Tag Archives: RAQQA

Ryan Lock – Rest easy warrior & enjoy the majestic halls of Valhalla

Briton Ryan Lock killed himself in Syria to avoid being captured by IS

Image result for ryan lock

The British chef, who travelled to Raqqa to fight against IS, wanted to avoid capture or torture at the hands of the terror group.

 

A British man who travelled to Syria to fight against Islamic State shot himself to avoid a “painful and frightening death”, an inquest has heard.

Ryan Lock, from Chichester, died last December fighting alongside Kurdish forces in Raqqa.

The 20-year-old had only been in the war-torn country for four months, and he died from a single gunshot wound to the head.

Mr Lock had been seriously injured in battle and was surrounded by IS fighters when he decided to kill himself to avoid being captured or tortured.

His mother, Catherine Lock, had no idea that her son was planning on travelling to Syria. Instead, she thought he was going backpacking around Turkey.

Image result for ryan lock

 

She said: “He just said that he had planned this for ages and that he had time off work. He said he would be going for a few weeks, maybe a month.

“And when I found out he was going to Turkey I said: ‘You do realise that’s right next to Syria, where there is a war.’

“I hadn’t twigged that was exactly his plan, to head to Syria.”

A day after Mr Lock arrived in Turkey last August, he told his mother that he had signed up to fight for the People’s Defence Units (YPG), a Kurdish military force.

She contacted the police immediately and continued to stay in contact with her son on Facebook Messenger, where he regularly posted pictures of himself during his military training.

See Skynews for full story

Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently

Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently

I have been following and sympathising with these guys for sometime now and their courage and selfless  commitment  to  exposing the “real” ISIS and their brutal treatment of the Raqqa people – has  both informed me and filled me with unlimited respect  for these brave young men.

Sadly  they have paid a heavy price for their brave actions , but without them Raqqa would not only be being slaughtered in silence – but in secret & behind closed doors. One day when justice catches up with IS &  their deluded followers ( and that day will come) thanks to these guys we will have a record of their crimes and abuse of Raqqa and its people and the IS  madmen will pay for their crimes against humanity in this life or the next.

Because Karma is watching and  Karma always collects its debts

Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently (RSS or RBSS) is a citizen journalism effort exposing human rights abuses by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (also known as ISIL or DAESH) forces occupying the northern Syrian city of Raqqa. ISIL uses Raqqa as its de facto capital. RSS works to counter the suggestion that citizens of Raqqa have welcomed the presence of ISIL/DAESH.

It has become one of the few reliable sources of information from the city.

Activities

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 ISIS Most Wanted – Raqqa is being Slaughtered Silently

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The group has published first hand accounts, videos and photos of life and war crimes in Raqqa through its Facebook page and website, other social media, and via interviews and furnishing material to media organizations worldwide. As a result, RSS has been cited by international media outlets fairly extensively, and major news outlets have done feature stories on the group. Since no foreign or domestic journalists can operate in Raqqa, the efforts of RSS provide unique insights. The work is dangerous, with ISIL militants searching for, torturing and in at least one case killing, RSS members.

Members

According to an interview with Vice News, there were originally 17 members, who started out opposing the Syrian Government. When ISIL moved in to the city in April 2014 the group started the posting information about ISIL. One member who had fled Raqqa said

“After we launched the campaign and posted a lot of crucifixions and executions on the news and Facebook and Twitter, they made three Friday sermons about us, saying we are infidels and we’re against Allah and “we’ll catch them and we’ll execute them.” “We are 12 inside the city and four outside. Before the 12 inside the city were posting on Twitter and posting on Facebook, and talking to journalists, but it’s very dangerous. So we decided to use a “secret room,” and the people in the city post all the photos, the news, and everything, and the four that are out, we are posting it on the internet, Twitter, and Facebook, and talking to journalists. We hide behind fake names and we don’t trust anyone, so we don’t get captured.”

