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Salman Rushdie targeted in Iranian video game

The Stressful Life of Salman Rushdie and Implementation of his Verdict is the title of the game being developed by the Islamic Association of Students, a government-sponsored organisation which announced this week it had completed initial phases of production.

News of the computer game came as Tehran on Tuesday played host to the country's second International Computer Games Expo.

"The organisers considered the event as an opportunity to introduce Iranian culture, value and Islamic identity, and also a way to present Iranian products to international computer games designers and producers," the English-language state television channel, Press TV, reported on its website.

Three years ago, the student association and Iran's national foundation of computer games asked students across the country to submit scripts for the game and the top three were handed over to video developers. But development of the game was delayed.

The director of the students association, Ahmad Khalili, told the Fars news agency that production of the game was under way despite technical difficulties.

"We usually don't have any problems with initial thoughts and ideas [for a computer games] but when it comes to the actual point of production we experience delays," he said.

Killing of Rushdie
Little has been revealed about the game but its title suggests players will be asked to implement Khomeini's call for the killing of Rushdie.

Iranian authorities have complained in recent years that "enemies" have targeted their country in a "soft and cultural war" using illegal satellite channels, western novels, Hollywood films and computer games. Western hairstyles and garments have also been condemned as part of the "cultural invasion".

Iran has struggled to counter this with a presence in cyberspace. Mohammad-Taqi Fakhrian of the student association said producing computer games was one way to combat the cultural war against Iran.

"We felt we should find a way to introduce our third and fourth generation to the fatwa against Salman Rushdie and its importance," he told the semi-official Mehr news agency.

This month, local media devoted significant coverage to the release of the Iranian army's first video game, Battle in the Gulf of Aden, featuring "the Iranian navy's mighty presence in the international waters and navy commandos' fight with the pirates", according to Fars.

"The player of the game will take the role of an Iranian commando who should fight and kill pirates in the Gulf of Aden and then find and destroy their hideouts in a bid to find and kill the buccaneers' ringleader."

'Blasphemous against Islam'
In July 2007, Iran launched the computer game Special Mission 85, about two fictional nuclear scientists, Dr Saeed Kousha and his wife, who are abducted by American forces when they travel to Iraq for a pilgrimage to the city of Karbala.

In reality, five assassination attempts in the past two years have resulted in the killing of four nuclear experts and the wounding of another.

Iran's nuclear programme has also been hit by the Stuxnet computer worm, which was designed to sabotage its atomic facilities and halt its uranium-enrichment programme. The malware is believed to have targeted a control system used in Iran's nuclear sites in July 2010.

Other games released by the Iranian regime include The Age of Heroes, a 3D title based on Shahnameh, a 10th century epic written by Persian poet Ferdowsi. More controversially, a recent title featured Iranian rapper Shahin Najafi, against whom clerics have issued a fatwa similar to that for Rushdie, calling him an apostate for releasing a song about a religious figure.

In February 1989, Khomeini described The Satanic Verses as "blasphemous against Islam". His fatwa caused international controversy and the UK severed diplomatic relations with Iran for years.

Rushdie went into hiding and received police protection. Rushdie had previously been praised by the Iranian government for another novel, Midnight's Children, whose translation into Farsi was named the book of the year. – © Guardian News and Media 2012

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