Syria’s Raqqa, dubbed the Euphrates bride, is nestled just off the northeast bank of the Euphrates River with a sweeping 20 km area.
Raqqa makes up to 11 percent of Syria’s gross land mass and is twice the area of the neighboring sovereign nation, Lebanon. As the events of the devastating Syria war unfolded, the city’s name spread like wildfire.
Terror group ISIS had controlled the city for almost three and a half years, using it as a self-styled caliphate and a militiamen outpost. Not so long ago, on Oct 18 the terror group was completely driven out of its stronghold, liberating Raqqa from ISIS’ horrendous oppression.
Raqqa’s civil council is preparing to be handed over the city’s local administration by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces that liberated the area from ISIS grasp. However, according to UN estimates, the destruction ravaging the area is over 80 percent and has left it uninhabitable.
The RCC was established back in April and is co-chaired by Engineer Leila Mustafa, born in Raqqa in 1988, where she also received her degree in civil engineering at Al-Furat University.
The RCC is a diverse team co-led by Arab tribal leader Sheikh Mahmoud Shawakh al-Bursan, who wears tribal robes, and Kurdish civil engineer Leila Mustafa, dressed in a green shirt and jeans.
Mustafa was forced to move with her family to the northeastern al-Hasaka governorate. After Tell Abyad’s liberation, in rural Raqqa, she moved to live there and joined RCC last April.
“The liberation campaign for Raqqa began 134 days ago. Since that time, the world has been looking forward to the day the terrorist organization (ISIS) is eliminated,” said Mustapha in her interview with Asharq Al-Awsat.
“ISIS posed a direct threat not only to the people of the province, but also a real threat to the security of the city—and the stability of all the capitals of the world,” said Mustapha.
"We do not have a timetable for taking over the city's administration from SDF units, as they are engaged today in conducting operations in search of hidden terror ISIS members and sleeper cells,” Mustapha told Asharq Al-Awsat on the RCC’s plan for reconstruction and the return of those displaced.
“SDF units dismantle mines planted by extremists across the city’s infrastructure-- we are working for a safe return.”
In a statement, the SDF said that "the future of Raqqa will be determined by its people within the framework of a democratic, decentralized, federal Syria in which the people will manage their affairs by themselves."
Further commenting on reconstruction, Mustapha said that a meeting in Rome a few weeks ago which included 11 countries, two of which were Arab states: the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait, delivered a serious desire for cooperation with the RCC for Raqqa rebuilding efforts.
The United States, Britain, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, Canada and Sweden, United Nations and European Union representatives attended the meeting.