Q&A: A-Raqqa province - rich in farming, oil, and the Euphrates Dam

February 27, 2013

by Nuha Shabaan

Abo Suleiman is a spokesman for the Syria Revolutionary Committee in A-Raqqa province.

Q: Could you tell us about the battle in A-Raqqa in the last 24 hours?

A: Yesterday heavy clashes took place inside the city. Heavy and light weapons were used near Bab Mamadan army checkpoint. Some [army] soldiers were killed but others defected. There were heavy clashes in the rural areas and heavy artillery bombardment on the northern parts. The FSA continues to surround army Division 17, which hasn’t received supplies from the government for two months.

Q: Do the government forces distinguish between civilians and military targets?

A: No they don’t. Last evening they shelled the villages of Mamadan and al-Sabkha even though there were no gunmen in it. They were all civilians and the victims were the children, the women and the elderly.

The government was able to control A-Raqqa and its rural areas entirely in the early months of the revolution. They armed the members of al-Baath party and authorized them to oppress protests and kill people. About a week ago they formed a force named “the National Army” which recruits don’t exceed 20 years old and gave them cars and money to terrify the whole city.

Q: How will the FSA gain control and what tools do they have? Do they get any support from abroad?

A: The FSA has what they gained in battle from the security buildings they stormed in the rural areas. They were able to enter al-Tabqa and collect all the weapons there.

The FSA is not getting any support and only depending on themselves and the weapons they’ve gained.

Q: Why is the government focusing on A-Raqqa now? Does it have any strategic resources?

A: A-Raqqa used to assemble pro-Assad rallies but now it’s out of the government control. It has natural sources, including oil. It also contributes the biggest part of the farming industry. Euphrates Dam supplies all of Syria with electricity and water.

Q: Does the FSA control Euphrates Dam?

Yes, they do. In the past when the dam was controlled by the government, we didn’t have power for 18 hours a day. Now we only have two-hour daily blackout.