Sound and Picture (exclusive)
In recent events, Raqqa city has been enduring demographic changes as tens of civilians decided to leave their city, after months of tolerating the shelling and battles, thus fleeing as the “big battle” approaches. The increasing shelling of the alliance followed by severe clashes between ISIS and SDF, where SDF was willing to control the city and defeat ISIS combatants after 3 years of occupation during which the worst aspects of terror were practiced, all triggered this mass exodus.
Sound & Picture’s reporter confirmed that about 500 civilians left the city and headed towards SDF’s regions especially AlAqtan Camp near Tal-Abiad, last Sunday. The smuggling of civilians into safer areas was planned and initiated by a man who has close ties to a security officer in the ISIS Security operations office, smuggling one person cost around 100 thousand Syrian Lira, the civilians had to walk all 2 Kilometers on foot.
AlAqtan Camp suffers from complex humanitarian situation, the camp which recently hosted tens of families now contains around twenty thousand refugees who suffer from bad living conditions, despite the support and aid offered there, which barely covers the needs.
Insufficient sources, electricity, fuel and water shortages, made the situation almost intolerable for the civilians who moved to the camp seeking protection.
In addition, the organizations willing to operate in that area like Qobani NGO, have limited potentials, and need special permits from SDF.
One of the refugees, Abu Ahmad, spoke about the current situation in Raqqa assuring that the critical security situation and concerns were not the only reason for this massive exodus, the civilians have been suffering from a bad socio-economic situation without the basic services and massive increase in food prices caused by the shelling and disruption of the bridges linking areas together.
The clashes also isolated Raqqa and Deir Azzor, specifically the countryside in AlKibr area creating a semi siege on the city.
Civilians who left ISIS controlled areas in the past 3 years chose to settle in different areas controlled by the FSA like the Aleppo country side and suburbs, or SDF controlled regions in Raqqa and Al-Hasaka countryside, and many managed to enter Turkey avoiding the danger of land mines and security forces’ arrests.