The city of Tabqa is the latest to be liberated by Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The people are able to breath a sign of relief and begin to rebuild their lives without the fear of ISIS militants looming. Life under ISIS was full of humiliation, oppression and danger.
The children of Tabqa recount what they witnessed under ISIS, with one commenting on ISIS’ public displays of power and authority saying, “first, they brought a cage, a large cage, and put it in the middle of the street. Whoever harasses women is placed in the cage. He stays in the cage for a day or half a day and then is let go”. He continues, “They also brought someone here and tied him up. They read his death sentence then shot him in the head. They also brought 13 people here; they came from Safsaf area by cars and cut off their heads”.
Such acts of violence were perpetrated on a regular basis, effectively normalising the sight of blood in the streets. ISIS ruled with brute force, fear and propaganda quelling any kind of dissent and protest, no matter how small. Even in the knowledge of their impending defeat, many members of the group seemed to maximise profiteering. One child recounts how ISIS militants “told each shop to put up barriers on the basis that a street war between the Kurds and the ISIS militants would take place”. He continues, “they told people to put barriers and the cost each shop around 5,000 to 7,000 or 10,000 Liras”. Incidents such as these are apparently commonplace. Similar incidents were reported from ISIS-held parts of Mosul where the militants forced residents to pay for digging holes and tunnels in their homes.
ISIS itself is collapsing, its territories dwindling rapidly and its fighters deserting. The people of Tabqa have been freed from the tyranny of the group. However, many people here who were forced to witness the group’s many atrocities will likely remember them all their lives.