Raqqa Residents Push Reconstruction Efforts, Dust off Their City

Raqqa Residents Push Reconstruction Efforts, Dust off Their City

Thursday, 15 March, 2018 - 10:15
Syrian workers helping in reconstruction efforts in Syria's Raqqa, Asharq Al-Awsat
Raqqa – Kamal Sheikho
Residents of the north Syrian city of Raqqa are busy dusting off war rubble off their neighborhoods from their city.

Reconstruction efforts already started plowing through debris with returning locals being determined in their hope to reopen shops and inject life back into a city worn out by war.

Women and girls are working to clear out lobbies and courtyards in a humble effort to turn over the page on painful displacement they have experienced over the past months.

Staple good trucks have returned to public squares with vendors advertising merchandise at the top of their lungs. The scene in the Na'im roundabout is lively despite the overwhelming devastation in the backdrop.

Destruction has taken control over fringe neighborhoods in Raqqa-- a place which saw many houses wrecked, doors busted out, and windows shattered by blast waves.

Although the scene is shocking in outlying areas, central neighborhoods and locations had indisputably dealt with tougher battle days.

Town square, market streets and stadiums had witnessed fierce clashes fighting for strategic buildings and outposts.

Battles came to an end and ISIS militants were successfully driven out, but definitely not free of cost. It has become almost impossible to differentiate between what was once a home or a shop, with everything being rendered into mountains of rubble, stones, water pipes and power cords—none of which are fit for operation.

Raqqa’s Naim Square roundabout resident Abdul Rahman, 53, is repairing his partially destroyed house nestled in one of the most previously dangerous hotspots. Last year the area was an arena for operations run by Syrian Democratic Forces and US-led International Coalition air campaigns against ISIS ultra-hardliners.

Abdul Rahman expressed his desire for a new life away from the terror he experienced when ISIS extremists overran the city.

“My house is located between the roundabout of hell and the circle of death( referring to naim and al Dalla roundabouts), when I used to leave my house, I saw heads hung… and other bodies were hung without heads,” He says while taking some cement to line the bottom of his home’s walls.

Abdul Rahman’s house received sizable war damage.

Raqqa is located on the eastern bank of the Euphrates River, with a total area of ​​about 27,000 square kilometers. Before the outbreak of the Syrian revolution, which turned into a civil war in spring of 2011, some 300,000 people, mostly Sunni Arabs, along with Kurds, Christians and Turkmen, fled most of the city as ISIS seized control.

After its liberation, a part of its original inhabitants decided to return. Dalla Square, located at the heart of Raqqa city, now witnesses lively movement that has not been seen for years now.

Workshops run day and night to rebuild the market. Shop and property owners have not saved an effort to speed up cleaning the streets and restoring life to normal.

War did not manage to end the life of Raqqa locals-- they work diligently and struggle to bring their city back to life. However, the three-year ISIS reign has left behind its own challenges on reconstruction, demining tasks and reinvigorating its economy mines.

As for public hygiene, the Municipality of Raqqa started working in March within city neighborhoods, and allocated tractors and cleaning and dumping machines to take care of the process of discarding waste.

“We have distributed waste containers in most neighborhoods where people have returned,” said Sana al-Ahmad, the mayor of the municipality, which was formed by the Civil Council, which runs the city.

“We also set up seven garbage trucks to collect garbage.”

More so, to encourage locals to return home, the municipality decided to exempt citizens from building permit fees and financial taxes.

“We decided to exempt people from taxes and financial fees to speed up the reconstruction process,” added Al-Ahmad.

Speaking on the level of the community, Al-Ahmad said that all social activists and officials are working day and night to provide services to every returning resident.

Editor Picks

Multimedia