Following the successful liberation of the city of Tabqa by Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), operation “Wrath of the Euphrates” is moving to liberate Raqqa. So far the SDF has covered a lot of ground and has managed to capture many villages from ISIS north of Raqqa city, including; Jubb al-Alii, Tall Hassan, Umm Nusora, al-Drubeih al-Kabera, Jarrah Kabir.
As one SDF official says, “we are now besieging the city of Raqqa from three fronts”. SDF fighters have declared their intentions to storm Raqqa in the next few months. The group has built a large number of defences and tunnel networks around the city in anticipation of the battle. The SDF, with the help of the international coalition, has been softening these defences up. Anticipating the coming battle, many citizens have attempted to escape the city and surrounding Raqqa countryside, as to not get caught up in the fighting. Thousands escape daily towards SDF controlled territory, where they are checked, processed and transported to IDP camps.
For those still trapped in Raqqa live is difficult and dangerous, with regular Hisbah patrols both men and woman mandate what they wear, say, eat and sell. According to citizen accounts, many people have been beaten, imprisoned and killed due as a result of what the Hisba consider immoral or haram acts, which include women wearing make-up under their burkah and men shaving their beards.
Many schools have been transformed into recruitment centres, where pupils and students are forcibly recruited and brainwashed to the messages and philosophies of this terrorist groups. To avoid such fate, many parents keep children away from schools. Education is either given at home or in some cases not given at all.
With so much at stake among all groups involved, tensions are high with so many factors to consider for the upcoming battle.