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Inside Raqqa: The Raqqa Resistance

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Al-Moutaz Bellah Ibrahim

Several members of RSS have been executed inside Raqqa. In May 2014 Al-Moutaz Bellah Ibrahim was kidnapped by ISIL and murdered. In July 2015, ISIL released a video showing two men being strung up on trees and shot. Though ISIL claimed the two murdered men had worked with RBSS, one of the founders of RBSS denied they were members. Another friend of the group was similarly executed.

Ibrahim Abdul Qadir & Fares Hamadi

Hamoud al-Mousa, the father of one of the group’s founders, was killed in ISIL custody. On October 30, 2015, RSS activist Ibrahim Abdul Qadir (age 20) and his friend Fares Hamadi were found stabbed and beheaded in Urfa, Turkey. It was the first acknowledged assassination outside of ISIL controlled territory.

Abdalaziz Alhamza acts as a spokesperson. At least 5 members of the group live outside Syria.

Ahmad Mohamed al-Mousa
Ahmad Mohammed al – Mousa

On December 16, 2015 masked men murdered RSS member Ahmad Mohammed al-Mousa in the rebel held city of Idlib, Syria.

See BBC News for full story

Naji Jerf

Naji Jerf, the group’s film director and editor-in-chief of the independent monthly Hentah, was killed in Gaziantep, Turkey with a silenced pistol in broad daylight outside a media building in late December 2015. ISIL claimed responsibility on Twitter.

The Scene of  Naji Killing

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Inside ISIS capital in Raqqa Syria – Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently

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Significant stories

When ISIL banned home internet in Raqqah and forced internet users into cafes where they could be monitored RBSS started releasing unfiltered information about life under ISIL rule.

RBSS members broke the story of the failed US special forces raid to save journalist James Foley and the other hostages.

Soon after the release of a video showing the burning alive of a Jordanian pilot, Muath Al-Kasasbeh, RBSS released Google earth photos they cross referenced to landmarks pinpointing the location of the execution in the southern part of Raqqa near the river. They also reported that videos of the execution were played for the public on large screens throughout the city of Raqqa.

RBSS detailed that the effects of Russian airstrikes in and around Raqqa were targeting mainly civilian targets, and having little effect on ISIL.

RBSS also relayed reports from the ground of illegal white phosphorus munitions used in airstrikes.

Awards and praise

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Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently: the courage of reporting on life in Syria ..

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The group was awarded the International Press Freedom Award in 2015, from the Committee to Protect Journalists. The citation said in part “While RBSS was formed to document the atrocities of [ISIL], its members have also reported critically on the Assad government’s bombings, other rebel forces, and civilian casualties caused by U.S.-led airstrikes”.

Kyle Orton writing for The Independent, said “The risks are extreme. Their bravery quite extraordinary” and wrote “Where [ISIL] presented a functioning, just government, RBSS showed the scarcity and brutality. Not a few foreign fighters … have gone to wage “five-star jihad” … only to be disillusioned… that [ISIL] is reportedly having to kill them to stop them leaving. RBSS’s work, therefore, offers the chance of preventing people inclined toward [ISIL’s] ideology actually going to Syria

Visit the website : Raqqa is being slaughtered silently

Escape from Isis: The brutal treatment of women in Raqqa

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Escape from Isis: the brutal treatment of women in Raqqa

Four million women live under the rule of Islamic State extremists in Iraq and Syria. Tonight, Channel 4 screens an important and troubling documentary showing just how hellish that life is.

