Raqqa (Rakka)

Raqqa (Arabic: الرقةar-Raqqah; Kurdish: Reqa) also called Raqa, Rakka and Al-Raqqah is a city in the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria.

It is located on the northeast bank of the Euphrates River, about 160 kilometres (99 miles) east of Aleppo, and 40 kilometres (25 miles) east of the Tabqa Dam, Syria’s largest dam.

Raqqa is a historic city, it was the capital of the Abbasid Caliphate between 796 and 809, under the reign of Harun al-Rashid.

Daesh (the self-styled Islamic State), made the city its de facto capital in 2014.

It was liberated by the Syrian Democratic Forces on 17 October, 2017. The declaration of the city’s liberation was given by YPJ women fighting in the front line against the IS. This declaration was announced on 19 October 2017 in the Al-Naim Square, where the Islamic State had carried out public executions.

The administration of the liberated city of Raqqa was soon handed over to a civilian council. This civil council began with 60 members and now (October 2018) consists of 200 Arabs, Kurds, Armenians, Turkmens and Syriacs. The co-presidency is chaired by an Arab and a Kurdish representative. The council organises popular assemblies in central Raqqa, the towns, districts and villages. Representatives of the Council have been opened in many places and communes have been formed throughout the city.

The population is steadily returning to the city. Shops are opening everywhere. The houses, which had been abandoned due to the escape from the IS, are also beginning to fill up with life again. There is a lot going on in the markets and squares. The construction machines work around the clock on the reconstruction of the city. The Mansura and Kornish bridges, which spanned the Euphrates in the south of the city, had been blown up by the IS. The repair and maintenance of the bridges has also begun. The people who live on the opposite side of the river still cross it with ferries and barges.

Under the IS rule, the town hall was turned into a torture center and prison. Now the building has been reopened. The city administration plays an important role in the renewal of the infrastructure destroyed by the war and started its work with a staff of 13 people. There are already 150 people offering services there at the moment. Among other things, they deal with infrastructure, electricity and bread production. While almost every house in Raqqa is connected to the water network, at the moment only three neighborhoods can be reached by the main power supply. The other neighborhoods are supplied with interruptions by generators. In areas such as Mansur, Rashidiya, Rafqa, Mahdi and Salihiya, which had become a scene of fierce fighting between the IS and the SDF, mine clearance continues.

In the 2004 official census, Raqqa’s population was recorded as 220,488, making it the sixth largest city in Syria. A more recent unofficial report estimates a population of 1 million.

 

Interview with Meghan Bodette, Researcher on North and East Syria

Bodette discusses her observations of a people seeking self-determination, the democratic spirit and values that are visible everywhere in the region, her take on the women’s revolution in North and East Syria, and her recommendations on US policy toward the region going forward. She recalls walking into the Raqqa Civil Council building and “seeing women everywhere” in public life, in the city where ISIS was in power half a decade ago. She shares her observations on Turkish aggression and the Turkish occupation of North and East Syria. She recommends that the US draw closer to North and East Syria, promote negotiations between Turkey and Kurdish groups to resolve the Kurdish question, and “end its support for Turkey’s efforts to seek a military solution.” She encourages others to deepen their awareness of the region, saying, “Their fight is not over. And because their fight is not over, ours isn’t either. Anyone with any interest whatsoever in peace and democracy must continue to talk about North and East Syria.”

Women’s Foundation works in every part of life

Syrian Free Women's Foundation works for women in every part of life. The foundation has recently begun to work for the education of women and children.

Four Years After its Liberation, Raqqa is Setting an Example for Post-War Syria

When Raqqa was liberated four years ago, the city was largely in ruins. The streets were covered in rubble, its citizens were largely displaced, and tens of thousands of mines and IEDs that were left by ISIS littered the city, posing a huge risk to the safety of both security forces and civilians. The education system of the city had been utilized by ISIS to brainwash the people, including children. Services were nonexistent after months of warfare. The status of women in the city had been abysmal under ISIS rule. Raqqa’s society had to be rebuilt from the ground up.

Education as the Key to the Revolution: In North and East Syria, Democracy is Being Taught and Learned

How does one learn democracy? This is a central question that the revolution of Rojava is grappling with. The answer is education, education and more education. A society that has been colonized for decades and has had no rights of participation is suddenly faced with the great challenge of developing its own democratic system by

Turkey’s reduction of the Euphrates water slams into cotton harvest

The invading Turkish state’s reduction of the Euphrates River’s water, rising temperatures and increasing cost of fertilizer have adversely affected cotton production in North and East Syria.

Raqqa Municipality Factory Run by Women

Naya Detergent Factory was opened by Raqqa Municipality Women’s Bureau four months ago. Only women have worked in the factory. 40 percent of the factory's income will be used for new projects promoting women's employment.

Women in Girê Spî Camp Develop Communal Projects

As part of the project women grow different vegetables and sell the tomato paste and pickles they prepare.

Explainer: Co-operatives in North and East Syria – developing a new economy

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Women establish food co-operative in Raqqa

A group of women founded the al-Fardos Co-operative to care for the needy in Raqqa. The co-operative is open especially at mealtimes and gives the needy the opportunity to eat for free. The women have been working on the project in the neighborhood of al-Fardo in the war-torn city for five months.