Raqqa was the primary centre of ISIS activity in Syria. The terrorist group occupied the city for around 3 years and had proclaimed it to be its capital in Syria. Residents of the city have been returning in their droves since the liberation in mid-October by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). They are now fomenting an atmosphere conducive to coexistence among communities as part of the efforts to reconstruct and rehabilitate Raqqa.
One such initiative is the opening of an anti-war art exhibition. Visual artists are presenting their work at the exhibition and are spreading messages of peace, hoping to contribute towards overcoming the painful episodes experienced by the city’s residents during ISIS’ brutal rule.
The significance of this art exhibition is not only in the messages that the artists and their works intend to convey, but in the location of the exhibition itself: Na’im roundabout. Na’im roundabout became a symbol of ISIS repression and brutality not only in Raqqa but in the whole of Syria. Na’im roundabout, which translates into “Paradise roundabout”, was in fact a location that one could draw parallels with hell. This is where ISIS militants would carry out public executions on a regular basis as a deterrent for the residents of Raqqa, and to dissuade them from infringing upon any of the oppressive and totalitarian laws enacted by the group.
The exhibition thus stands in the Na’im roundabout in order to reject everything that ISIS stood for and to show the public in Raqqa that the moral values of the city have been turned upside down since the liberation and elimination of ISIS.
Raqqa has been undergoing a reconstruction process since the liberation of the city. One issue that continues to blight the city is the existence of mines left behind by ISIS. Dozens of civilians have been killed by the mines as the SDF and local organisations continue to locate and diffuse them.