of government responses in the Middle East. For instance, Egypt has renewed a 15 year old fatwa against the Pokemon franchise which was issued by the then Grand Mufti in 2001. Similarly, Saudi Arabia has renewed a similar fatwa, characterizing Pokemon as un-Islamic.

Specifically, religious authorities are concerned about the app’s references to mutation and evolution, ideas which run counter to Islamic tenets concerning creation and God. Moreover, the game has been labelled as an addiction (a point not helped by similar statements from players), and likened to gambling – a sin in the Islamic tradition. The various symbols in the game are also allegedly linked to Christianity, Shintoism, Zionism and Freemasonry, thus drawing accusations of promoting apostasy and polytheism.

While these claims will amuse foreigners, they are not specific to the Middle East, as many fundamentalist Christians in the West view Pokemon in a similar manner. What is disconcerting is the fact these pronouncements carry greater socio-political weight in the Middle East, especially among the theocratic Gulf state regimes. The narrow, and at times non-existent divide between religion and government in the region gives added impetus to any government efforts to counter Pokemon Go.

What is important to realize, is that these religious pronouncements conveniently align with government concerns over subversion and security, brought about by the app. In the wake of the Twitter revolt in Iran, and the social media driven Arab Spring, governments in the region are naturally extremely wary of any new popular digital trend, especially one they do not understand, nor can, as of yet, contain.

Pokemon Go, all fun and games, until someone gets hurt

Interestingly, Pokemon Go has become a vehicle for regional critics and anti-government forces to promote themselves and mock the powers that be. For instance, Qatari businessman Adel Bin Ali commented on recent events in Turkey “Turkish coup? What coup? Turkey’s generals stormed Erdogan’s palace looking for Pokemon Go.” Similarly, Iraqi comedian Ahmed al-Basheer poked fun via Pokemon, stating “I introduce y’all to Abu Pikachu al-Baghdadi and Jigglypuff in a headscarf.” Basheer also mocked members of the Iraqi government by referencing the cute Pokemon characters.

The Basheer Show is seen as Iraq’s Daily Show, and is broadcast from Amman, Jordan due to security concerns, yet still reaches an audience of some 19 million in various countries – despite efforts by some governments to block it. The fact that Basheer is capitalizing on the viral nature of Pokemon Go to mock and critique the Iraqi government and others, is a serious wake-up call to Middle Eastern regimes, and proof in their eyes of the subversive nature of the app.

Even a former U.S Marine, now fighting against ISIS in Iraq, has posted images of himself playing the game on the battlefield, challenging Daesh to a Pokemon battle.

Another group capitalizing on the popularity of Pokemon Go are anti-Assad Syrian activists seeking to boost awareness and media attention in the conflict. Specifically, the Revolutionary Forces of Syria (RFS) Media Centre has released a series of photos showing Syrian children holding signs sporting pleas for help and popular Pokemon characters. The group is trying to counter public desensitization and fatigue, critiquing the time spent on the app vs. the time spent helping those affected by the civil war.

This effort coincides with the pictures of Syrian graphic designer Saif Tahhan, who has used Pokemon Go to highlights the needs of those in war-torn Syria. His fictional Syria Go app, sees users searching for basic necessities amongst the rubble. Syrian artist Moustafa Jano has also incorporated Pokemon into images of Syrian refugees to highlight the issue. Furthermore, Swedish novelist Jonas Gardell has utilized the connection between Pokemon Go and Syria, writing: “Grandpa, what did you do that summer of 2016 when the world was on fire? Oh dear grandchildren, we were looking for Pokemon characters [on our] phones.”

One of Saif Tahhan’s Syria Go images

The fact that anti-Assad activists both within and outside of Syria are using Pokemon Go to promote their cause, is a very strong signal to Middle Eastern governments confirming (in their minds) their suspicions about the danger posed by the app.

