Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

Daily Archives: 04/07/2013

Zaytoun, the little refugee


Zaytoun, the little refugee is a project by a group of Arab and Western “artists, writers, programmers, documentalists, and researchers” to produce a video game about the situation of Palestinian refugees in Syria.

the purpose of the project is to gain an understanding of the situation of palestinian refugees who are now joined by exiled syrians. our intention is to inform on the basic lines of the conflict at play, the major players, the interests that lay behind each of their positions, the history of the people´s whose lives are being put on hold, violently interjected due to causes that are greater than themselves. To reveal part of the complexity of the struggle taking place recognizing that it goes far beyond the traditional labels of the old order: imperialists vs. freedom fighters. For too long have dictators legitimized their tyranny based on outside threats of oppression, imperialist forces threatening to take over the destiny of a people´s history, but, What good is their protection if it is offered on condition that the people surrender that same freedom the Authority claims to be protecting? Examples of this kind of hypocrisy can be seen all over the world, and is in no way limited to countries of the Arab World or to those of the so called Third World.

The game, which hasn’t yet been fully developed or released, takes the form of a richly-illustrated and animated interactive story about the challenges facing a Palestinian refugee in the Yarmouk district of Damascus:

Zaytoun is a Palestinian refugee boy from Yarmouk Camp, south of Damascus, Syria,and home to the largest population of Palestinian refugees in the country. after 65  years of  exile, of living in a world without a land to call their own , and two years trying to resist being moved from their home once again, his family decides to leave the camp due to fear that the Syrian Security Forces will besiege it without allowing any food or resources to enter the Camp. however, on the morning they had planned to leave, Zaytoun wakes up  too early  and sneaks outside to say one last goodbye to his friend. suddenly  the syrian regime army begins to bomb the camp. it gets too dangerous to stay outside, Zaytoun runs to his friend’s house, where he gets stuck till the next day. when he gets back to his house, the next morning, he finds that little is left, the walls have been destroyed and no one from his family is in sight. he looks around and finds no answer, only a piece of paper with a note inside > Go to Yarmouk School, we meet you there.

but again, at the school, no one is to be found.

Zaytoun is then confronted with a series of choices: where to go? back to the camp, head to the border? but which one? who to talk to, and what to say? with the help of a series of documents, and maps, including a map of Syria with information on the state of roads, cities, hospitals, etc, he must make the decision on where to go, and what to say to the people he finds. Whether he is able to leave certain locations or not, depends on him being able to correctly (?) answer questions concerning his history and that of his fellow Syrians and Palestinians.


What we intend with this blog and the interactive story of Zaytoun, the little refugee from Yarmouk, is to transmit the information of the situation in a non-traditional format, exploring new forms of communication and exposition, and in this way, hopefully reaching a non-traditional public, in an attempt to broaden the spectrum of individuals who are informed on the situation. we are conscious of the complexity of reality and aware of the dangers of simplification and misrepresentation, and will do our best to not fall in their traps. our intention is not to lay a rigid or static statement concerning the people making history in this conflict, but to contribute another story, other eyes and words to the happening.

Three Realms of Conflict that the game wants to inform about:

  1. The history of Palestinian refugees & their location
  2. The Syrian Revolution
  3. The subsequent displacement of Palestinian refugees from Syria and the political and humanitarian conditions they face when reaching any of the bordering countries (Lebanon, Occupied Palestine, Jordan, Iraq, and Turkey)

You’ll find further coverage of the project at Global Voices. Those interested in the use of digital games and interactive stories to raise awareness of refugee issues might also be interested in also having a look at UNHCR’s My Life as a Refugee, or the Aleppo: The Mother of All Battles which was developed by students in my POLI 450 (Peacebuilding) class..

A (simulated) earthquake at Sapir Academic College in Israel

Shay Hershkovitz (Department of Information & Knowledge Management, University of Haifa and School of Communication, Sapir Academic College) has passed on the following report of a recent disaster simulation he led:

* * *

On May 27 2013, 150 students from the School of Communications at Sapir College took part in a simulation dealt with a severe earthquake in the southern Israeli city of Eilat.

The purpose of the simulation was to allow students to experience with communication practices, such as journalism, television, radio, digital communication, and marketing communication. The simulation created a realistic environment that gave the students a firsthand experience in the context of crisis management. In addition, it exposed students to the job of professionals in the field and tied them directly to various issues.

The plot of the simulation dealt with a major earthquake in Southern Israel’s Gulf of Eilat that caused heavy damage and over 1,000 fatalities. The simulation began 10 days following the earthquake when most of the victims were already evacuated. The government has begun restoration efforts while a public uproar started to point fingers and blame several government officials.

The Simulation was planned by 25, top of their class, students. It was led by a Sapir college lecturer Dr. Shay Hershkovitz, who is also Vice President of Research and Strategy at Linx and an expert in simulation design and competitive intelligence. The simulation design was based on thorough research of similar disasters, geological issues, knowledge of search and rescue officials in Israel and much more. The 25 students created the background information, designed the necessary material, planned the mission of the simulation and were responsible for marketing among fellow student in the school of communications. The simulation also included senior professionals from government offices, search and rescue forces, the military, local authorizes and the media.

As mentioned earlier, the simulation included 150 students from the Communications department. They were divided into groups according to their field of study including: written, radio and television Journalism, digital communication, marketing communication and general studies. They conducted press conferences  and covered them, interviewed government office officials and ran in-depth journalistic inquiries. In addition, they developed PR programs for government offices whose image was damaged, designed marketing plans aimed to rehabilitate tourism, and established public protest groups.

The simulation ran on social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, as well as a special website that was built by the students running the simulation. The school’s digital journal and local radio station also took part in the simulation, which was covered by the local media (below).

Shay Hershkovitz 

%d bloggers like this: