Q&A: ‘More than 90% of A-Raqqa province has been liberated’

February 27, 2013

By Nuha Shabaan

Zaid al-Forati is an independent video journalist based in A-Raqqa city, the capital of the eponymous province.

Q: What is the latest from A-Raqqa?

A: Citizens are still recovering the corpses from the rubble after the city was hit by Scud missiles. The death toll has reached 17 including 4 infants. Two children were injured in the bombardment on the village of Hanida.

More than 90% of A-Raqqa has been liberated and the regime doesn’t have any control outside of its security departments. They launch fierce campaigns to make arrests and assault protesters. Six people were killed last Friday just for protesting.

The regime has formed militias under the name the “National Army” which assaults the citizens, mocks them and steals from them.

Q: What does the regime target? Do they target buildings, schools or the FSA?

A: Their bombardment targets the towns of Tabaqah and al-Mansora because they’re under FSA control. Their MiG fighters target any area they don’t control.

Q: Are there civilian casualties?

 A: This week’s victims have reached 35, including 26 civilians. The rest were with the FSA. The bombardment is random and doesn’t distinguish between civilians and military.

Q: What role are the local tribes playing in A-Raqqa?

A: They provide a shelter for the displaced coming from other northern provinces. They don’t play a role in the revolution and say they have nothing to do with it. They only provide shelter for the families coming from other areas. They’re neutral because they fear a regime that does not distinguish between the young and the elderly.

Q: Some of the tribes leaders used to be members of the Syrian parliament and the government used to take their opinions into consideration. Does the regime pay any attention to those in A-Raqqa?

A: Yes, some of them used to be in the parliament. They have received huge amounts of money and more than 1,500 Russian rifles to defend themselves. They are part of the shabiha militia.

Q: Why is the regime targeting A-Raqqa now? What’s so important about it?

A-Raqqa has a very strategic location and has the Euphrates Dam which supplies all of Syria with electricity and contains Syria’s largest water reserves. When the regime lost this dam, they lost control over the entire western rural areas.

Q: Where do the displaced live in A-Raqqa?

A: Some of them can afford to rent houses, but others go to school. We have a facility, sponsored by wealthy donors that provides free food for 300 families.

 Q: What about hospitals? Are the operating and do they have sufficient numbers of physicians?

A: There are very few hospitals in A-Raqqa. The regime controls the National Hospital, but they execute any injured people who go there. As for the other hospitals, they don’t have sufficient tools or enough physicians.

Q: We’ve heard about a school that was shelled. Were there any victims?

A: Yes, al-Yarmouk School was targeted today. There weren’t any students in it but it was full of displaced families. More than 20 injuries and 4 deaths were reported, but we still don’t have their names.