Gotta catch ‘em all…subversives that is

Governments in the Middle East are facing the problem of thousands of eager players wandering around with an app that relies on GPS tracking and cameras. Public buildings and prominent locations are part of the game, and as such governments in the region are worried about security risks to military and government buildings. In Lebanon, for instance, the government has to contend with hordes of people walking around Beirut. Police have already had to shoo away and briefly arrest players for filming mosques, security checkpoints, and military facilities.

As 16 year old Muhammed Zeitam, explains, “you cannot just lift up your phone to the ministry. They get suspicious.” Kuwait has issued similar warnings, instructing players to stay away from mosques, military buildings and the Emir’s palace, whereas Saudi Arabia has warned about the dangers of using GPS tracking technology.

One of RFS’ Pokemon images (left) and work by Moustafa Jano (right)

Members of the Egyptian government have also stressed the security concerns posed by Pokemon Go, with Egypt’s deputy head of communications considering banning the game and urging the regime to install WiFi jammers. Hamdi Bakheet, a member of the Egyptian defence and national security committee has gone further, decrying Pokemon Go as “the latest tool used by spy agencies in the intel war, a cunning, despicable app that tries to infiltrate our communities in the most innocent way under the pretext of entertainment. But all they really want is to spy on people and the state.”

Ultimately, for Middle Eastern governments concerned about civil unrest, citizen movements, ISIS infiltration, and foreign spying, Pokemon Go is deeply disconcerting. Firstly, any non-government sanctioned means of connecting and organizing people worries these states. Secondly, by citing security concerns, governments will attempt to legitimize their efforts to squash the app, ironically using the very popularity which they fear as an amplifier for their own messages.

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Looney's picture


Following in Toyota’s and Nike’s footsteps, Nintendo is about to release the MENA version of the game – POKEMON ISIS.    ;-)


Vageling's picture

I've seen the preview. They replaced the ball with a knife. The slogan for the game is: "Pokemon, gotta behead them al". 

LowerSlowerDelaware_LSD's picture
LowerSlowerDelaware_LSD (not verified) Vageling Jul 26, 2016 10:56 AM

Isn't "spook" raycis???  I left my decoder book in the car today.

Pladizow's picture

How about the world simply stops shipping electronics to Muslims?

Bokkenrijder's picture

Call me paranoid, but after Google Maps this Pokemon thingie is an easy way to photograph the whole world. And you don't even have to pay people to do it, you have idiots doing it for free!

Handful of Dust's picture

The Taiwanese are having a good time making fun of their neighbor:


Taiwan web users join 'Apologise to China' contest

Thousands of people from Hong Kong and Taiwan have signed up to a satirical Facebook event to offer "apologies" to China.

The "First Annual Apologise to China Contest" allows people to send in their regrets on how they might have wronged the People's Republic, the Hong Kong Free Press news website reports. According to the website, one person has apologised for having three children in the face of Beijing's now abandoned one-child policy; while another on the Facebook page is sorry for wearing New Balance shoes, the global brand which was ruled to be infringing upon the Chinese brand "New Barlun" in a Chinese court.


espirit's picture

I'd rather see Al BagDaddy's mug on the screen, rather then the PokieGo characters.

Maybe we could be rid of that turd furevah.

runswithscissors's picture

Gotta stab'em stab'em stab'em all

BorisTheBlade's picture

Capture, torture and behead Pokemon. I think it might be popular outside of MENA.

MsCreant's picture






Collect them all!


Here2Go's picture
Here2Go (not verified) Looney Jul 26, 2016 11:47 AM

I do believe in spooks... I do believe in spooks... I do... I do... I do... I DO!!!

cheech_wizard's picture

So instead of capturing Pokemon, you get to behead them?

Looney, you are awesome!

el mago's picture
el mago (not verified) Jul 26, 2016 10:49 AM

The mob is chasing pokemon while the world is ending right in front of their eyes.

DetectiveStern's picture

Words can't describe how much it pisses me off that it is culturely and socially more acceptable to have a conversation about a fucking cartoon on your phone than to talk politics and what our politicians are really up to.

If I talk about the truth I'm labelled a weirdo but if I chase round imaginary fucking pokemon I'm "normal"

Fuck this planet.

