Reprinted from the Assyrian International News Agency. We disagree with the statement in this article that describes Islamic “rebels” as seeking “freedom” for those in Syria. They’re not seeking freedom, they’re seeking an Islamic state ruled by Sharia law. Al Qaeda is only one of many Islamist groups that are imposing terror on Syrian citizens and slaughtering Christians. What is happening in Raqqa is just a foretaste of the horrors that await all of the citizens of Syria if Islamists topple Assad.
In the Syrian town of Raqqa, Bashar al-Assad’s hated regime has been replaced by something many regard as being even worse — an al-Qaeda-linked group that is torturing people for writing graffiti and abolishing women’s rights.
Raqqa used to be one of the most liberal towns in Syria, but chillingly, the extremist Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is using violence to impose their rule on the locals and stamp out the freedoms rebels fought for.
One man showed a TV news channel how he was left with horrific bruises and burns after jihadists beat him and tortured him with an electrical current for spraying graffiti.
This punishment for graffiti was also meted out by the Assad authorities ousted by the revolution, leaving many wondering what it’s all been for.
He told CNN: ‘Every 15 minutes, someone poured water on me, electrocuted me, kicked me, then walked out.’
He went on to describe the anguish he suffered listening to others being tortured.
Rebels who have voiced their opposition to ISIS have found themselves arrested and thrown in jail without trial.
The town’s women, meanwhile, have been ordered by ISIS via posters to ‘cover up their beauty’, according to CNN, and banned from seeing male doctors or even leaving home without a male relative.
One female activist drew comparisons between the once-liberal Raqqa and Taliban-ruled Afghanistan.
She told CNN: ‘They [ISIS] are closing hair salons, women can’t go out at certain times. They spat on one girl for disobedience. It’s like Afghanistan. Now people call Raqqa Tora Bora.’
The town’s freedom has been eroded to the extent that even filming can get you flogged. CNN obtained footage of the town from activists willing to risk their lives to show the world what is happening.
What’s more, the group’s activities have spread to surrounding areas. Posters warning that thieves will have their hands cut off have appeared in a nearby town.
Protests have taken place over the past few months and graffiti has appeared in Raqqa likening ISIS to the Assad regime and telling them to get out.
However, such is ISIS’s iron grip that no one dares spray it or film it during the daytime.
ISIS is not about to be moved on and is strengthening its position by schooling young boys in the town in a radical approach to Islam.
On Wednesday a car bomb killed at least eight security personnel in a rare attack on a military intelligence headquarters in the southern Syrian city of Suweida, and a separate blast killed eight people in Damascus.
The pro-opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said the car bomb in Suweida, hitherto largely spared violence in Syria’s civil war, had also wounded dozens.
The Observatory’s head, Rami Abdelrahman, said a colonel was among security officers killed in the blast at the regional Air Force Intelligence headquarters in the city, populated mostly by minority Druze.
Clashes erupted after the explosion, he said. A photograph uploaded by activists showed a thick column of smoke rising above the Suweida skyline.
The state news agency SANA said the Suweida blast wounded 41 people but made no mention of the target, saying only that a ‘terrorist’ car bomb had hit a square in the city.
State media often use the word terrorist to describe the rebels fighting to topple President Bashar al-Assad in a struggle that has cost well over 100,000 lives since it began in March 2011.
The government-controlled Suweida region is home to many Druze, who have mostly stayed neutral in the conflict, although some have joined paramilitary forces supporting Assad.
Earlier in the day, SANA said an improvised bomb had exploded in Hejaz Square in the crowded heart of Damascus, killing eight people and wounding at least 50.
The British-based Observatory, which has a network of activists across Syria, put the toll there at seven dead and at least 20 wounded.
It cited conflicting reports from activists as to whether the explosion was caused by a bomb or a mortar shell. Rebels have seized a ring of suburbs outside the capital but the army has blockaded these areas to try to keep central Damascus secure.
Insurgents have resorted to improvised bombs to strike security and political targets in government-held areas. Damascus residents reported seeing a mortar bomb land near the army’s General Staff headquarters in Umayyad Square, a big road intersection, on Wednesday. They had no word on casualties.
By Ted Thornhill