RAQQA

Al-Raqqah

Al-Raqqah
الرقة
Al-Raqqah Al-Raqqah skyline • The Euphratesal-Raqqah city walls • Baghdad gateQasr al-Banat Castle • Uwais al-Qarni Mosque

Al-Raqqah

Al-Raqqah skyline • The Euphrates
al-Raqqah city walls • Baghdad gate
Qasr al-Banat Castle • Uwais al-Qarni Mosque

Al-Raqqah is located in Syria

Al-Raqqah
Al-Raqqah

Location in Syria

Coordinates: 35°57′N39°1′E / 35.950°N 39.017°E / 35.950; 39.017
Country Syria
GovernorateAl-Raqqah
DistrictAl-Raqqah
SubdistrictAl-Raqqah
Founded244-242 BC
OccupationIslamic State of Iraq and the Levant
Area
 • City1,962 km2 (758 sq mi)
Elevation245 m (804 ft)
Population (2004)
 • City220,268
 • Density110/km2 (290/sq mi)
 • Metro338,773
Time zoneEET (UTC+2)
 • Summer (DST)+3 (UTC)
Area code(s)22
Websitehttp://www.esyria.sy/eraqqa/(Arabic)

Al-Raqqah (Arabic: الرقةar-Raqqah), also called Rakka and Raqqa, is a…

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Khansaa Brigade – ISIS ‘female ” Police “

Khansaa Brigade

The Al-Khansaa Brigade, also spelled Al-Khanssaa Brigade, is an all-women police or religious enforcement unit of the jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), operating in its de facto capital of Raqqa and Mosul.[1] Formed in early 2014 and apparently named after Al-Khansa, a female Arabic poet from the earliest days of Islam, it is unclear how widespread and sustained the group is.

An ISIL official, Abu Ahmad, said in 2014, “We have established the brigade to raise awareness of our religion among women, and to punish women who do not abide by the law.”[2] The outfit has also been called ISIL’s ‘moral police’

ISIS ‘female Gestapo’ leading campaign of terror against own sex – and 60 are British

Al Khansaa brigade rule by terror

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Daesh Defectors – 3 women leave al-Khansaa brigade

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Islamic State’s ‘female Gestapo’ is conducting a sickening campaign of terror against their own sex.

The special brigade – set up to enforce the terror group’s strict Islamic views – bite and whip any woman who steps out of line and force girls to become sex slaves.

As many as 60 British women are thought to be members of the brigade, which operate in ISIS’ self-proclaimed capital Raqqa, in Syria.

The city is ruled by fear, with torture, stoning and crucifixions common.. All women are prohibited from going outside or travelling without a male relative.

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What It’s Like To Be A Woman In Islamic State

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ISIS imposes a strict dress code demanding all females from puberty upwards wear two gowns to hide their body shape, black gloves to cover their hands, and three veils so their faces cannot be seen, even in direct sunlight.

Women have been publicly buried alive in sand for breaking the code.

One former Syrian schoolteacher trapped in the city opened up to Channel 4 in a documentary, Escape From ISIS, to be aired next week.

She said: “We have no freedom. We cannot go out on the balcony or look through the window. They will arrest a woman if she wears perfume or raises her voice. A woman’s voice cannot be heard.”

The teacher told of her horrifying capture by the city’s ruthless all-women police unit, the Al-Khansa brigade.

“They said my eyes were visible through my veil. I was tortured. They lashed me. Now some of them punish women by biting. They give you the option between getting bitten or lashed.”

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ISIS: Women’s Role In The Islamic State |

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Brigade member: Aqsa Mahmood, 20, from Glasgow

British women in the brigade are thought to include Aqsa Mahmood, the 20-year-old Glaswegian woman who left her family to join ISIS last year.

They are paid up to £100 a month, a relative fortune.

Marriage: Many women who join ISIS become jihadi brides

One former Al-Khansa enforcer, a young Syrian woman called Umm Abaid, told the filmmakers how she had led a normal life until the arrival of ISIS and the imposition of Sharia law in Raqqa.

“I went to school, to coffee shops,” she said, “but slowly, slowly my husband [a Saudi Arabian IS fighter killed in a suicide bomb attack] convinced me about Islamic State and its ideas. I joined the brigade and was responsible for enforcing the clothing regulations.

“Anyone who broke the rules, we would lash. Then we would take her male guardian, her brother, father or husband, and lash him, too.”

The brigade even stops buses to check women passengers.

