The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) is hoping a video game can highlight human rights abuses as one the year’s biggest sporting events gets underway.
Baku 2015 starts today, bringing 6,000 multi-sport athletes from across Europe to Azerbaijan for the European Games. But the government there is guilty of human rights violations, according to FIDH, and is holding people prisoner for exercising their right to free speech. FIDH has chosen to use an 8-bit sports game to showcase this issue, hoping it can express the problem in a way that people can engage with. It’s another example of video games being used to highlight serious political issues.
Real Baku 2015 lets you play as a lawyer, activist, or journalist, and offers five different sporting events — including swimming, shot put, and boxing — which play out in your prison cell. Swimming, for example, has you splashing water from your sink onto the floor. It’s been created by game designer, author, and university lecturer Pippin Barr.
FIDH president Karim Lahidji says that Real Baku will help highlight a problem that few people are aware of by offering a “new approach to drawing the public’s attention to this dismal reality.”
According to fellow human rights group Amnesty International, there are at least 20 prisoners of conscience in Azerbaijan “detained solely for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression.”
The Azerbaijan government — which has banned a number of media outlets from attending Baku 2015 — denies these claims, though. “There are no political prisoners in Azerbaijan,” Ali Hasanov, an assistant to the president Ilham Aliyev, told reporters earlier this week. “There are people who are in prison for criminal offences.”