Civil society organizations in Raqqa are actively working on restoring archaeological sites destroyed by the war, with the support of the US State Department and in coordination with the Raqqa Civil Council (RCC).
“Towards a Better Environment for the Future of Raqqa Generations,” is a campaign launched by Oxygen Shabab –a civil society group which focuses on projects including the distribution of safe drinking water, the re-polishing of schools and clearing of areas around Raqqa’s historic city wall.
“The duration of the project is one month,” Oxygen Shabab director Bashar al-Qarf told Asharq Al-Awsat.
“The length of the Raqqa city wall is about 3 kilometers,” he added on the one of the sites listed for the cleaning project.
Most Oxygen Shabab laborers undertaking the task of cleaning the citadel’s sites are volunteers.
“We have coordinated efforts with the local council so that all waste, rubble, and war machine remnants get disposed of in allocated wastelands outside Raqqa,” Qarf added.
Noting that the campaign aims to clean up archaeological sites without restoring any monumental bodies, Qarf said that refurbishing historical artifacts requires the involvement of specialized experts and technicians.
“Our role was limited to cleanliness only,” he explained.
Abdul Jalil, 42, whose shop is located opposite to Baghdad Gate, one of Raqqa citadel’s Abbasid era sites, said the gate was cleaned up within a day.
“The rubble was removed and scattered outside– the gate is awestriking after the cleaning campaign,” Jalil adds.
Located on the eastern bank of the Euphrates River, covering an area of about 27 thousand square kilometers, Raqqa was removed from regime control in the spring of 2013.
Later that year, the ISIS terror group took over the city.
It was until October 2017 that Syrian opposition forces, namely the Syrian Democratic Forces, alongside the US-led International Alliance freed the city from terrorists' hold.
Stretching from June to October 2017, the battle for Raqqa saw the opening of three rafters to connect old neighborhoods near the citadel’s center of Raqqa, causing substantial damage to the body of the wall.
The wall is considered one of the most important archeological monuments of the city.
“Most museum artifacts and belongings were stolen, while those that were left behind and handed over by the council had sustained damage during battles,” said Hassan Mustafa Hassan, head of the Culture and Arts Committee at the RCC.