Children in war-torn Syria are using a heartbreaking new tactic to remind the world they are still in terrible danger.
Images of forlorn-looking boys and girls holding pictures of cartoon monsters from the wildly successful game Pokemon Go (whose slogan is “Gotta catch ’em all”) are circulating online.
The images feature banners in Arabic, one of which translates as “I live in Kafr Nabl, the Aleppo countryside. Come catch me.”
Further images draw attention to the various areas in Syria the children are pictured in, all begging to be saved.
Harnessing the Pokemon Go trend is a clever, if somewhat tragic, tactic.
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Players of the Nintendo game are given an avatar on a digital map, mirroring their movements as tracked by their phone. The aim is to keep moving, “catching” as many monsters as possible.
It’s unclear as yet who is responsible for creating these particular visuals, but it’s not the first time imagery from Pokémon Go has been used to draw attention to the plight of the troubled country.
Posting on Facebook, graphic designer Saif Tahhan created the “Syrian version,” which sees people playing in devastated cities trying to catch first-aid kits, life jackets, teddy bears, books and supplies instead of cartoon monsters.
He told Al Arabiya: “The world has become obsessed with this video game, so I told myself, why not use it as a medium to convey our suffering?
“Everyone is now searching for Pokémon. However, Syrians are searching for the basic necessities of life. Honestly, I don’t think the world feels for us.”
Much of the world has been gripped by the official augmented reality game, with stories emerging of people wandering into traffic or being lured into theft, such is their devotion to it.
But for the Syrian children who continue to suffer under siege, it is no game.
Five years after the crisis began, more than a quarter of a million of them have been living in constant fear of barrel bombs, air strikes and shelling.
During this time, nearly 12,000 children have been killed and more than 2.3 million have had to leave the country, according to statistics from the Save the Children charity.
This week, UNICEF condemned the killing of children following brutal incidents in the country’s north. The U.N. children’s agency said dozens of children were among those killed in and around the town of Manbij, where airstrikes blamed on the US-led coalition killed scores of people in the past few days.
The coalition has not commented on the accusations and has stepped up its airstrikes on the area, which is controlled by the so-called Islamic State group.
UNICEF said: “No matter where they are in Syria or under whose control they live – absolutely nothing justifies attacks on children.”
UNICEF also condemned the killing of a 12-year-old boy who was beheaded on-camera in Aleppo this week by Syrian rebels.
This article was originally published by The Huffington Post and is reprinted here with permission.