This is the real Syrian rebel army.
So you tell me, though it’s a nightmare there, just who exactly are we to help out a bunch of Islamic fundamentalists intent on subjugating the rest of society for Islam? Helping out al-Qaida linked nut-jobs is not an option.
The Islamists smashed up one of the two shops that sold alcohol. That much was pretty inevitable, the locals agreed. The other off-licence had already closed, as had the casino on the outskirts of town.
They brought in a radical cleric from Egypt to preach Friday prayers, and set up a sharia court in the city’s new sports centre with the support of other brigades. They had their fiefdom — an entire city to run only 60 miles from Nato’S border.
Then, one night, 10 men came for Nagham and Nour al-Rifaie, two teenage sisters from a well-known liberal family. They were at home with a family friend, Yusra Omran, 30, and their male cousin, 32.
“All these guys came in with guns and wearing masks and with handcuffs,” said Nagham, 19, a civil engineering student. “They started searching everything, and shouting.
“They were saying, ‘Put on more clothes than you are wearing, put on a headscarf.’ I just said I’m wearing clothes and I’m not putting on a headscarf’.”
The men took them to the sports centre. There the girls were charged with being alone with a man and interrogated.
“The guy with us was so mean,” Miss Rifaie said. “He was speaking in a horrible way, as if he was disgusted to be with us.”
In Raqqa, a once conservative but by all accounts not religious city, the triumph of al-Qaeda’s Syrian arm, Jabhat al-Nusra, would seem to be complete.