I picked up a copy of The Raqqa Diaries while I was in the UK; you can read extracts here and here, but they were originally broadcast on BBC Radio 4’s Today program and you can find more extracts (and videos) here and here.
The diaries were written by a young man, a member of an activist group, who courageously describes the horrors and humiliations inflicted by Islamic State on ordinary people. He explains:
I had the idea just before the revolution began, when the Arab Spring started unfolding. Syrian people knew that the winds of change were approaching, but the idea truly manifested itself after Islamic State took over Raqqa. Diaries are normally private, and are mostly only read after the passing of the diarist. But, as I detail in my diaries, because of the crimes and oppression that Isis were committing against our people, I felt I had to fight back by telling the world what they are continuing to do to us.
But those who cheer the war from the air might also reflect on this passage:
My brothers, sisters and I had planned a small party for Mother’s Day. It was a cold March morning and I heard the sound of warplanes. I immediately set out for home.
As the taxi got closer, clouds of smoke filled the air. The regime’s planes had hit our street. Our neighbour’s roof had collapsed on to ours. There were ambulances everywhere, and people running around carrying the dead and the injured.
One of my neighbours told me that my parents were hurt and had been taken to the general hospital. The feeling I had was indescribable. Judging by the way our house looked, I was expecting the worst. The top floor was completely destroyed and much of the ground floor was badly damaged too. Our neighbour’s house was in a similar state.
When my brothers, sisters and I arrived at the hospital, the smell of blood and death filled the place. We were asked to look at the bodies laid out in front of us to see if our parents were among them.
I was in such a state of shock at that moment that I suddenly couldn’t remember anything. As I stood beside my father, it was like nothing that had happened before that moment mattered. There was my dad. His body was littered with injuries. They had covered most of his corpse with a white sheet, but his face was still showing. I could see blood seeping through the sheet from numerous cuts. The telltale sign of shrapnel wounds.
I was overwhelmed with a sense of absolute loneliness and collapsed on the floor. I had lost my mentor, my guide in life, the man who always had an answer to everything. This was one of the darkest moments of my life. My father’s death has continued to haunt me. It’s changed something in me.
“Your mother is being treated in here,” a voice said quietly, “but don’t go in yet.” Two hours passed and finally a doctor came out. I told him that I was her son. “I’ve managed to save her life, but she’s very sick,” he said.
Samer describes a raid by the Syrian Arab Air Force but, as one exile now living in Turkey told the Guardian in November 2015:
“Can someone really be happy if his city is bombed by everyone? No,” Abu Ahmad said, with the bleak humour that many exiles share. “Everybody bombed Raqqa. Anyone who was just annoyed by their wife decided to come and bomb Raqqa. Jordan, UAE, US, Russia, France.”
NOTE: My cascade of posts on Syria does not mean I’m ignoring the unremitting Us-led coalition airstrikes on Mosul and their civilian toll: I’ll post on that as soon as I can.