There’s new evidence that the effort to pry ISIS from their Syrian strongholds is working. Civilians in Raqqa have been throwing off their traditional dress and cutting their facial hair as a sign that they’re no longer living under Sharia law. And the images themselves are an inspiring sign of hope for many who are still not free.
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These images surfaced after the liberation of Raqqa late last week.
ISIS had a very strict dress code for women. The only way for them to dress in public required a black robe that covered everything but their eyes. Men were not allowed to cut their beards.
And the physical displays of freedom are coming with messages of hope, too. One woman told The Mirror that she was making a stand against ISIS and would do what she could to stand up. “They killed my son because he wouldn’t pray. They didn’t allow us to take his body for a whole week.”
This man told his barber to “Cut it all off. Cut it all of to spite ISIS.”
Not all of Raqqa is free. Air strikes continue. Many of the ISIS fighters have fled, though, and are taking shelter in the countryside on the outskirts of the city.
The push on the western side of Raqqa is being led by the Syrian army. These forces are supported by Russia and Russian planes are leading the air strikes. Their efforts have destroyed or captured bases and camps and routed numerous ISIS fighters.
On the east side of the city, US-led coalition forces, including the Syrian Democratic Forces, are leading the fight.
As the fight for Raqqa shows more progress, the inevitable question arises: what will happen with the two opposing Syrian groups eventually meet?
Until then, there will be no end to the need for large refugee camps, like this one.