While “Pokemon Go” is proving to be a monster hit in Japan and also around the globe, an opposition group in Syria is hoping to harness the mobile phone game’s power to remind the world of that country’s 5-year-old civil war — and of the children caught in the middle of the bloody conflict.
The Revolutionary Forces of Syria (RSF) Media Office, a group of media activists that supports rebel forces opposed to Syrian President Bashar Assad, has posted to social media dozens of gut-wrenching photos and posters depicting Syrian children from different provinces holding pictures of Pokemon characters with the slogans “I’m from Syria … help me” and “I’m from Syria … find me.”
“Pokemon Go,” free to download and play, uses the phone’s GPS sensor and camera to guide players to find and capture Pokemon monsters. The characters are superimposed on a live camera image of the surrounding scenery, offering an immersion experience that many find addictive.
Released in Japan on Friday, anticipation had been building for weeks in the country that gave birth to the Pokemon franchise two decades ago.
“The ‘Pokemon-Go’ craze has gripped the entire world,” Ghaith Hammour, chief editor with the group said in an email to The Japan Times. “We decided to use its popularity to highlight the suffering of Syrian children, who have been robbed of their childhoods.”
At least one of the images posted to Twitter and Facebook is of a child from the town of Kafr Nabl, in northwestern Idlib province, which has reportedly been targeted by both regime barrel bombs and Russian warplanes.
Since the start of the Syrian conflict in 2011, nearly 12,000 children have been killed and more than 2.3 million have had to leave the country, according to nongovernmental organization Save the Children.
Artists outside the war-torn country have also picked up on the trend, using Pokemon characters for pictures and videos.
Moustafa Jano, a Syrian national currently living in Sweden, used a sad-looking rendition of the character Pikachu to illustrate the plight of children in the country and refugees fleeing the strife.
The RSF’s Hammour said the campaign’s message is to remind the world that while they’re busy playing games, bombs continue to drop and innocents continue to die in Syria.
“The world has become desensitized to the suffering of Syria’s children,” Hammour said. “Hopefully this campaign will remind people across the world that children in Syria should be playing, not having to think where the next barrel bomb will drop, or where to get their next meal.
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