Friday, January 15, 2016

Living Under the Sword of ISIS in Syria


Raqqa, Syria — A FEW weeks ago, my friend Saeed tried to get his family out of Raqqa, the city in eastern Syria that since 2014 has been the de facto capital of the self-declared Islamic State. “It’s becoming very hard to get any kind of work in Raqqa,” he told me. He was depressed that he’d failed in his attempt to smuggle his family over the Turkish border to the north.

I talk to Saeed almost every time he has a phone connection. He was one of the thousands who’d fled the fighting around Aleppo in northwestern Syria in 2012. I met him when he was searching for a house to rent in Raqqa.

Although the city was besieged by rebels from the Free Syrian Army, as well as from Islamist groups like the Qaeda-linked Nusra Front, back then it was a safe haven compared with embattled cities like Aleppo, Homs and Deir Ezzor. Raqqa was soon crowded with refugees. But in 2013, as the rebel groups closed in and the Syrian Air Force of President Bashar al-Assad started bombing the city, those who could afford to started to leave.

For me, Raqqa was my hometown and leaving was out of the question. Even under bombardment, people managed to keep their businesses running. I worked two jobs.

(More here.)


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