Many residents of A-Raqqa city want nothing more than to leave IS-controlled territory.
But what journalist Ruqia Hassan called a “unililateral prison” under the rule of the Islamic State is increasingly becoming exactly that. The Islamic State is now implementing “even stricter measures” that are making it even harder to leave A-Raqqa city, Hani a-Rawi, a member of the pro-opposition media campaign Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently, tells Syria Direct’s Nisreen A-Nasser.
Q: How are people living in A-Raqqa?
Extremely bad because of IS’s tyranny against everyone, young and old, the rising prices of basic goods and foodstuffs and because of the bombardment of the city. On Saturday a Russian warplane struck several civilian locations in the middle of the city, killing 42 people and injuring 35 others, some of whom are in critical condition.
Now the people of A-Raqqa are facing difficulties such as house arrest and persistent violations against civilians. The pressure on civilians has increased recently. Travel is banned and there have been increases in taxes, arrests, executions and stoning.
People who are sick are not being allowed [to leave to seek treatment elsewhere] now because IS is implementing even stricter measures. Departures [from A-Raqqa] have become increasingly rare and the number of checkpoints on back roads has increased. No one is permitted to leave without the approval of the Hisbah [religious police].
Q: Does IS require people who travel with the Hisbah’s permission to return? How do they guarantee that they will return?
They don’t demand that civilians return, but if they leave behind their belongings then they will be forced to return because IS will appropriate them. If the person wanting to travel is a fighter, they won’t permit them to leave out of fear that they will defect.
Q: How do civilians without Hisbah permission flee and where do they go?
Until now, civilians have made several attempts to flee while trying to avoid IS checkpoints, but these attempts have failed because IS constantly sets up what are called “flying checkpoints.”
People try to escape on trucks or other vehicles transporting fuel or traveling on secure routes heading to Turkey or to areas under the Free Syrian Army’s control.