A Syrian activist group is using Pokemon Go, with the backdrop of war, to highlight the plight of children
Cartoon houses, books in a classroom, and a shield over an explosion in Syria Go cover the "real world"
These days, there are Pokemon everywhere.
Whether you’re in Central Park, on the streets of San Francisco or even land mine-ridden areas of Bosnia, there are Pikachu to be found.
A media agency run by activists in Syria is capitalizing on the Pokemon Go craze to plead for help for children inside the war-torn country.
The campaign has latched onto the global mania surrounding the game, asking fanatic gamers to take a break from hunting for digital creatures and instead turn their attention to helping Syrian families trapped in war zones.
“I am in Syria. … Save me!!” the Revolutionary Forces of Syria Media Group tweeted. Below the tweet, children hold signs in both Arabic and English with a Pokemon creature. One sign pleads: “I am [in] an area of Eastern Ghouta, Syria. Come save me!”
Ghouta was the site of a chemical weapon attack on civilians in September 2013, leaving many children dead.
Another tweet shows a boy in an unknown location in Syrian, sitting in rubble on the street with a crying Pokemon next to him. The hashtag #PrayforSyria accompanies the tweet.
Another Syrian designer also is using the game’s popularity, with the backdrop of the Syrian war, to highlight the plight of people stuck in the 5-year conflict’s grasp.
In a series of images called Syria Go, Saif Aldeen Tahhan has taken real moments from the Syrian war – demolished homes, an airstrike in action, abandoned schools – as the real-world background to cartoon images Syrians look for during the war.
Instead of Pokemon creatures, there are cartoon versions of objects Syrians need most days.
A child in Syria would be looking for schoolbooks, he said, or a couple of abandoned toys.
In one image, he added a cartoon stuffed bear next to an injured child and a ripped apart stuffed tiger.
“People on social media talk about Pokemon all the time so I created these images to draw attention to suffering during the war and what Syrians are really searching for,” Tahhan said.
Tahhan is a Syrian refugee himself. He traveled to Egypt from Syria, took a boat to Italy and then made his way across most of the European continent to Denmark in 2014. One of the icons he has created in his version of the game is a life buoy next to a boat of refugees fleeing conflict.
We live in a big game ourselves, Tahhan said, but it is a political game.
Since the start of the Syrian war in 2010, nearly 5 million Syrians have registered as refugees, according to UNHCR. Children are missing years of schooling, and airstrikes, whether by Assad forces, the Russians or the U.S.-led coalition, are still common.
The importance of these images is to “have the world’s attention during the time of war,” said Tahhan. “I can tell you, the Syrian people are not looking for Pokemon.”