The battle to liberate Raqqa from the Islamic State by the US-led coalition took months of hard fighting. Now the city is a bombed-out shell of itself. No one knows exactly how many lives were lost. Raqqa is devastated and according to officials, it will take months or even years to make the city habitable again.
The electricity network has been destroyed. The water systems, sewers, and schools are all badly damaged. There are still countless bodies under the rubble and before any citizens can be allowed to move back, each building and street has to be cleared of ISIS bombs left behind.
“I went to all of the executions,” said Abd Hassan Shaban, a 50-year-old father of seven, a week after fleeing the final battles in Raqqa, Syria. “I had relatives in prison. I wanted to see who they were killing.”
People were beheaded, shot, or bludgeoned to death in Raqqa, Shaban added, and Islamic State militants hanged their bodies, or just their heads, on the fence in the center of town. Na’eem Square, or Heaven Square, soon became nicknamed Hell Square.
“It’s better to know if they are dead than wonder,” Shaban added.
In mid-October, IS was driven out of Raqqa as the remaining families fled the battle. Making the city once again livable, according to officials, is now an overwhelming task complicated by a political deadlock. Rebuilding lives after mass trauma, they add, may be close to impossible.
Most of the people from the city live in refugee camps and the toll taken on them especially the children has been extremely difficult. But the most pressing needs now are economic. There simply is no money to rebuild. And the Kurdish militias that took the city are not planning on leaving.
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