World

Syrian Opposition Uses Pokemon Go to Win Support

A combination picture shows boys holding banners depicting Pokemon characters in these handouts pictures provided on July 22, 2016 by the Revolutionary Forces of Syria Media Office. The banners read: (Top-R) "I am from Kafr Naboudah, save me". (Top-L) "I am trapped in Douma in Eastern Ghouta, Help me." (Bottom-R) "I am in Kafr Nabl in rural Idlib, come and save me!" (Bottom-L) "I am in Eastern Ghouta in Syria, come and get me!". Credit: Reuters

A combination picture shows boys holding banners depicting Pokemon characters in these handouts pictures provided on July 22, 2016 by the Revolutionary Forces of Syria Media Office. The banners read: (Top-R) “I am from Kafr Naboudah, save me”. (Top-L) “I am trapped in Douma in Eastern Ghouta, Help me.” (Bottom-R) “I am in Kafr Nabl in rural Idlib, come and save me!” (Bottom-L) “I am in Eastern Ghouta in Syria, come and get me!”. Credit: Reuters

Syrian opposition groups have taken advantage of a global Pokemon craze to draw the world’s attention to the plight of children caught up in the country’s five-year civil war.

Photographs of children in besieged Syrian towns holding pictures of Pokemon characters and appealing for help were published by the Syrian National Coalition, an alliance of Western-backed activist and rebel groups.

Their release is an attempt to capitalise on the success of “Pokemon GO”, which challenges players on smartphones to go to real-world locations to capture the cuddly monsters using the phone’s camera.

“If you are looking for a Pokemon you can find it in Syria,” the coalition said on Twitter through their communications arm, the Revolutionary Forces of Syria Media Office.

Many Syrians feel the world is ignoring a conflict which has killed more than a quarter of a million people, displaced half the population, and left hundreds of thousands trapped by either government or rebel forces.

One photograph of a child with the Pokemon character “Pikachu” reads, “I am trapped in Douma in east Ghouta. Help me.”

Douma is a suburb of Damascus besieged by government forces. Bombardments are a daily occurrence there and in the surrounding neighbourhoods, which hold tens of thousands of civilians according to the UN.

Rebel fighters have also besieged government-held towns in the north of the country, and have fired rockets and mortars into government-controlled neighbourhoods of Aleppo and the capital Damascus.