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The Raqqa Diaries: Escape from Islamic State

4.24  ·  Rating details ·  1,225 ratings  ·  177 reviews
The Raqqa Diaries began as a series of short broadcasts on Radio 4’s 'Today' Programme. 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 IS’s permission. Those caught breaking the rules face death by beheading.

Despite this, Mike Thomson, with the help of BBC’s Arabic Service, found a you
Hardcover, 108 pages
Published March 9th 2017 by Hutchinson (first published March 2017)
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Jun 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A quite unique book in my experience.
These are the writings; the memories and recollections of life in Raqqa under the rule of Islamic State, Daesh in the words of this diarist.
“Every person starts their journey of life with a dream that they live in hope of achieving one day. There are many obstacles along the way. These stop some people, while others carry on.
I am trying to find the remnants of my dream. It’s fading away in the midst of an overwhelming feeling of disappointment.
As I write thes
This is one of the most important works of this decade. I'm never one to impress a book on someone but everyone needs to read this.

I'm heartbroken and apologetic and shocked that this is happening in our world. That people took no heed of the Nazi regime and Daesh are doing exactly the same thing. This book is heartbreaking and waves of shock just keep hitting you when you realise this book is not a work of fiction. It makes you angry, especially when people associate IS with Islam and being mus
Jun 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
One rainy night, a woman screams…

The first angry cries of her newborn baby drown out everything, even the roar of distant gunfire and air strikes.

Maybe the baby is screaming for its absent father, or just asking for a crib to lie in. Or is it pleading for an end to the constant killing and destruction and calling on God to take it back to the womb, away from this place?

You have the right to say all these things, little baby. But many who hear your cries see your arrival as a blessing. You giv
Oct 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: october-2017
Every once in a while, an important book is published, which reflects upon parts of society that are often hidden from the Western world. Yes, I am sure that we are all familiar with the conflict in Syria, which has been ongoing for years, but we rarely get to see what the situation is like for the civilians who call the country home. The Raqqa Diaries: Escape from "Islamic State" does just this; it gives an insight, through the eyes of a Syrian man in his early twenties, of exactly what living ...more
Aug 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
I read The Raqqa Diaries: Escape from 'Islamic State' upon Yamini's recommendation... There are only a few people whose reviews I trust, but when she rates something five stars, I know I am in for a treat.

Since ISIS occupied Raqqa in eastern Syria, it has become one of the most isolated and fear-ridden cities on earth. The sale of televisions has been banned, wearing trousers the wrong length is a punishable offence, and using a mobile phone is considered and unforgiveable crime.

No journalists a
Roman Clodia
Feb 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
"I walk around the city with a broken soul, looking at all the other broken souls passing by. Each pair of eyes that passes tells a different story, a different struggle"

Short but powerful, this gives us a horrific glimpse into the maelstrom of a community living under IS. Samar was at university before dropping out in fear: he has seen friends crucified and beheaded, has been arrested and tortured, and yet still has the extraordinary courage to write these dispatches and get them smuggled out t
Mar 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Everyone should read this book! Everyone!

This is the diary of Samer (pseudonym) and his life in Raqqa before and during the takeover of his city by IS.

It is horrifying and heartbreaking to read what Samer and his towns people are put through by the Daesh and their twisted view of Islam. Beheadings in the street, people thrown to their deaths, crucifixions and torture.

But through all that there is still love, he thinks of others before himself and risked his life to share his story with the world
Mar 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
Briefly - Simple, raw and powerful - if anything understated.

In full
This book is based on some short broadcasts made on Radio 4. As Raqqa was "liberated" by Daesh (IS) it became impossible to report from there. However a reporter from the BBC made contact with some people who were effectively underground there and one of them was prepared to offer a diary of his experiences and thoughts which were smuggled out and the broadcast. This is Samer's story

It tells, in fairly understated language to me
Jan 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
The war in Syria is still very fresh. It's so recent that it's not yet reached the 'fiction' stage of literary evolution. After all, who needs fiction when the reality is beyond the imagining of the most creative readers and writers? In the past year, I've read several books about the war from the point of view of women who joined ISIS, a woman who fought for the Kurds and this one about a young man and his family who were caught up as local bystanders when ISIS made Raqqa their stronghold.

