First Person: In Raqqa, you can’t go home again

I never thought I would become a journalist, let alone report on the downfall of my city. I never thought I would become a refugee.

The streets were my favourite part of Raqqa. No matter the distance, I rarely took taxis, I never drove. I always walked to visit my friends or family.

A family cleaning their house of rubble in Al Mishlab, east of Raqqa city. Diala Ghassan/MSF

Going back?

There’s no future for someone like me in Raqqa. Right now, I plan to stay here. I’ve still got to finish high school in Germany, and I want to study journalism. I’m also not keen to live under the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the mostly Kurdish US-backed forces that helped defeat IS and now control the city.

There’s no future for someone like me in Raqqa.

Ahmad was more eager than I to face what was left of our home — he’s 25 and had been sheltering in a three-room house with eight families, where his wife gave birth to their first child in what he called an “extreme situation”. He and his wife went home as soon as they could — he made the trip last December, and his wife and child followed the next month.

Rebuilding in a minefield

The UN says many parts of Raqqa are still mined, and that 70 to 80 percent of buildings are destroyed or damaged.

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The New Humanitarian

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