A computer game that encouraged players to shoot digital effigies of Iran's opposition leaders appears to have been removed from a website after it sparked controversy in the Islamic republic.
The game, titled "The Return of Mokhtar," allows players to accrue "wisdom" points by targeting opposition leader Mir Hossein Musavi, his wife Zahra Rahnavard, former reformist President Mohammad Khatami, and others.
"Some time ago a game related to the assassination of [Iranian President Hassan] Rohani was available in the market for a while. The publishing of such games raises the question whether there is any kind of supervision," the popular Fararu.com website wrote earlier this week.
Authorities had said legal action could be taken in connection with the game, which was available for download on April 9 at Honarenab.ir. The page hosting the download was removed from the site later that day.
The site claims to be run by a group of young people who are spreading the values of the Islamic Revolution and Islamic art via digital media. There was no immediate explanation posted on the site about why the game was removed.
Honarenab.ir said that the game allowed players to take revenge against enemies of the Islamic republic. "In this game, by crossing through corridors and shooting at the heads of the leaders of the sedition -- including Mir Hossein Musavi, Mehdi Karrubi, and Seyed Mohammad Khatami, you can expose their evil faces," the website wrote in promoting the game.
Musavi and his wife have been under house arrest since February 2011, as has reformist cleric Karrubi.
Rohani promised in his election campaign to release opposition figures who have challenged Iranian leaders and criticized human rights abuses. There have been reports that their detention conditions have improved slightly in recent months.
Symbols of the United States, Great Britain, and Israel are also among the targets that the game's users must destroy in order to increase their score. The game's producers say the three countries are the driving force behind the "sedition," a term used in Iran to refer to the 2009 postelection protests and the opposition movement that was brutally repressed.
The game came under scrutiny following reports by Iranian reformist media.
"The producers of the game did not request a license from the foundation," the ISNA news agency quoted Hossein Moazami, an official with Iran's computer-games foundation, as saying. Moazami added that his foundation will report the game to relevant authorities at the Culture Ministry, police, and judiciary for "legal action."
On April 9, Iranian websites quoted the government daily "Iran" as saying that it was not clear whether the game had become inaccessible following an order by the judiciary.
Other controversial computer games are still available at Honarenab.ir, including one titled "Catch the Sedition." The website says the game, produced in 2010, is a reminder to Iranian authorities to prosecute the leaders of "the sedition."
Another game on the website targets Iranian rapper Shahin Najafi, who has been described by the website as an "apostate."
-- Golnaz Esfandiari