Several Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) who fled Idlib governorate to Raqqa spoke to Ruptly about their suffering under Hayat Tahrir al-Sham's (HTS) rule in Idlib, and explained the difficulties they have encountered during their escape to Raqqa.
The IDPs, many of whom children and women, were seen on May 11 and May 13 living in temporary tents located outside of Raqqa which were prepared to host those who fled Idlib.
«The situation in Idlib, where we used to live, was like living in a prison in every sense of the word.» said Mahmoud Abdel Hamid who fled Idlib after HTS, formerly known as Jabhat al-Nusra [al-Nusra Front], captured his village. Abdel Hamid added that «Jabhat Al-Nusra controls everything and interferes in every detail, even in the household private details. So we were not free at all, we rather lived in a prison.»
Under HTS rule, there were no freedom of expression and objections were not allowed, according to Abdel Hamid, who explained that once showing objections «you will be subject to a pre-prepared accusation, such as being regarded as an apostate, infidel, tyrant, agent or traitor,» he said.
Abdel Hamid, described the circumstances he and his family encountered during their escape from Idlib, and pointed out that revealing the destination of the journey will expose you to robbery and being killed at HTS checkpoints that «don't coordinate with each other,» he explained.
Being a woman under HTS rule was difficult, as «they tried to impose the face veil and gloves on women, which doesn't match our life style,» said Um Heidar who fled Idlib with her family to Raqqa.
She added that «we have encountered under their control what we didn't even encounter under the regime's rule. They made our life miserable. They prevented girls from going to schools.»
Another IDP woman who is a widow named Um Waad, speaking in Raqqa in April, explained her suffering under HTS rule as she said «Jabhat al-Nusra has treated us so badly as widows and women in general. We had to put veils and gloves. We were forced to stay at home and and not to go out or talk to anyone.»
Under HTS rule, male doctors were prevented from treating women, as the punishment for this will be being «beaten up with a whip and deported directly to the central prison,» said doctor Khalifeh al-Hasan in April. He fled his area in Idlib after HTS seized it.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan agreed a ceasefire on March in Idlib in an attempt to avoid further escalation in the region, also implementing a security corridor and joint patrols in the governorate.
It is estimated by UN organisations that over 900,000 civilians have been forced to move to safety due to the fighting in the area, since the beginning of 2020.
Overall, there are around 6.5 million IDPs within Syria, out of which 2.5 million children, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).