Ayn Issa, Raqqa, Syria- Resting in a humble tent and under scorching heat touching unprecedented peaks, Jasim Alali, 52, along with his wife, three children, and two cousins sit together reminiscing on what it was like a few days before being driven out of their hometown, Raqqa.
Soaad,48, says that earlier June news came in on Syrian Democratic Forces making a push towards Raqqa.
“At the time we decided to escape to a nearby clash zone, the idea was crazy. To move towards the battles, but it was our last hope,” said Alali’s wife, Soaad.
“We secretly moved into Aljazara farm, which was under ISIS control—we waited some 11 days for the clashes to start,” she added.
After hearing the sounds of the clashes approaching and watching US-led international coalition air strikes pounding ISIS headquarters, the family knew it was time to get on the road and that the time to flee was running out.
“We stayed up for days and nights,” said Soaad.
“We survived the hunger and thirst, bullets, airstrikes and ISIS snipers who aimed at anything that moved, but thank God we are okay and have arrived to safety.”
The family then slipped through a desert extension and managed to escape to the Khatouniya farm, located in Raqqa’s western outskirts.
At the time, the farm was under the control of Syrian Democratic Forces.
After a ravaging journey the family of five was then transferred to Ayn Issa camp.
The town of Ayn Issa along with its residents, barely 56km north of the front line, are seeking for a post-caliphate future.
When speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, Alali removed a pack of smokes from his pocket and lit up a cigarette, while saying that it has been over three years since he could do that in public.
Alali recalled on how ISIS ultra-hardliners had banned smoking, with patrols inspecting the streets for smokers.
“Militants have gone to the extent of smelling each by passer’s mouth odor to know whether he was smoking or not,” said Alali.
The father of three revealed that he would rub cologne into his neck and face to trick the militants out of knowing whether he had been smoking or not.
Hundreds of families move for Ayn Issa to escape ISIS-held Raqqa.
Fleeing the area is a journey filled with fears and ravaging difficulties as families are ripped apart by the battles and deteriorating life conditions.
Raqqa is considered one of the most challenging and expectedly brutal battles for recapturing ISIS’ Syria stronghold.
Facing dire conditions, most those escaping Raqqa, when arriving Ayn Issa camp, share a tent with another displaced family until they are sorted out to a private tent.
Two families may share the same tent.