If one is found breaking the code, all the passengers are forced to get off and the bus is refused permission to proceed. The driver can be lashed because he let the woman on board.

Some of the Al-Khansa members operate undercover, posing as housewives and mingling in the crowds to listen for any dissent.

 

They also run brothels where kidnapped girls are expected to satisfy fighters returning from battle.

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ISIS Sex Slave Operation

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Those who have escaped the brothels say they have slept with 100 different fighters in a few weeks.

Emily Dyer, a research fellow with the Henry Jackson Society, spends hours tracking social media messages sent to the West by jihadi brides.

She says many Muslim British women see joining ISIS as an “attractive option” but once they arrive in Syria the reality of their situation is wholly different from the propaganda they are fed.

Under ISIS prohibitions, single women live in all-female safe houses called maqqars. If they are married, they must be only mothers or housewives unless selected to be IS ‘enforcers’ or fighters.

A girl tracked by Emily on Twitter said: “I’m fed up. They make me do the washing up.”

Another said: “I’ve done nothing except hand out clothes and food. I help clean weapons and transport dead bodies from the front. It’s beginning to get really hard.’

One complained: ‘My iPod doesn’t work any more. I have to come back [to the West

Women in maqqars are forbidden access to mobile phones or the internet.. They are then prepared to become jihadi brides, even if they are young teenagers.

But girls who marry one fighter, have found they are expected to spend a week with their new ‘spouse’ before they are ‘divorced’ by an Islamic cleric and married to another fighter for a week.

Yet more Muslim girls and women from Europe, and notably the UK, arrive in Raqqa each month to join ISIS.

It’s just one of the reasons politicians view the threat from ISIS so seriously

British Jihadists Women Documentary 2015

Islamic State is a one-way ticket for jihadi brides

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British Jihadi Women Documentary 2015

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Just two out of 600 females who have ran from the West to join the Islamic State (Isis) have returned home from Syria, government figures show.

But walking into the warzone is a one-way-ticket with a small chance of return, with little realising this, with only two of the so-called jihadi brides having escaped home.

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ISIS Sex-Slave Raping & Selling Girls (Full Documentary)

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In comparison to this, European government officials which monitor these numbers note that almost one-third of male jihadists have escaped the clutches of IS are on their way back from Syria.

According to researchers, many women and girls are unable to escape from the warzone – even if they realise they have made a huge mistake.

The girls who leave the west to join IS are married off straight away, either in Turkey or when they cross into Syria. There are around 20,000 foreign fighters and approximately 5,000 European fighters in Syria, so there is no shortage of men looking for wives. That number is expected to double by the end of 2015.

Sara Khan, a British Muslim whose group Inspire campaigns against the dangers of extremist recruiters, told the Associated Press: “It’s so romanticized, the idea of this utopia. I don’t even think those young girls have necessarily considered that there’s no way back now.”

The women are not allowed to travel without a male, if they do they could face punishment, according to material IS published.

Sterlina Petalo is a Dutch teenager who converted to Islam, and came to known as Aicha. She travelled to Syria in 2014 to marry a Dutch jihadi fighter there and managed to return months later – it is assumed she made her way to Turkey, where her mother picked her up and brought her back to the Netherlands. Back home, she was immediately arrested on suspicion of joining a terror group.

A 25-year-old Briton, who police did not name also made her way back to the UK along with her toddler that she took all the way to Raqqa. She decided she made a mistake and called home, she made her way back to Turkey and called her father there who met her there. In the UK she was detained and charged but is now free on bail.

Currently 60 British women and girls have fled the UK to become jihadi brides, including three girls from Bethnal Green in East London who ran away in February.

Amira Abase, 15, Shamima Begum, 15, and Kadiza Sultana, 16, were captured on CCTV before arriving in Syria. The video was recorded on 17 February, the day the three friends left their homes in East London, after telling their families they would be out for the day.

They are now believed to be living in the IS stronghold Raqqa, however reports suggest that they have been separated and possibly married off to fighters as jihadi brides.

