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Raqqa Escapees Experience Mixed Feelings of Joy, Sorrow at Ayn Issa Camp

Raqqa Escapees Experience Mixed Feelings of Joy, Sorrow at Ayn Issa Camp

Wednesday, 25 October, 2017 - 08:00
A barbershop at Ayn Issa camp, northwest Raqqa, Asharq Al-Awsat

Jomaa Khalaf, a displaced Syrian currently staying at the makeshift camp in Ayn Issa 50 km northwest Raqqa, explains how he along others anxiously await a chance to visit their hometown which recently has been freed from ISIS militants.

All escapees were forced to leave without any of their belongings—they now ache for visiting their homes to see what is left of them after fierce battles that lasted for four months.

Fighting to drive out terror group ISIS from its self-proclaimed capital, Raqqa, started in June and was fully achieved in October.

Jomaa, 38, worked as a local barber in Raqqa before ISIS took hold of the city in 2014. The ultra-hardline group put many barbers out of business as it built up an empire founded on self-tailored ideologies.

For three years, Jomaa was forbidden to hold up a scissor or stand behind a barber shop recliner.

In a small tent across which a ‘UNHCR’ logo is slapped, Jomaa started up a modest makeshift barber service for the men and boys of the camp.

Defying tragedy, he used a worn out chair and humble tools he managed to grab along before he escaped some six months ago.

After Syrian Democratic Forces officials announcing Raqqa’s full liberation earlier on Oct 17, Jomaa was left somewhere between overwhelming happiness and sinking sadness.

“I felt joy for the freedom from ISIS, but I fear that my home and barbershop were left in ruins—footage broadcasted were shocking, showing that the fire of war did not spare much,” he said.

Destruction and rubble clouds the sixth largest city in Syria, leaving the residents and locals of a once prosperous city in paralyzing shock.

It has become difficult to tell the difference between a home and a retail shop—as all infrastructure and units have been reduced to wreck and rubble. Pipelines have been unearthed, power networks entangled and hanging out of place, and waste has flooded the scope.

The city is left in dire need an open-handed policy added to a few months before any uprooted residents may return home.

Jomaa’s attempt at pumping life back into his community says that a good-old clean shave and hair trim is somewhere under a buck.

“A full shave and hair cut costs 500 Syrian liras, approximately one US dollar, while trimming your hair alone will cost you half of that (250 Syrian Liras)—for those who are short on money and come to me I tell them to take seat for a free haircut,” said Jomaa.

Many Syrians just like Jomaa now await impatiently at Ayn Issa camp for the time they would be allowed to visit home.

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