In other Syrian cities, demonstrators overwhelmingly occupied squares and intersections in 2011. In Raqqa, residents first look at the cat out of the tree. Like Thaer Dardoush, 43, who was working as a teacher at the time: “I only watched demonstrations at the beginning, my legs didn’t want to go.”
In 2012, a year after the uprising began, a teenage boy from a large family was shot dead by Assad’s security forces. His father asks that the body not be left in the hands of the government. Thousands of residents take to the streets. The mega protests that have long been the norm in Homs, Aleppo, Idlib, are finally reaching Raqqa as well.
The miracle took place on March 3, 2013 at 11 p.m. All government officials gather in the center of town. That same night, they left town in a column heading west. Raqqa, which some Syrians cannot even point to on the map until then, is the first provincial capital to be liberated from the Assad government.
This is revolution at its best. Young activists from across the country are flocking to Raqqa, the hippie capital of the uprising. It can’t end. City councils, action committees, sororities, private newspapers, cleaning crews to tear up posters of father and son Assad, and even capoeira lessons.
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