ParkAveFlasher's picture

It's perfectly normal to chase fictitious characters on a screen that you superimpose mentally over real life.  In fact it's a statement on politics in general.

Here2Go's picture

Exactly what part of 'bread & circuses' didn't you understand?

Benjamin123's picture

Its best to focus on making money and forget all distractions that you cannot influence either way. From Pokemon to "global warming", whatever happens or not, happens or not. Arguing politics with brain dead friends wont "solve" anything for you or them no matter what the outcome of the discussion is, so let them play their game in peace for the time they have left.

CaptainMoonlight's picture

Maybe they could make a Pokemon that TARGETs ISIS... everyone swarms to kill them wherever they are... hmmm

TradingIsLifeBrah's picture
TradingIsLifeBrah (not verified) Jul 26, 2016 10:56 AM

Believe me, the last thing on these people's minds when they are getting bombed by US planes is "How much longer until I catch a legendary Pokemon".  Pokemon Go is designed for unemployed developed nation millenials that are fully supported economically by their governments.  Pokemon Go is not an agent of "regime change" there isn't even any social features in the app to communicate with other players, that's why all the photos are screenshots then posted up on Twitter.  


"Being a Pokémon pro was not necessarily a life’s goal for Alastair Doggett, 25, a British expatriate, when he received a master’s degree in mathematics from N.Y.U. But after spending a few days in Central Park on the hunt for himself and friends, he gleaned a new way to make rent.

“The idea manifested when my housemate was moaning he didn’t have enough time to make considerable progress in the game, what with being at work all day and returning home late,” Mr. Doggett said. “Being unemployed and having considerably more time on my hands than he, I said I would happily help him out.” (Mr. Doggett, who charges $10 an hour, has had five clients.)"



The game has generated only $75 million so far even though Nintendo's stock has increased by some $20 billion.  I'm sure Nintendo's marketing department is working furiously on stories like this to keep the appearance that this game is actually relevant when it is really just a reskinned game from 2012 (Ingress).  


Big Corked Boots's picture

Only in the twisted, bubble economics of NYC would Pokemon-hunter be a monetizeable task.

cheech_wizard's picture

Alastair Doggett is selling himself cheap at $10/hr. No business sense whatsoever, so it is no wonder he is unemployed.

(And this guy has a master's degree in mathematics? Seriously, wtf?)

Standard Disclaimer: An average dog walker salary in NYC is $45,000.

gabeh73's picture

I hope the US government, ISIS or Mossad does not do a false flag attack on Pokemon at one of the official events...like at the World Tournament in San Francisco next month. I could see the intelligence agencies of the world trying to do that possibly to help motivate wars, bigger military budgets and a decrease in individual liberties. I pray for peace.


Gabe Harris

Overflow-admin's picture

The new

POKEMON OFF (with their heads)

Rhal's picture


I love it when life imitates art


Bonus that so many muslims have no respect for free will. This will make them look crazy.

Vageling's picture

“the latest tool used by spy agencies in the intel war, a cunning, despicable app that tries to infiltrate our communities in the most innocent way under the pretext of entertainment. But all they really want is to spy on people and the state.”

Well... So far I've seen them hanging around a old windmill. Makes me wonder what little operation they have inside. Many Japanese toerist. I suspect illegal activity! /s

But seriously. It's genius. You can lure people to places you want eyes and ears on. Since these fuckers all flock to places some faggot pokemon can be found. And they just hang around trying to "catch" it while pretty much everything is recorded. Genius I tell ya! 

DuneCreature's picture

If AI AL could laugh it would be laughing its buffer full to overflowing.

Chasing digital phantoms have overtaken the will and wonder of pondering a creative life.

Live Hard, AL Has Finally Totally Weaponized Stupid, Die Free

~ DC v2.0


carbonmutant's picture

In a market desperate for distractions Pokemon is a solution...

Colonel Klink's picture

The players can Pokemon GO FUCK THEMSELVES!

