The Raqqa Diaries: Escape from ‘Islamic State’ – Samer

I’ve been intrigued about this book for a while now, and finally read it last week. It is written by Samer, a young man who lived in Raqqa when it was taken over by ISIS or Daesh. Samer wrote diaries about his experiences living in Raqqa under Daesh and sent them to a journalist in the UK – a daring move that, if discovered, would have had violent and probably fatal consequences for him. He writes about his daily life in Raqqa, the terror unleashed on the population, his mother and friends, his final escape from Raqqa, and the relationship between Daesh and the Assad regime. The diaries are damning, not only of Daesh and Assad but also of the international community who seemed to make no move to intervene or to even care about Raqqa’s terrible fate.

Much of what he writes about I had heard about – probably as a consequence of the publication itself – and reading about the events from his point of view was very emotional. The diaries perfectly explain the drastic changes that took place in Raqqa once Daesh is in power – not only the increased violence, but the fear running through, and really underlying, everyone’s lives. What struck is me is how quickly that fear became normalised within the diaries, how quickly he stops explaining the fear – it just is. The book was written as a diary and the quick and short paragraphs only add to the tense atmosphere captured in the book.

For an excerpt of the book and an interview with Samer, see: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/feb/26/the-raqqa-diaries-life-under-isis-rule-samer-mike-thomson-syria.

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