These three girls left the UK on their own free will and are now apparently are being trained for “special missions’ and are likely to die in the Middle East as suicide bombers Um Asmah, a Islamic State commander who is now on the run, told Sky News.

Um Asmah said the girls were “very, very happy” on arrival and had been laughing and smiling, but they were unprepared and had little experience of living permanently veiled and under the strict regime.

Their fate has already been determined by the terror group, she explained, adding: “Everything is already decided for you and you cannot evade it or refuse it. You cannot have a mind of your own,” Asmah told Sky News.

She said the Bethnal Green trio are special to the terror group, but the extremist group has plenty more foreign girls, with more joining each month.

Jihadi bride: Another Briton who left Britain to join ISIS is Lewisham-born Khadijah Dare (left). Here she is pictured alongside her Swedish terrorist

Now on the run, Um Asmah says she will be killed if she is ever caught by IS fighters. “I am a traitor and an unbeliever now,” she said. “I am scared every minute and of everyone I meet.”

This week, Metropolitan Police counter terrorism officers stopped a 16-year-old girl from London travelling to Syria after she was groomed on Twitter to flee to the war zone and marry an IS soldier.

Escape from Isis: The brutal treatment of women in Raqqa

Escape from Isis: the brutal treatment of women in Raqqa

Four million women live under the rule of Islamic State extremists in Iraq and Syria. Tonight, Channel 4 screens an important and troubling documentary showing just how hellish that life is.

RAQQA

Al-Raqqah

Al-Raqqah
الرقة
Al-Raqqah Al-Raqqah skyline • The Euphratesal-Raqqah city walls • Baghdad gateQasr al-Banat Castle • Uwais al-Qarni Mosque

Al-Raqqah

Al-Raqqah skyline • The Euphrates
al-Raqqah city walls • Baghdad gate
Qasr al-Banat Castle • Uwais al-Qarni Mosque

Al-Raqqah is located in Syria

Al-Raqqah
Al-Raqqah

Location in Syria

Coordinates: 35°57′N 39°1′E / 35.950°N 39.017°E / 35.950; 39.017
Country  Syria
Governorate Al-Raqqah
District Al-Raqqah
Subdistrict Al-Raqqah
Founded 244-242 BC
Occupation Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant
Area
 • City 1,962 km2 (758 sq mi)
Elevation 245 m (804 ft)
Population (2004)
 • City 220,268
 • Density 110/km2 (290/sq mi)
 • Metro 338,773
Time zone EET (UTC+2)
 • Summer (DST) +3 (UTC)
Area code(s) 22
Website http://www.esyria.sy/eraqqa/(Arabic)

Al-Raqqah (Arabic: الرقةar-Raqqah), also called Rakka and Raqqa, is a city in Syria located on the north bank of the Euphrates River, about 160 kilometres (99 miles) east of Aleppo. It is located 40 kilometres (25 miles) east of the Tabqa Dam, Syria’s largest dam. The city was the capital of the Abbasid Caliphate between 796 and 809 under the reign of CaliphHarun al-Rashid. With a population of 220,488 based on the 2004 official census, al-Raqqah was the sixth largest city in Syria.

During the Syrian Civil War, the city was captured by terrorist group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, which made it its headquarters in Syria. As a result, the city has been hit by Syrian government, US and Arab nation airstrikes. Most non-Sunni structures in the city have been destroyed by ISIL, most notably the Uwais al-Qarni Mosque which was Shiite.

