The Islamic State’s de-facto capital of Raqqa was liberated Tuesday, more than three years after the jihadis captured the Syrian city. And the people living there, who were treated like prisoners, are elated.
U.S.-backed coalition forces have been battling to capture the city for months, and officials announced that Islamic State fighters are in full retreat and all “major military operations” in the city are over.
“The situation in Raqqa is under control and soon there will be an official statement declaring the liberation of the city,” a spokesman for the Syrian Democratic Forces told CNN. The SDF is comprised of Arab and Kurdish fighters.
Raqqa has served as the capital of the Islamic State since 2014, where top leaders organized attacks worldwide and enforced a strict version of Islamic law. Since June 9, when the fighting began, there have been nearly 4,000 airstrikes on the city, 90 suicide bombings and nearly a half million people were displaced, according to CNN.
How did the people react?
As seen with the battle for Mosul, retaking a city from Islamic State’s stronghold is no easy task. Military forces have to take the battle from block to block, house to house, always aware of possible landmines, booby traps and suicide bombers.
In Raqqa, neighborhoods were liberated at different times. Many citizens had to hunker down while the fighting took place, but when it was all over, the people were filled with pure elation.
A video of a liberated Raqqa woman is gaining attention online because of her reaction when meeting the soldiers who helped free her city.
The video shows the woman screaming in excitement, throwing up “V” signs for “victory,” hugging and kissing the soldiers, and even kissing the ground. She then rips off her black Islamic dress, which she had to wear under ISIS’ control, and smokes a cigarette, which are banned under the Islamic State.
This is what freedom looks like.