DEV­AS­TA­TION LINGERS

THE SYR­IAN CITY OF RAQQA IS STILL A MESS ONE YEAR AF­TER BE­ING LIB­ER­ATED FROM DAESH WITH BOD­IES STILL UN­DER RUB­BLE, LIT­TLE RE­CON­STRUC­TION TAK­ING PLACE AND NO RE­SOURCES TO HELP TRAU­MA­TISED CIVIL­IANS

The Gulf Today - Panorama - - COVER STORY - Michael Jansen

Ayear af­ter Raqqa’s fall to Us-backed Kur­dish forces, res­i­dents who dared to move back to this once great Syr­ian city live in fear of daily bomb­ings and shoot­ings by Daesh un­der­ground fight­ers who re­turn in se­cret. Check­points, foot pa­trols and ar­moured ve­hi­cles do not halt the in­fil­tra­tions.

Par­ents are afraid to send chil­dren to school. Many women con­tinue to don the niqab, fear­ing the re­turn of Daesh which cap­tured the city from al-qaeda’s Nusra front and Free Syr­ian Army in­sur­gents who had oc­cu­pied Raqqa in 2013.

Af­ter tak­ing con­trol in Jan­uary 2014, Daesh ex­e­cuted Alaw­ites and sup­port­ers of the gov­ern­ment and razed Shia mosques and Chris­tian churches. The Ar­me­nian Catholic church was turned into a Daesh po­lice head­quar­ters and a cen­tre for re­cruit­ing fight­ers. Chris­tians, who had been 10 per cent of the pre-war res­i­dents of more than 350,000-400,000 fled the city. At the time Raqqa fell, its pop­u­la­tion had tripled due to an in­flux of in­ter­nally dis­placed and had been des­ig­nated a demil­i­tarised refuge. This sta­tus was ig­nored by the

Free Syr­ian Army, Nusra, and later Daesh.

Dur­ing the June-oc­to­ber Us­dom­i­nated cam­paign to cap­ture Raqqa, hu­man rights groups es­ti­mate be­tween 6,375 and 9,790 civil­ians were killed. Amnesty In­ter­na­tional has con­demned mem­bers of the Us-led coal­tion for fail­ing “to ad­mit to, let alone ad­e­quately in­ves­ti­gate, the shock­ing scale of civil­ian deaths and de­struc­tion it caused in Raqqa.” Amnesty called the de­nial “a slap in the face (of) sur­vivors try­ing to re­build their lives and their city.”

In a let­ter to Amnesty dated

A fa­ther and his son walk past de­stroyed build­ings in the town of Dibsi Af­nan in the coun­try­side of Raqqa prov­ince, Syria.

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