At a house in Syria’s Raqaa, women and men danced together in celebration at a wedding that would have been unimaginable just months ago, when ISIS ruled the city.
Residents told AFP that Ahmad and Heba’s wedding, held Friday in Raqaa’s western neighborhood of Jazra, was the first in the city since US-backed forces seized it on October 17.
Out on the patio, a man in a dark robe and a thick puffer vest spun his prayer beads to the beat as he led a line of men and women in the dabke, a Levantine dance performed at celebrations.
The dancers hopped and swayed to-and-fro as children ran around. Elders looked on approvingly from seats and benches on the edge of the makeshift dance floor.
Almost everything in the scene would have been impossible during the three years of brutal ISIS rule.
The group banned music and dancing, imposed a strict dress code, prevented women from wearing make-up, and forcefully prohibited the mixing of men and women.
But in Jazra on Friday, music mingled with the sound of generators providing the only electricity in the ravaged district, which like much of the city was heavily damaged during more than four months of fighting.
Jazra was one of the first districts of Raqaa to be captured by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, an alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters that broke into the city in June.
The groom’s family, unlike many others who fled Raqaa during the fighting, were able to return to their neighborhood and celebrate.
“We’re very happy, it’s the first wedding since the jihadists left,” Ahmed’s father Uthman Ibrahim said as he received guests.
“Before ISIS, there was dabke, songs and the traditional rituals of the region at our marriages, but ISIS banned everything, there was not a single celebration,” the man in his fifties told AFP.
“Today it’s a return to joy,” he added, his face lit up with happiness.