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Why former Iraqi despot Saddam Hussein tried to ban Pokemon


Top secret documents gathered by US soldiers during the 2004 invasion of Iraq provide a fascinating insight into the troubled mind of former oppressor Saddam Hussein, and his deep hatred of… Pokémon.

The files, which have only recently come to light, suggest that Hussein was so suspicious of the explosive success of the video game, television and toy phenomenon as it “flooded the market” at the turn of the Millennium that he tried to have it banned.

As you might expect from a tyrannical despot, the grounding for his anti-Pokémon agenda was altogether more sinister than the fact he couldn’t get that catchy theme tune out of his head, or that he’d lost hundreds of hours of his life fending off Pidgeottos and Meowths in the forests of the Pokémon World.

Pokemon in-game Charmander v Bulbasaur

It turns out that his suspicion stemmed from the fact that the word “Pokémon” sounded too similar to the Syriac phrase “I am a Jew”. This despite the fact that the word actually comes from the English “pocket monsters” – a literal description of the Poké Ball-dwelling critters.

But Saddam wasn’t alone in his paranoia: the General Security Directorate – the much-feared Iraqi security service – warned him that this Japanese propaganda would corrupt the minds of the Iraqi youth. An official missive read:  "We have come aware of a phenomenon that spread quickly in the Muslim world and among our children.”

Strange, as you’d have thought that following the internal logic of Saddam’s twisted mind through to its conclusion, he would’ve been on board with the idea of “catching them all”.

Whether or not the coalition forces who captured Saddam were in any way motivated by defending people's rights to play Pokémon remains unclear. Either way, Hussein was fortunately stopped in his tracks before he could enact his ban.

Pikachu 1-0 Saddam Hussein.

[Images; Sipa Press, Rex]



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