History

Hellenistic and Byzantine Kallinikos

The area of al-Raqqah has been inhabited since remote antiquity, as attested by the mounds (tell) of Tall Zaydan and Tall al-Bi’a, the latter identified with the Babylonian city Tuttul.[1]

The modern city traces its history to the Hellenistic period, with the foundation of the city of Nikephorion (Greek: Νικηφόριον) by the Seleucid kingSeleucus I Nicator (reigned 301–281 BC). His successor, Seleucus II Callinicus (r. 246–225 BC) enlarged the city and renamed it after himself as Kallinikos (Καλλίνικος, Latinized as Callinicum).[1]

In Roman times, it was part of the province of Osrhoene, but had declined by the 4th century. Rebuilt by the Byzantine emperorLeo I (r. 457–474 AD) in 466, it was named Leontopolis (Λεοντόπολις or “city of Leon”) after him, but the name Kallinikos prevailed.[2] The city played an important role in the Byzantine Empire’s relation with Sassanid Persia and the wars fought between two states. By treaty, it was recognized as one of the few official cross-border trading posts between the two empires (along with Nisibis and Artaxata). In 542, the city was destroyed by the Persian ruler Khusrau I (r. 531–579), who razed its fortifications and deported its population to Persia, but it was subsequently rebuilt by the Byzantine emperor Justinian I (r. 527–565). In 580, during another war with Persia, the future emperor Maurice scored a victory over the Persians near the city, during his retreat from an abortive expedition to capture Ctesiphon.[2]

In the 6th century, Kallinikos became a center of Assyrian monasticism. Dayra d’Mār Zakkā, or the Saint Zacchaeus Monastery, situated on Tall al-Bi’a, became renowned. A mosaic inscription there is dated to the year 509, presumably from the period of the foundation of the monastery. Daira d’Mār Zakkā is mentioned by various sources up to the 10th century. The second important monastery in the area was the Bīzūnā monastery or ‘Dairā d-Esţunā’, the ‘monastery of the column’. The city became one of the main cities of the historical Diyār Muḍar, the western part of the Jazīra.[citation needed] In the 9th century, when al-Raqqah served as capital of the western half of the Abbasid Caliphate, this monastery became the seat of the Syriac Patriarch of Antioch.

Bishopric

Callinicum early became the seat of a Christian diocese. In 388, Emperor Theodosius the Great was informed that a crowd of Christians, led by their bishop, had destroyed the synagogue. He ordered the synagogue rebuilt at the expense of the bishop. Ambrose wrote to Theodosius, pointing out he was thereby “exposing the bishop to the danger of either acting against the truth or of death”,[3] and Theodosius rescinded his decree.[4]

Bishop of Damianus of Callinicum took part in the Council of Chalcedon in 451 and in 458 was a signatory of the letter that the bishops of the province wrote to Emperor Leo I the Thracian after the death of Proterius of Alexandria. In 518 Paulus was deposed for having joined the anti-Chalcedonian Severus of Antioch. Callinicum had a Bishop Ioannes in the mid-6th century.[5][6] In the same century, a Notitia Episcopatuum lists the diocese as a suffragan of Edessa, the capital and metropolitan see of Osrhoene.[7]

No longer a residential bishopric, Callinicum is today listed by the Catholic Church as an archiepiscopaltitular see of the Maronite Church.[8]

Early Islamic period

The remains of the historic Baghdad gate

In the year 639 or 640, the city fell to the Muslim conqueror Iyad ibn Ghanm. Since then it has figured in Arabic sources as al-Raqqah.[1] At the surrender of the city, the Christian inhabitants concluded a treaty with Ibn Ghanm, quoted by al-Baladhuri. This allowed them freedom of worship in their existing churches, but forbade the construction of new ones. The city retained an active Christian community well into the Middle Ages—Michael the Syrian records twenty Jacobite bishops from the 8th to the 12th centuries[9]—and had at least four monasteries, of which the Saint Zaccheus Monastery remained the most prominent.[1] The city’s Jewish community also survived until at least the 12th century, when the traveller Benjamin of Tudela visited it and attended its synagogue.[1]

Ibn Ghanm’s successor as governor of al-Raqqah and the Jazira, Sa’id ibn Amir ibn Hidhyam, built the city’s first mosque. This building was later enlarged to monumental proportions, measuring some 73×108 metres, with a square brick minaret added later, allegedly in the mid-10th century. The mosque survived until the early 20th century, being described by the German archaeologist Ernst Herzfeld in 1907, but has since vanished.[1] Many companions of Muhammad lived in al-Raqqah.