A cou
Mar 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, syria
The Raqqa Diaries: Escape from Islamic State by a young man with the alias of Samer, is a heart-wrenching account of his life in Raqqa before and after it was taken over by Daesh. He also describes how he escaped from the city and made his way to a refugee camp in northern Syria.

As he said, life was not easy before the war began. The Assad regime had been in place for 40 years or more and many people hoped to see the end of it. However, the rebels were unable to hold Raqqa, which was overrun by
Noelia Alonso
Sep 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2017
There is a lot this book made me feel. Most of all it made me feel disgusted with the International Community for doing nothing, for standing by. And this diary comes from a single person so one can only imagine the horrors of many others whose voices haven't been heard yet.

"Educated people like him scare Daesh the most. He believes that our most important role is to expose the true nature of Daesh, particularly the way they use religion to cover up their criminality, only fooling those who do n
Apr 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
"Since ISIS occupied Raqqa in eastern Syria, it has become one of the most isolated and fear-ridden cities on earth. The sale of televisions has been banned, wearing trousers the wrong length is a punishable offence and using a mobile phone is considered an unforgiveable crime. No journalists are allowed in and the penalty for speaking to the western media is death by beheading."

The BBC made contact with a small activist group, Al-Sharqiya 24. One of their members agreed to write a diary, this i
Shireen Rummana
Mar 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: syria
This collection of diary entries, albeit brief, manages to poignantly describe three major periods in Raqqa and in Syria's recent history--the misery of life under the Assad regime, the brief hope and commitment of activists during the revolution, and then the deepening misery and crisis under IS control in Raqqa. The narrator explains well, using a saying of Ibn Khaldun's, "The Tyrants bring the invaders" (الطغاة يجلبون الغزاة), how IS arrived in Syria as the child of the Assad regime, created ...more
Feb 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The Raqqa Diaries is the product of contact between the BBC and a small activist group from Syria, Al-Sharqiya 24. The book tells the story of Samer, one of the members of the activist group. Imagine the circumstances under which he lived when was working on bringing his story out.

Personally, I don't even think that the events in Syria can be described under a term such as 'circumstances', they are no more than an ongoing flow of pure terror. Reading this book fills you up with emotions like sa
Aug 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Curiosity level: Deeply tragic and moving - Bravery in the face of brutality

This non-fiction book reads very much like an Anne Frank’s diary, but in Raqqa. Samer is a 24-year old Syrian from the ISIS-controlled city. In this journal filled with illustrations and words, he painfully describes the atrocities of the ISIS militants; The people in Raqqa are being brutally slaughtered silently.

Samer’s neighbours and friends were hunted down and killed for having protested in the past. People get ki
Mar 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
4.5 stars
One of the important books that I think everyone should read at least once in their life.

It’s a fast read that may not dig deep into the political side of what happened in Syria. It’s not a book that will tell you detail about the whole IS, regime and Syria politically and historically. But you will surely feel a lot with Samer & other victims of IS there.
It’s so so horrifying :(

I would recommend to read a bit about IS and Syria before you start reading this book.

*May write a full re
Apratim Mukherjee
Oct 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Its a short book written with the help of author's diary entries describing about life in Raqqa when ISIS were ruling.The writer also describes about the crimes committed by the Assad regime.The book not only explains about cruelty of Daesh but also asks international community to step in.
I think it should be read by everyone as it exposes the true face of many people we admire.By reading this amazing book,we come to know that we really take our freedom for granted to a very large degree.
Mar 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
Life in Raqqa is like a slow death. There’s no way you can live a decent life there. -Samer

A short and brave account of life under ISIS. I highly recommend reading it, along with Mustafa Khalifa's 'The Shell': Memories of a Hidden Observer, for a better understanding of the Syrian situation.
Aug 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites

A wake up call for all of us. A short read, but not an easy read, by any means. Expect tears. Many tears.

