ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The Assistant Chief of the UK General Staff, Major-General Rupert Jones, has praised the leadership of Syrian Kurd Layla Mustafa, the co-chair of Raqqa’s Civil Council.
In a tweet on Tuesday, Jones described Mustafa as “a hugely impressive woman who has been at the helm of the civil council since it set up in early 2017.”
“Working with Kurds and Arabs, she has always worked bravely for the good of the population,” he added.
Raqqah leadership provided by Leila Mustapha - a hugely impressive woman who has been at the helm of the civil council since it set up in early 2017. Working with Kurds and Arabs she has always worked bravely for the good of the population https://t.co/Y0vRVbgYVC— Standing Joint Force Commander (@rupertthjones) March 5, 2019
Jones previously visited Raqqa and the Raqqa Civil Council as the Deputy Commander for the US-led coalition during the campaign by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to liberate Raqqa in 2017.
The UK official’s comments were in response to an article ABC had published about the situation in Raqqa.
In the report, journalist Yaara Bou Melhem observedthat the once notorious capital of the Islamic state, where women’s rights were restricted, is now led by a woman.
“While I wouldn’t ordinarily film someone smoking, Raqqa’s female Civil Council leader [Mustafa] puffing away in her office would’ve been a simple way to show how far the city has come since it pushed [the] Islamic State out two years ago,” Melhem wrote.
The Raqqa Civil Council was formed with the support of the SDF in April 2017, weeks before they launched the major operation to liberate Raqqa.
Mustafa, a Kurd from Raqqa, who previously co-headed the Tal Abyad council, has served as co-chair of the Raqqa city council since then.
The SDF liberated Raqqa in October 2017, after a heavy battle that lasted for months. The Raqqa Civil Council is now focused on rebuilding the region, which was heavily damaged during the fighting, and providing services.
“When we first liberated Raqqa it was a pile of mines and destruction. All the infrastructure was destroyed: education, health, humanitarian side,” Mustafa told Kurdistan 24.
“No place in the world has seen such destruction as Raqqa. With the efforts of the SDC [Syrian Democratic Council] and also the support from humanitarian organizations, we have achieved a big milestone.”
She noted that the council was able to provide various services in a short period of time, including the construction of 317 schools where 4,000 teachers were employed, and 115,000 students enrolled.
Additionally, Mustafa said the civil council has opened over 17 different health institutions, including 10 public hospitals.
“In the next few days we will renovate part of the national hospital that used to exist here,” she told Kurdistan 24, “a blood bank will be opened soon.”
“It is urgent that all of these services start, day by day we are trying to improve [the situation].”
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany