People in the city of Raqqa are now able to relax by strolling in the streets and visiting the local parks. ISIS rule had prevented them from doing so before.
Local citizens from Raqqa in northern Syria have expressed their happiness that life is gradually returning to their city after almost nine months since the defeat of the so-called Islamic State.
Parks have reopened, cafes and restaurants are once again welcoming guests, and people are free to enjoy their leisure time away from the repressive rule of ISIS.
“We have come to this cafe to smoke some shisha and have a cold drink to relax because we have been truly distressed,” said one man. “Raqqa was empty, it was more like a place from hell, with airstrikes, slaughtering and murder. People were imprisoned if they sat in the park and smoked a cigarette.”
While many people in Raqqa are beginning to put the dark stain of ISIS’ rule behind them, others still remember the punishments inflicted upon the local population. While sentences ranged from banal fines to public lashings or executions, the Rasheed Park where people now enjoy their free time was once the site of brutal acts carried out by ISIS militants.
“When ISIS occupied the city we were prevented from even walking past the park in case we were accused of adultery or anything at all,” said one woman. “They used it like a detention ground, where they would punish anyone for anything. They would beat people and whip them and hang them here.”
With the defeat of ISIS in Iraq and most of Syria, many areas of these countries are experiencing greater levels of peace. Children, especially, are now able to enjoy themselves free of ISIS’ indoctrination. As one girl at the Rasheed Park simply said, “the atmosphere here is good. We are playing and having fun in the park every Friday”.