Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

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..

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