135 reflections of The Raqqa Diaries: Escape from ‘Islamic State’

When I started this book, a few questions came to mind. Most part of it was questioning the status of a “diary” especially since the 1900s’ widespread and popular war diary by young Anne Frank entered the world.

Firstly, “ by Samer* ”. I question its credibility a little. I don’t want to assume that this story or diary is any less real (because it is almost as good as anonymous), but it is also grave to note that because Daesh still exists and is very much “alive” – this is life and death when the identity of this writer/diarist is exposed. It indicates to me that it is so real, and a heavy diary that is loaded with potential consequences. How we read it will open more eyes and hearts into this world of the ‘Islamic State’ of the 21st century.

Secondly, Mike Thomson, BBC Foreign Affairs Correspondent, wrote a preface to the diary. How they managed to gain access to an insider on the ground. Back to the first question, because it is highly sensitive and dangerous information where NO JOURNALIST or MEDIA has access to this very place… How do we get hold information and from whom? Why is it published in the form of a diary not a news report or documentary style? Especially because when Thomson was hunting for news, he chooses the medium of a diary. News are typically presented as “objectively” and “neutrally” as it can. What does the status of a diary have here? It’s truth? Credibility? Emotions and sensibilities? Private thoughts? Vulnerability?

Thirdly, THERE ARE NO DATES. A diary with no dates. Except at the start, 6th March 2013, and at the end, late May 2016. I wonder why… Wondering but also thinking about how the in between of a few years actually felt much shorter. Marked only by the asterisks, feels like the diarist went through these events quickly. Things were happening and unfolding in Raqqa quickly. Deaths were happening every moment. Oppressors were taking over bit by bit. Raqqa was losing control of itself asterisk after asterisk. No dates, just a series of events. A crucial sequence that eventually pushed the diarist out of his home. That is how I found myself at the start of the diary without Daesh yet, and the end without Daesh’s presence in the diarist’s life.

Lastly, during the month I took to read this, I watched City of Ghosts (documentary about RBSS). I realized that ok, within Raqqa there must be several media activist groups operating in secret. In wanting to bring news out to the world about the reality of Raqqa right? We have Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently and here is Al-Sharqiya 24. So… Have their efforts finally spurred the global community into action after reading such truths/horrific news/facts about Raqqa and what Daesh had been up to?

The fact that the world is standing idly by, just watching what is happening, does not surprise anyone here anymore. Everyone I meet, whether it is a child or an old person who has witnessed many horrors, pins their hopes on our own revolutionaries. The outside world has not answered our calls.

– Samer

The “liberation” of Raqqa from Daesh happened on the 17 October 2017. It doesn’t change the fact that lives have been erased, the town is still in rubble. But may this be the start of something?

(Another question…. WHAT even, there is a cartoon on snippets of the diary… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GRubQYr6O6Q)

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