More than two years after the defeat of ISIS, vast tracts of Raqqa City remain scarred by war. The increasingly-frustrated locals say that reconstruction funds have been used towards other ends by local councils, adding to the concerns about an on-going insurgency and rising unemployment.
More than two years after the defeat of ISIS in Raqqa, large parts of the city remain devastated, with the already-meagre living conditions worsening due to spotty services and lack of large-scale reconstruction. Many people living in the city feel that Raqqa is on the verge of a new catastrophe, highlighting that corruption has become a growing issue in many parts of the local administration while unemployment is further aggravating the situation.
According to interviews done by Syria TV, the corruption of local institutions has been a factor in the slow reconstruction. Although the International Coalition as well as other donors have made donations towards reconstruction, these funds were allegedly redirected to other areas.
Locals also allege that the remaining funds were used in projects that are good as a show but of no long-term or practical use. Such locals were able to point towards 13 projects, all of which are being accused of using reconstruction funds without benefiting the wider population or improving the basic services that many people need. Other reconstruction efforts, meanwhile, were highly localised. While those projects did benefit locals, they are unable to cope with the sheer scale involved in the reconstruction needs.
Other factors are also impacting Raqqa. Despite numerous operations by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), ISIS-linked militants continue to stage attacks in the group’s former capital, as well as the surrounding countryside. Meanwhile, the launch of the Turkish operations in northern Raqqa and Hasakah regions have caused large-scale displacement, not only putting more pressure on the city but also reducing the sources of revenue – such as from agriculture – that could have helped towards reconstruction. Revenues that could be used for reconstruction are now also being used towards supporting Syrians who were displaced from the areas of Ras al-Ain and Tal Abyad.
Improving the conditions in the city and creating sources of gainful employment will be vital towards ensuring local and regional stability while allowing Raqqa to shed its association with ISIS.