In 656, during the First Fitna, the Battle of Siffin, the decisive clash between Ali and the UmayyadMu’awiya took place ca. 45 kilometres (28 mi) west of al-Raqqah, and the tombs of several of Ali’s followers (such as Ammar ibn Yasir and Uwais al-Qarani) are located in al-Raqqah and became a site of pilgrimage.[1] The city also contained a column with Ali’s autograph, but this was removed in the 12th century and taken to Aleppo‘s Ghawth Mosque.[1]

The strategic importance of al-Raqqah grew during the wars at the end of the Umayyad period and the beginning of the Abbasid regime. Al-Raqqah lay on the crossroads between Syria and Iraq and the road between Damascus, Palmyra, and the temporary seat of the caliphate Resafa, al-Ruha’.

Between 771 and 772, the Abbasid caliphal-Mansur built a garrison city about 200 metres to the west of al-Raqqah for a detachment of his Khorasanian Persian army. It was named al-Rāfiqah, “the companion”. The strength of the Abbasid imperial military is still visible in the impressive city wall of al-Rāfiqah.

Al-Raqqah and al-Rāfiqah merged into one urban complex, together larger than the former Umayyad capital Damascus. In 796, the caliph Harun al-Rashid chose al-Raqqah/al-Rafiqah as his imperial residence. For about thirteen years al-Raqqah was the capital of the Abbasid empire stretching from Northern Africa to Central Asia, while the main administrative body remained in Baghdad. The palace area of al-Raqqah covered an area of about 10 square kilometres (3.9 sq mi) north of the twin cities. One of the founding fathers of the Hanafi school of law, Muḥammad ash-Shaibānī, was chief qadi (judge) in al-Raqqah. The splendour of the court in al-Raqqah is documented in several poems, collected by Abu al-Faraj al-Isfahāni in his “Book of Songs” (Kitāb al-Aghāni). Only the small, restored so called Eastern Palace at the fringes of the palace district gives an impression of Abbasid architecture. Some of the palace complexes dating to this period have been excavated by a German team on behalf of the Director General of Antiquities. During this period there was also a thriving industrial complex located between the twin cities. Both German and English teams have excavated parts of the industrial complex revealing comprehensive evidence for pottery and glass production. Apart from large dumps of debris the evidence consisted of pottery and glass workshops containing the remains of pottery kilns and glass furnaces.[10]

Approximately 8 kilometres (5.0 mi) west of al-Raqqah lay the unfinished victory monument called Heraqla from the period of Harun al-Rashid. It is said to commemorate the conquest of the Byzantine city of Herakleia in Asia Minor in 806. Other theories connect it with cosmological events. The monument is preserved in a substructure of a square building in the centre of a circular walled enclosure, 500 metres (1,600 ft) in diameter. However, the upper part was never finished, because of the sudden death of Harun al-Rashid in Khurasan.

After the return of the court to Baghdad in 809, al-Raqqah remained the capital of the western part of the empire including Egypt.

Decline and period of Bedouin domination

Al-Raqqah’s fortunes declined in the late 9th century because of the continuous warfare between the Abbasids and the Tulunids and then with the Shii movement of the Qarmatians. During the period of the Hamdānids in the 940s the city declined rapidly. At the end of the 10th century until the beginning of the 12th century, al-Raqqah was controlled by Bedouin dynasties. The Banu Numayr had their pasture in the Diyār Muḍar and the ‘Uqailids had their center in Qal’at Ja’bar.

Second blossoming

Al-Raqqah experienced a second blossoming, based on agriculture and industrial production, during the Zangid and Ayyubid period in the 12th and first half of the 13th century. Most famous is the blue-glazed so-called Raqqa ware. The still visible Bāb Baghdād (Baghdad Gate) and the so-called Qasr al-Banāt (Castle of the Ladies) are notable buildings from this period. The famous ruler ‘Imād ad-Dīn Zangī who was killed in 1146 was buried here initially. Al-Raqqah was destroyed during the Mongol wars in the 1260s. There is a report about the killing of the last inhabitants of the urban ruin in 1288.

