Under the shade of the palm trees at the center of the Museum street in Raqqa, young people were sitting waiting for anyone to offer them a job opportunity that can secure their daily bread. Everyday a large number of them start to jostle around an employer’s vehicle as soon as it approaches, hoping they can win the job. The same scenario is re-enacted on a daily basis, not only at the Museum Street but also in different places in the city.
The number of jobseekers in the city of Raqqa has been increasing despite the danger posed by some of the jobs offered in the city. However, this situation of tight choice made them overcome their fears and accept any job however dangerous it is.
Many wrecked buildings still carry ISIS booby traps plants, which explode from time to time. Abdullah al-Khalaf, Rozana Radio correspondent, interviewed Salah Ramadan, 30, while he was at the Museum Street waiting for a job to secure the living of his three children he left at their “destroyed” house. "I have been waiting here since early morning, but until now I found no job. We spend many jobless days like this one because job opportunities are scarce, despite the city’s need for reconstruction," said Salah.
Like most other workers, Salah does not care about the threat posed by certain jobs because he is in desperate need for the daily wage and has no other choice. "A few days ago, I was working with two others at night in one of the buildings to remove the ruins. Suddenly, a mine exploded in the adjacent building where others were working. Someone died and others were injured. Shrapnel was scattered around and reached us. We have to work in these conditions though as we have no other choice.
University graduates turning into day Laborers!
Mahmoud el-Ala refused to be interviewed by our reporter at first, but after insisting and asking him about the reason behind refusing to talk about the working conditions, he said: "I used to work as a teacher at al-Mansurah and I do not want to talk to you, because I do not want my students to know that I am looking for a job as a carrier or construction worker."
"There is nothing wrong with working, but being a teacher is very different. I do not want to cause one of my students to feel frustrated when he finds out I’m jobless and quit his studies. I am not the only well-educated one here as most of these young people are university graduates."
Malek al-Shammati is another jobless young man. He could not pursue his academic studies because of the events which took place in Syria and ISIS control over Raqqa. He described his journey in search of work as challenging because he had no working skills as a student. "I could not find a job or work as a construction worker or any other difficult job. Now, I am trying to learn a manual job that will help me secure a decent living. Learning is good of course, but with late returns. "
Referring to the difficulty of securing job opportunities in Raqqa, the head of the employment office affiliated to Raqqa Civil Council, Manar Obeid told Rozana that their office is looking to reduce unemployment in the city and find suitable jobs for young men and women as the staff of local and international organizations operating in Raqqa.
"We are working as intermediates between organizations, associations, and institutions of self-management on the one hand and the young men and women registered at the employment office on the other. Organizations and institutions would notify us about their job vacancies and we nominate three times the required number. Then we monitor the hiring process to ensure transparency and integrity in filling vacancies," Obeid said.
She pointed out that the total number of those registered for jobs at the employment office is around 12.000 applicants. Obeid added that they managed to secure around 3.000 jobs for young men and women from Raqqa two years after Raqqa Civil Council Affairs started operating.
The Syrian Democratic Forces, affiliated to The People’s Protection Units, managed to defeat ISIS and liberate the city of Raqqa in October 2017. Then, Raqqa Civil Council was established to become in charge of managing the governorate’s affairs. The Council seeks to provide services and job opportunities for the people there, being supported by international organizations.
Women in Raqqa are jobless, too..
On the other hand, women cannot find good job opportunities. Therefore, they often resort to handicrafts and to practicing locally-based occupations such as hairdressing, sewing, and embroidery.
Marah al-Jassem, a 25-year-old graduate of the Faculty of Arts at Al-Baath University in Homs, is currently working as a seamstress. Since she returned to Raqqa after Syrian Democratic Forces kicked ISIS out of the governorate, and despite having a university degree, she kept looking for a job that fits her academic level and ambitions, but in vain..
"I am trying to learn sewing in a startup factory, constructed by private efforts, to teach and provide job opportunities. I started here a short time ago and I am currently working on the clothes iron, which is the first stage."
"I did not get a decent job, even though I contacted all the organizations which were recently operating. In addition, teaching in schools is no longer possible because the curricula were different, and I could not find a place there," she said.
Civil society organizations can not contain all the jobless people!
When Raqqa was finally liberated from ISIS militants, civil society organizations have blossomed all over the region, adopting hiring plans described by some jobseekers as narrow, especially those who applied to these programs and were rejected. The job opportunities offered by those organizations were very limited.
Razwan al-Ala, the head of "Better Hope for al-Tabqa" organization, declared that organizations alone are unable to secure a lot of job opportunities. He said: "as civil society organizations, we try to make sure every project would provide as many job opportunities as possible, taking into consideration the projects and their nature. However, our projects are temporary and non-permanent. "
"In ‘Better Hope for al-Tabqa’ we worked harder to provide job opportunities. For example, in the cleaning project we have hired 100 cleaners and provided 32 opportunities in the lightning project, while the in renovation of schools project we have employed 30 people. However, these opportunities are transitory as they do not exceed a period of 6 months. So, these job opportunities are not efficiently contributing to a permanent solution. "
Razwan al-Ala concluded by stressing the region's management need to find solutions saying: "The solution is to move the market by finding more industrial and real agricultural projects. These projects will provide greater job opportunities and possibilities, which can involve residents and newcomers as well."
Ahmed al-Hashloum, chairman of “Inma”, said that Job opportunities are affected by the current situation in the governorate of Raqqa. "The employment reality is poor; for example, there are very few opportunities in agriculture and irrigation because such projects are halted because of destruction and rehabilitation, "he said.
He stressed that "common work force are available in the city unlike in the countryside. However, university graduates are the victims and they have no real job opportunities."
The number of registered applicants at the employment bureau amounted to 12.000. Two years after it started operating, the Raqqa Civil Council Affairs and the employment bureau managed to secure around 3.000 jobs for young men and women from Raqqa. However, the constantly changing data of applicants represent a major challenge to the success of these efforts according to the head of the employment office affiliated to Raqqa Civil Council.