More Ammo's picture

Sorta like "Go Poke Yourself"???

IndyPat's picture

Any nation should be concerned about the underlying concept.
That Pokemon Go has largely made it look like a harmless joke makes me slightly more suspicious.

There will me many many more of these types of apps to follow. I can't find the sub Reddit to credit, but I know that I could not image a more powerful means of accurately surveying that which is blind to satellite imagining. The fact that it's crowd powered for free, or worse, some apps my do this while also charging for the app, well...that component is double plus good. The game is simply a means of getting the device on target. In any case, the smartphone is still user supplied. That bit of irony is nothing new and has been pointed out here and elsewhere many times.
We as a society have largely purchased and loyaly carry our own tracking and survailing devices everywhere...24x7x365.
If there were a sound or 3D laser type addition to our current smartphones, the man could really do some mapping.
This is an extension of that and a very clever one.

azusgm's picture

It is certainly worrisome that the players capture 360 degree street level views of buildings including churches and hospitals. One religious broadcaster/church had the building imaged all the way around by a grown man riding a 4-wheeler on the lawn. Since the developer of Pokemon gave an interview years ago in which he stated that he resented having been reared by Christian parents and would like to find a way to disrupt Christian activities, the targeting of churches does not sound accidental. As crazed as governments and some corporations are about data gathering, we may be sure that the intel gained through Pokemon surveillance will not be destroyed.

PTR's picture

All kinds of juicy info for intelligence agencies to grab.  No need to go through legislation for digital monitoring.  Images of people, places, events.  Access to your google account, among numerous other personal info.  I just listened to Max Igan roll out the grocery list of 'em.  I.Just.Cant.Play.This.


Hillarys Server's picture

Japan is super crowded so a lot of streets in residential areas don't have sidewalks.

People just walk on the edge of the street and hope cars don't bump into them.

Even adults get killed. In front of train stations, sometimes there are children are lined up with a sign "traffic orphans" collecting money for their education.

And most schools don't allow parents to take their children to school. So the the first and second graders and so on have to walk to and from school by themselves to show independence.

From this week, Pokemon Go was finally released here in Japan and I've already seen children walking on the street staring at their smart phone oblivious to the world.

I predict there will be a pile of dead children by year end.

IndyPat's picture

It's a spy app proof of concept, and as such, it's a fucking huge hit.

Any monetary failings are completely meaningless to that end.
Uncle Sugar will gladly print and fund any and all companies and startups that further this tech.

Bet on it. Matter of fact, if you are an app dev, fucking drop everything you are doing and focus solely on this. You could be the next sellout dotcon 'star'.

Wahooo's picture

Well, I'm all for it. I walk or jog every night and usually the streets are deserted. Since PGO, I now see individuals, couples, entire families walking around to find Pokemons. Great stuff. In fact, I downloaded the app last night to take a closer look and will be capturing a few of those bastards for myself very soon.



cheech_wizard's picture

When you follow it up with your non-fiction novel "My Descent Into Idiocracy", please get back to us.

inosent's picture

"A host of governments in the Middle East are treating Pokemon Go as a potentially serious destabilizing force." What, like they are so stable in the first place?


More Ammo's picture

like hot nitro, just one little jolt and BOOM!

roadhazard's picture

Iran has an answer, they are destroying every satellite dish in the country. Pokemon is low on the list for them.

pitz's picture

I wonder if anyone has ever tried weaponizing anti-psychotic medication?   A well placed Haldol bomb might do wonders in fixing some of the trouble in the Middle East.

azusgm's picture

Not sure what drug interactions could occur by mixing halperidol with captagon.


the.ghost.of.22wmr's picture
the.ghost.of.22wmr (not verified) Jul 26, 2016 12:31 PM

Best spyware EVA!

Wahooo's picture

You people sound like Tipper Gore.

jakesdad's picture

anything that cometes for attention/brain bandwidth is going to be ill received by religious leaders no matter how beneign the act/content itself is.  can't have plebs influenced by anything not flowing from the leader...