The illustrations are beautiful and colourful, and in including them, the publishers have been smart enough to know our spirits would need lifting. It is an intense read after all. It's like reading dystopia, except it's real.
Becca Pirie
Jul 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Highly recommend to everyone.
Aug 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is required reading.
Ajay Singh
Oct 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
A deeply moving personal account of life in war torn syria where regime forces are competing with daesh in cruelty....
Mar 08, 2019 rated it it was ok
World Books Project #5 - Syria
this is for my own benefit, written right after i finish these books, so excuse the inelegant format of the review and the sometimes contradictory/off the cuff thoughts

I knew this was a slim volume, but I still expected a great amount of incisive detail and/or unexpected information about life in a Daesh-dominated, war-torn part of the world. A short book can still pack a punch, but I found myself knowing and thinking less than I do when reading long-form articles o
Sally Davies
Mar 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
We’re all familiar with the conflict in Syria, but we have so far only been able to guess at what it must have been like to live in the city of Raqqa, which was seen as 'Islamic State's' "capital". It became one of the most isolated, dangerous and terrifying places in the world. When Daesh (Islamic State) and their twisted idea of Islam took over Raqqa, the penalty for those who spoke to the western press was death by beheading. My sheer amazement that this book even managed to exist was enough ...more
If you're not really sure what's happening in Syria or why the world is in the midst of a major refugee crisis, this book is an excellent place to start. The Raqqa Diaries is a collection of short, succinct "diary entries" (anecdotes) written by a young man living in the Syrian city of Raqqa. I knew the situation in Syria was horrifying, but reading these entries was eye-opening ... people being crucified in front of their families; children being handed weapons and ordered to execute dissidents ...more
Jessica Reads & Rambles
A very current, important read. Insightful, brutal and truly devastating. This short book drops us straight into the battle zone of Raqqa. Ordinary, honest and kind hearted people are growing up in a war zone, trying to make a life when any day you could wake up to a neighbour killed and paraded on your doorstep. And still, the people in this book have hope, have the drive to seek out a life for themselves. To think there are those that see it right to deny them that, sickens me. Everyone should ...more
Sep 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
It is the diary of a young man living a life not of his choosing and unable to change his circumstances. The charm of the book is in how Samer (pseudonym of the writer of the diary) jots down the horrors he experiences everyday in IS territory and yet manages to keep the book simple. You get to see him through his diary (maintaining which is illegal in Raqqa) one where he thinks so maturely and practically, it breaks your heart to see him unable to control his circumstances and the second where ...more
Amanda Wigfall
Jan 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
My stomach was nervous throughout this entire book.

The Raqqa Diaries were a clear look into Daesh held Raqqa after the Syrian Uprising, and the writer took the reader right into the center of it. My stomach was in knots the entire time for the well-being of the author and his family. But it also brought home that every single person under Daesh was affected the same way and under the same pressure.

It was neither hopeful nor pessimistic about the future and was quite honest about the dilemma fa
Juan Cardenas
Jun 17, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This book is a deep insight into the problematics occuring in Siria. How hard the life of everyday people becomes when religion is misinterpreted by humans and the interpretation is turned into law. The way the book is written gives a clear insight into how oblivious we are to the worst humanitarian crisis in the 21st century. Genocide by the hands of governing bodies and the absence of concrete action by countries that normally intervene to prevent such atrocities. In all it gives a stomach chu ...more
I’m in no way trying to undermine the tragedies, struggles, and horrors the author and everyone like him went through nor can I ignore how courageous it is to decide to share your story when it can literally get you killed, but I honestly didn’t like this book.

It was too factual, detached, and generic to feel like a real first-hand experience and I would be lying if I said it taught me anything new about what’s going on in Syria and what’s it like living under Daesh/ISIS rule.

Again, I have zero
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Samer é o pseudônimo de um jovem de 24 anos que conseguiu escapar de Raqqa. Atualmente, ele vive em um campo de refugiados no norte da Síria

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“Educated people like him scare Daesh the most. He believes that our most important role is to expose the true nature of Daesh, particularly the way they use religion to cover up their criminality, only fooling those who do not know Islam properly. The people who fall for their” 0 likes
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