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Syrians use Pokémon Go to draw attention to children’s deaths

Opposition forces highlight the over 14,000 children who have been killed in Syria so far


 
A man carries a boy after the Syrian regime forces airstrikes targeted over Aleppo's opposition controlled Kellese district, Syria on July 09, 2016. At least 5 people wounded in the airstrike. (Ibrahim Ebu Leys/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

A man carries a boy after the Syrian regime forces airstrikes targeted over Aleppo’s opposition controlled Kellese district, Syria on July 09, 2016. At least 5 people wounded in the airstrike. (Ibrahim Ebu Leys/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

A Syrian opposition group is trying to use the popularity of Pokémon Go to draw attention to the over 14,000 children who have been killed in Syria so far, and the millions more still in the country. Photos posted on Twitter show children holding pictures of Pokémon, a location in Syria, and the message: come save me.

The Revolutionary Forces of Syria media office, a platform aligned with forces opposed to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, posted the photos on Twitter. Yasser Alrahil, a spokesperson for the group, told Maclean’s the photos were taken inside Syria. “We want to raise awareness and draw attention to the plight of Syrian children in besieged areas,” said Alrahil. On Wednesday, UNICEF estimated that 35,000 children are trapped in and around Manbij, where U.S.-backed forces are fighting with ISIS. Some of the photos say the children asking for help are near the city of Hama, currently held by anti-Assad forces.

On Tuesday, U.S.-led airstrikes killed 56 people, including 11 children, according to the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The Observatory called the airstrike a “massacre” and other groups put the death toll as high as 212.  Army spokesperson Col. Christopher Garver said the U.S. was aware of claims of civilian deaths, and was looking into the incident. On the same day, a video surfaced showing U.S.-backed rebels beheading a 12-year old near Aleppo.

While Pokémon Go has largely been celebrated in Canada as a means of promoting exercise and improving players’ mental health, it has highlighted more immediate issues in other countries.

Pokémon Go players the world over stare down at their phones as they walk around, capturing Pokémon superimposed on locations in the real world. In Toronto, a comedian posted a video of himself walking on the tracks at Union Station because he was so distracted while catching ’em all — a dispatch largely greeted with chuckles. The Israeli military, however, warned its players not to use the game while on base, due to possible security risks posed by the amount of information the app collects about users.

A Frenchman was detained in Indonesia after wandering onto a military base while playing the game. In Bosnia, players have been urged not to accidentally wander into mine fields. About 600 people have been killed by unexploded ordnance since the mid-1990s Yugoslav wars.

Pictures of Syrian children have captivated the world before. Back in September the photo of lifeless three-year-old Alan Kurdi shocked and energized Canadians — helping motivate the resettlement of over 29,000 Syrian refugees. For those children still trapped in Syria though, the situation only seems to be growing worse.

Facing attacks by ISIS and Assad’s forces some hoped the U.S.-backed coalition would protect them. Those hopes were undermined this week by the Tuesday airstrike by U.S.-led forces — preliminary reports indicate those killed were children and their parents fleeing ISIS who were mistaken for ISIS fighters.


 

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