After the Syrian regime withdrew from the city of Raqqa in March 2013, a group of activists realized the need to provide services that used to be covered by state institutions. The Raqqa Free Youth Assembly was created to fill this void.
They started by cleaning the city, removing trash, weapons, barriers and remnants of destruction left by the regime.
The Assembly defines itself as “a group of young activists from the city of Raqqa focusing on grassroots civil work and peaceful resistance since the beginning of the uprising.” It includes people from different backgrounds and ideologies and has no specific political affiliation.
The group aims to unite individual efforts into self-government and self-management, and to include marginalized young people in the tasks related to rebuilding the city after Assad troops destroyed it. They seek to shape Syria’s future through local self-funding and contributions from city residents.
One of their most renowed activities is the Our Bread campaign, which provided more than 5,000 Syrian pounds of bread to those who need it, including displaced people arriving to Raqqa from other Syrian towns and villages. They also organized the Freedom Candles from the Rasheed Bridge to the Suspended Bridge campaign, after the bridge was destroyed during the bombing of Deir ez-Zor.
Other activities include campaigns such as Our Streets Breathe Freedom, which consisted on decorating the city with the revolution flags and slogans, and the Cleaning of the National Hospital campaign, launched to restore the city´s main hospital so that it could be clean and ready to start treating patients again.
To deal with children´s needs, they organized the I Won’t Leave My School campaign, focused on cleaning schools destroyed by the bombing. Another campaign under the name The Child’s Right to Live consisted of organizing theater plays for children, in collaboration with the SpongeBob band.
The Assembly also took part in the Free Behind Bars campaign, started in April 2013, to demand the release of detainees and raise awareness about the situation of prisoners of conscience in Syria. They have also organized demonstrations in solidarity with Syrian towns, such as Banias.
The Assembly also demonstrated in the streets of Tal Abiad, in collaboration with the Tal Abiad Youth Assembly, to show their friendship with the people of Turkey, after a number of clashes took place in the borders. They raised both the Syrian revolution flag and the Turkish flag, and held signs that read “Brothers, don´t use weapons against each other.”