Conquest of Ar-Raqqah

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In early March, 2013, Syrian rebel forces conquered the city of Ar-Raqqah (alt. Raqqah, Raqqa, Arabic: الرقة), the capitol of Raqqah province, in north-central Syria here on Wikimapia. This was the first top-ten city they had taken full control of in two years of war. Ar-Raqqa is Syria's #6 city, at a normal population of around 220,000, although reports have it swelling with around 500,000 displaced people from the province, seeking shelter there from violence accompanying the rebel advance.

On March 4, even the administrative center of the capitol was in rebel hands, and the statue of Hafez Assad was toppled. The provincial governor (Hassan Jalili) and the local head of the Ba'ath party (Suleiman al-Suleiman) were arrested, along with many, many others. How the rebels treat their captives and run the city and its displaced people of all stripes, how long they get to run the city, and whether the precedent is ever matched or exceeded, are some of the important questions. As AP's Ben Hubbard wrote: "As the first major Syrian city to fall entirely under rebel control, Raqqa is shaping up to be the best test case yet for how opposition fighters will administer territory..." [1]

Troubling to some is that the Al-Qaeda-linked terrorist group Jabhat Al-Nusra had an important role in the conquest and administration of the city. Along with allied extremist groups not listed by the U.S. as terrorist organizations, they reportedly form the most powerful bloc among those setting the tone of this important step forward in the emergence of "Free Syria." [1] The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights was sent video footage of interrogation of governor Jalili and Mr. al-Suleiman, carried out by Jabhat Al-Nusra. [2] Some of their lower-ranking compatriots have already been found guilty and executed in the public square, their bodies displayed to others as a warning. [3] It was only in the days after the conquest of a capitol that "the Islamist faction" in the east also have announced, by March 9, a Sharia law council for Raqqah and all of Eastern Syria, as enforceable. SOHR reports: "The Committee has taken the rights to assume the role of executive, legislative and judicial powers, establishing a police force, courts, fatwa offices, humanitarian aid, and the role of guiding people on the right path of god." [4]

As usual, this is a starter stub page, with more detail emerging on the discussion page.

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 Captured Syrian city a test for rebel forces Ben Hubbard, Associated Press, March 10, 2013
  2. Raqqah province SOHR, March 9, 2013
  3. Raqqah province SOHR, March 10, 2013
  4. Islamic brigades establish Shari'a Committee to rule over the east of Syria SOHR, March 9, 2013