Syrians use Pokemon GO! to remind us of their plight

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Image: Twitter

Life as a refugee is hard. Danger, hunger, thirst, and fear are constant companions. And as hard as it can be for adults to deal with these stresses, children have it even worse.

An adult can rationalize these problems. They can call on experience and philosophy and religion to find a bit of comfort. Children have no such escape from the constant stress of life as a refugee.

But like children everywhere, children in Syrian refugee camps are capable of grasping a lot more about their situation than you would expect. And in Syria, many can feel like the world has completely forgotten about them. In many instances, the world has.

It’s easy to show concern about the plight of the world’s refugee children when one washes up on a beach, an innocent life cut short by the conflicts of adults makes for compelling images, and it can arouse our desire to finally do something. For a while. And then we forget again and are consumed by other concerns.

That’s why the media organization of the Syrian Opposition has come up with a rather unusual method for getting the world’s attention focused again on the plight of children in Syria. And if you have been on the Internet at any point in the recent past, you likely are familiar with the phenomenon it is referencing.

Pokemon GO! is a mobile app that uses your location to show virtual Pokemon on your phone screen, which you then attempt to catch. It has been a massive success, despite having some less than stellar reviews.

Capitalizing on the fact that the world seems to be obsessed with the mobile game Pokemon GO! right now, a Twitter campaign has been launched featuring pictures of Syrian children holding Pokemon, reminding viewers that while they are obsessively collecting virtual monsters, real people are suffering.

The images are heartbreaking, showing pleading children framed by pictures of Pikachu. It is a startling reminder of how misplaced our priorities can be.


Image: Twitter

Almost 14 million people in Syria currently need some form of humanitarian assistance right now, and over half of those are children, according to World Vision, an NGO focused on the conflict.

Over half this number are refugees, which means they have been forced to flee their homes due to the threat of violence. Half of that number are children.

It is estimated that almost half a million people have been casualties in what has become one of the most destructive conflicts of the modern era. That means almost 1 in 10 Syrians have been killed or wounded since the war began.

While most of those deaths can be directly attributed to violence, many are the result of lack of access to food, shelter, water, or medical assistance, meaning that in many cases they would have been preventable if people had only cared enough.

That brings us back to the Opposition’s Pokemon campaign, which reminds us that while we were playing with our smart phones, children were dying in a Civil War.

Wyatt is a writer and your friend. You can follow him on Twitter @WyattRedd.

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