Ottoman period

In the 16th century, al-Raqqah again entered the historical record as an Ottoman customs post on the Euphrates. The Eyalet of al-Raqqah (Ottoman form sometimes spelled as Rakka) was created. However, the capital of this eyalet and seat of the vali was not al-Raqqah but ar-Ruhā’ about 200 kilometres (120 mi) north of al-Raqqah. In the 17th century the famous Ottoman traveller and author Evliya Çelebi only noticed Arab and Turkoman nomad tents in the vicinity of the ruins. The citadel was partially restored in 1683 and again housed a Janissary detachment; over the next decades the province of al-Raqqah became the centre of the Ottoman Empire’s tribal settlement (iskân) policy.[11]

The city of al-Raqqah was resettled from 1864 onwards, first as a military outpost, then as a settlement for former Bedouin Arabs and for Chechens, who came as refugees from the Caucasian war theaters in the middle of the 19th century.

20th century

In the 1950s, in the wake of the Korean War, the worldwide cotton boom stimulated an unpreceded growth of the city, and the re-cultivation of this part of the middle Euphrates area. Cotton is still the main agricultural product of the region.

The growth of the city meant on the other hand a removal of the archaeological remains of the city’s great past. The palace area is now almost covered with settlements, as well as the former area of the ancient al-Raqqa (today Mishlab) and the former Abbasid industrial district (today al-Mukhtalţa). Only parts were archaeologically explored. The 12th-century citadel was removed in the 1950s (today Dawwār as-Sā’a, the clock-tower circle). In the 1980s rescue excavations in the palace area began as well as the conservation of the Abbasid city walls with the Bāb Baghdād and the two main monuments intra muros, the Abbasid mosque and the Qasr al-Banāt.

There is a museum, known as the Al-Raqqah Museum, housed in an administration-building erected during the French Mandate period.

Civil war

Main article: Battle of Ar-Raqqah

In March 2013, during the Syrian civil war, Islamistjihadist militants from Al-Nusra Front and other groups overran the government loyalists in the city and declared it under their control after seizing the central square and pulling down the statue of the former president of Syria Hafez al-Assad.[12]

The Al Qaeda-affiliated Al-Nusra Front set up a sharia court at the sports centre[13] and in early June 2013 the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant said they were open to receive complaints at their Raqqa headquarters.[14]

Since May 2013, ISIL has been increasing its control over the city, at the expense of the Free Syrian Army and the Al-Nusra Front. ISIL has executed Alawites and suspected supporters of Bashar al-Assad in the city and attacked the city’s Shia mosques and Christian churches[15] such as the Armenian CatholicChurch of the Martyrs, which has since been converted into an ISIL headquarters. The Christian population of Al-Raqqah, which was estimated to be as many as 10% of the total population before the civil war began, has largely fled the city.[16][17][18]

In January 2014 it was reported that ISIL militants in the city gained control of the western part of a Syrian army base. The group closed all educational institutions in the city.[19]

On 25 July 2014, ISIL captured the Syrian Army base in Raqqah which garrisoned the 17th Division, and beheaded many soldiers.

During the night of 22–23 September 2014, the United States and Arab partner nations started to conduct airstrikes against ISIL in and around Raqqah and Aleppo, with continued regular airstrikes into 2015.[20][21] Coalition partners in the strikes included Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, with Qatar in a supporting role.[21] The USS Arleigh Burke in the Red Sea and the USS Philippine Sea in the northern Persian Gulf launched more than 40 Tomahawk cruise missiles into eastern and northern Syria.[21] A second wave consisted of F-22 Raptors in their first combat role, F-15 Strike Eagles, F-16s, B-1 bombers and drones which launched from bases in the region.[21] 96 percent of all delivered munitions were precision-guided.[21]

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