Sav­ing the grapes of Raqa

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Since she fled her home near the ji­hadist strong­hold of Raqa in north­ern Syria more than a month ago, Warda Al-Jassem has been im­pa­tient to re­turn-to wa­ter her vine. Sav­ing their grapes has be­come an ob­ses­sion for the 50-year-old and her hus­band since fight­ing forced them to flee. Their house is in Jazra, a west­ern sub­urb of Raqa, the Is­lamic State group’s de facto Syr­ian cap­i­tal from which a US-backed al­liance of Arab and Kur­dish fight­ers is bat­tling to oust the ji­hadists.

Al-Jassem and her hus­band, who have taken refuge in the Al-An­dalus area some 25 kilo­me­ters north of Raqa, could not stop wor­ry­ing about their grapes. Ac­com­pa­nied by neigh­bors, she headed home over the week­end for her first visit since IS was forced from the neigh­bor­hood in early June. Due to a heart prob­lem, her hus­band could not join her.

“Since we left here, the only thing he wanted was to know what had hap­pened to the vine,” she said. “Ev­ery day he’d say ‘The vine is thirsty, it has to be wa­tered’.” So “I came back to wa­ter it,” she said. The blue-eyed woman, her head cov­ered with a black em­broi­dered veil, eyed a trel­lis hung with yel­lowed grapes and parched vine leaves. “They were dy­ing of thirst,” she said. Much of the fruit had faded, but some grapes, still green, seemed to have sur­vived the in­tense sum­mer heat. A de­ter­mined look on her face, Al-Jassem turned over the earth with a shovel. Then, us­ing a bucket, she poured wa­ter at the bot­tom of the trel­lis to try to save the rest of the vine. Only then did she smile, her mis­sion ac­com­plished. She urged her friends to gather those grapes that were still ed­i­ble.

Pre­cious items

In­side the house, she has­tened to re­cover a few pre­cious items: bags of dried mint and other sea­son­ingsand a multi-col­ored bra. Be­fore leav­ing again, she filled a plas­tic bot­tle with heat­ing oil from a bar­rel on the pa­tio. Jassem’s house may have been spared the vi­o­lence that has de­scended on Raqa, but the home of her neigh­bor Maryam Mustafa one street away was not so for­tu­nate. When she got home, Mustafa saw fight­ers of the anti-IS Syr­ian Demo­cratic Forces loung­ing on her pa­tio. In­side, her wash­ing ma­chine was bro­ken, the fam­ily’s clothes were scat­tered around and even the crock­ery had dis­ap­peared. — AFP

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