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The Raqqa Diaries began as a series of short broadcasts on BBC Radio 4's Today Program. Now one of the most isolated and fear ridden cities on earth, no-one is allowed to speak to western journalists or leave Raqqa, without ISIS's permission. Those caught breaking the rules face death by beheading.
Despite this, the BBC's Mike Thomson, with the help of the BBC Arabic Service, found a young man who is willing to risk his life to tell the world what is happening in his city. Part of a small anti-ISIS activist group, the diaries were written, encrypted, and sent to a third country before being translated.
The diarists father is killed and mother badly injured during an air strike; he is sentenced to 40 lashes for speaking out against a beheading; he sees a woman stoned to death. They show how every aspect of life is impactedfrom the spiraling costs of food to dictating the acceptable length of a persons pants.
At one point, the sale of televisions is banned. As Samer says, it seems its not enough to stop us talking to the outside world, now we cant even look at it. Having seen friends and relatives butchered, his communitys life shattered, and the local economy ruined by these hate-fuelled extremists, Samer believes hes fighting back by telling the world what is happening to his beloved city.
Raw, direct, and profoundly affecting, The Raqqa Diaries is an important book by a brave young man, which allows unprecedented access to the brutal conditions that many Syrians are living under.