When John, a Syrian Christian, chose to stay in Raqqa after the Islamic State took control of the city in 2014, he had no idea how he would survive. Thousands abandoned the city, believing it better to save their lives than live at the centre of the Islamists’ new “caliphate”. John survived in Raqqa for 18 months before escaping in the middle of the night. He told World Watch Monitor about a life of frequent harassment, witnessing weekly executions, and the sadness of ordinary Syrians who welcomed Islamic State fighters at first, but grew to regret giving them their support.
John is in his early 20s. He can’t say his real name, what he is studying, or in what type of business his parents were involved.
“Life in Raqqa carries on as usual in many ways. Shops and restaurants are open. There is food, electricity, and water. People are more fortunate than those living in a city like Aleppo.”
“But you’re constantly alert, never looking into someone’s eyes when walking on the street; always aware of what to say and not to say.”
Islamic State troops won the battle for Raqqa in January 2014. After a week of intense fighting with other radical groups, they took control and declared it the capital of their caliphate.
“Before [IS won the battle] we had a scary week. We stayed in our house because everyone on the streets was being shot at.”
John watched from the side-lines as the streets filled with people shouting “Allahu Akbar” (Allah is the greatest).
“I didn’t shout it – I am a Christian. But when an IS man saw me being silent, he stopped the car. I had to say ‘Allahu Akbar’ too.
“Many in Raqqa welcomed IS, but they all now regret it.”
Read more at WorldWatchMonitor.org…