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Beheadings, crucifixions and bombs falling from the sky: Life inside the burned out ‘ghost town’ of ISIS capital Raqqa where ‘prisoners’ live amongst the rubble with no electricity or hot water

  • Raqqa is the de facto capital of ISIS, taken over in 2013, where the people must live under group’s draconian laws
  • Women are banned from walking the street unaccompanied by a man and must adhere to strict Muslim dress code
  • They live with no electricity or hot water and are prevented from working, so cannot afford luxuries like chocolate
  • In the once relaxed city, offenders are held in cages, decapitated, have hands cut off, and lashed with whips public 
  • Before civil war, Raqqa was different place where children enjoyed pool parties and students went to coffee shops

Crucifixions, beheadings and gay men thrown from tall buildings to a baying mob below. Piles of rubble and burned out shells where families once lived. No electricity or running water. This is the daily hell of those forced to live under ISIS in Raqqa.

The first thing father of three Mohammed sees when he leaves his home is ISIS’s religious police, Hisbah, patrolling the streets, looking for people to punish.

‘I’m afraid to lose my children, I am afraid that my wife will be flogged for not wearing the right clothes,’ said the former teacher, 37, who was too frightened to give his surname.

He added: ‘Things have changed from bad to worse under ISIS – the cost of food, there is no fuel or firewood.

‘Water is available but it must be boiled and cooled. There are fruit and vegetables and bread, but prices are very high. Electricity became scarce and we had to start buying it because the current only comes in some districts [of Raqqa].’


He went on to tell activist group Raqqa Is Being Silently Slaughtered [RBSS]: ‘From 5am, I need to be at the mosque and I can’t be absent.

‘When I am there I watch the sky for aircrafts. Then I return to the house as quickly as possible to avoid arbitrary arrests. It’s the same routine every day.

‘I used to be able to teach students what I believed in. Now I am forced to teach them what I don’t believe, what ISIS want me to. They stopped me giving private lessons which means I do not earn as much.

‘It scares me in Raqqa that I can suddenly be arrested and never know the reason. I could be imprisoned and my family and wife will not know anything.

‘But what scares me most is that ISIS is planting ideas in the minds of my children who I am forced to take to school.’

Tim Ramadan, am RBSS activist, told MailOnline how people there have to live under Islamic State’s draconian laws.

‘When you walk through the city, you see people being decapitated, their wrists tied with rope and their hands cut off or being given lashes,’ he said.

‘We are stopped from leaving, forced to keep up the pretence that everything is normal here, when people are living in horror.’

Thousands of civilians like Mohammed, most of whom have no link to ISIS, live in Raqqa and have no means of escape. They are kept within the city’s concrete wall parameter.

Women are banned from walking unaccompanied by a man in the street. They are prohibited from showing their hair. Smoking is forbidden and criticising the city’s rulers in public is punishable by death.



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