Syrians harness Pokémon frenzy to depict their plight
22 July 2016, 16:27
Beirut - A sad-eyed Pikachu Pokémon Go character
sits amidst the rubble on a Syrian street, while a Charizard dragon from the
smash hit game is perched alongside gun-toting jihadists.
The striking montages are the work of Syrian Khaled
Akil, who is one of several activists and artists using the international
frenzy over Pokémon Go to draw new attention to the plight of their
In the images posted on Akil's website, characters
from the wildly popular smartphone app are placed into news photographs of
scenes from the conflict in Syria, which is now in its sixth year and has
killed more than 280 000 people.
One image appears to show the aftermath of
bombardment, with the facades sheared from buildings and smoke rising from the
blackened carcass of a car.
A child walks across the rubble strewn throughout
the street, atop which sits the yellow Pikachu character, his tall ears
In another image, a boy wheels his bicycle down a
devastated street, with the turquoise-green Vaporeon character by his side.
Since its global launch, Pokémon Go has sparked a
worldwide frenzy among users who have taken to the streets with their
The free app uses satellite locations, graphics and
camera capabilities to overlay cartoon monsters on real-world settings,
challenging players to capture and train the creatures for battles.
But some Syrians see it as a chance to redirect
attention to the conflict that began in March 2011, which has often fallen out
of the headlines despite a spiralling death toll and the displacement of more
than half the Syrian population.
and save me'
Syrian graphic designer Saif Aldeen Tahhan posted images on his Facebook
page showing users holding smartphones and seeking not Pokémons but medical
care, school books or undamaged homes.
One image depicts a smartphone in front of a rubber
dinghy of refugees at sea, with the user trying to capture a life ring.
"I hope that the message behind these images
reaches the whole world and that Syrians will be safe everywhere and
always," Tahhan wrote on his
Syrian opposition activists have also sought to
harness the frenzy over the game, posting a series of images online this week
showing children holding posters of individual characters.
"I am in Kafr Nabal in Idlib province, come
and save me," reads the text underneath a Pikachu on a poster held by a
Kafr Nabal is a rebel-held town in north-western
Idlib province, which is mostly held by an opposition alliance that includes
Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front.
Towns across the province are regularly bombarded
by the Syrian government and its Russian ally, with more than 20 civilians
reported dead in raids in Idlib on Thursday alone.
Other images in the series created by the Syrian
Revolutionary Forces activist group show children in the rebel-held towns of
Kafr Zita and Kafr Nabuda in central Hama province.
And an additional montage depicts a giant Pikachu
in tears, seated next to a child in the ruins of a devastated building.
"I am from Syria, come to save me!," the picture is captioned, with the