Following the end to fighting in Raqqa on Tuesday, hundreds of families who escaped the group’s rule in the final hours of the battle have expressed relief at being liberated, and mention the horrors of living under ISIS rule.
Fighters belonging to the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), who battled against ISIS for control of the city for over four months, also speak of their happiness that the battle is now over.
“They are happy, especially children, mothers and adults,” said one female fighter with the SDF. “We are gathered here with the Syrian Democratic Forces and civilians will be sent to safe places outside the fighting zones.”
Although fighting has stopped, the shear destruction in Raqqa means that many families are unable to return to the city. Although some have returned to their homes, rebuilding efforts will take months if not years. Furthermore, de-mining teams and remnant militant sleeper cells will have to be removed, akin to the aftermath of the battle for Mosul in neighbouring Iraq.
The liberated families are some of many who have been freed from the cruel and callous rule of ISIS. Others speak of the horror and brutal nature under ISIS rule, with many in the last few weeks of the battle forced to act as human shields for the militant group, especially in the municipal stadium and National Hospital, which were the sites of fierce fighting towards the end of the conflict.
Following the end to the battle, the SDF announced that the campaign against ISIS would not stop. Further east, the Manbij Military Council, which is affiliated to the SDF, is fighting ISIS in Deir ez-Zour. According to Talal Silo, a spokesman for the SDF, fighters will be relocated from Raqqa to the frontline in Deir ez-Zour.
This comes as internal security forces begin to take over security measures in Raqqa City, and the Raqqa Civilian Council begins to take over the city’s administrative affairs.