Civil society groups and volunteers breathe new life into Tabqa

Since the Syrian Democratic Forces defeated ISIS and took control of Tabqa on 10th May 2017, efforts have been ongoing to rehabilitate and rebuild the damaged streets and buildings of the city. Tabqa, which is located approximately 40km west of Raqqa, was a former stronghold for ISIS in the region, and formed a transit zone to the group’s other territories such as the oil-rich province of Deir ez-Zour.

Almost six months after its liberation, many thousands of residents from Tabqa have returned to their city and homes. Those displaced lived in IDP camps, principally in the northern Raqqa Countryside (to which Raqqa City is the provincial capital), amidst poor conditions and a lack of aid.

But now efforts have been undertaken to rehabilitate the city. The organisation “Better Hope”, in conjunction with local people from Tabqa, has begun clearing the streets of rubbish and debris. This has not only improved the appearance of the city’s main roads but also provided employment opportunities for more than 60 workers, 12 drivers and 10 ‘university observers’, an important factor given the city’s high unemployment rates.

Furthermore, residents who were previously employed in local municipality positions have offered their assistance and experience in carrying out the clearing initiatives.

“Our goal is to assist the Public Waste Management and help the municipal staff who can benefit from our experience as we were formerly a part of the Tabqa Municipality and we have experience in this field,” said one man. “We removed all garbage with a large truck and a pickup.”

Other residents have also noted that these clearing efforts have also gone some way to improving the cleanliness of the city by removing pests and diseases.

“The process and change that took place in the streets of the city also contributed to the removal of insects, flies and skin diseases,” said another volunteer. “Not to mention the payments to the owners of the cars and vehicles which were rented.”

The hope with this initiative is that further initiatives may follow, not only in Tabqa, but in other areas of northern Syria, including Raqqa, where a civilian council has taken over administrative affairs in the city, beginning with clearing rubble and mines from destroyed buildings.