"World Mayors Foundation" awards jury prize to co-mayor of Raqqa, Leyla Mustafa

The co-mayor of the civil council of Raqqa, Leyla Mustafa, was awarded the jury prize in this year's “World Mayors”. The award recognizes the commitment to rebuilding the city after the Islamic State occupation.

The co-mayor of the civil council of Raqqa, Leyla Mustafa, was awarded the jury prize in this  year's “World Mayors”. 

In addition to the World Mayor Prize, the 2021 World Mayor Project presented seven Awards in recognition of mayors’ efforts and achievements in fields such as: Capital design; International relations; Inclusivity; Sustainability; Future development; Public service; and Community advancement. The 2021 Jury Award was conferred on the Mayor of Raqqa, Syria.

The co-mayor of the civil council of Raqqa, Leyla Mustafa, was awarded the jury prize for this year's “World Mayor”. The award recognizes the efforts of the Kurdish woman to rebuild Raqqa after the occupation by the Islamic State, announced the “City Mayors” foundation on Tuesday night in London. The first two places went to Ahmed Aboutaleb (Rotterdam, Netherlands) and Philippe Rio (Grigny, France), who can now call themselves “World Mayors”.

Leyla Mustafa has been the co-mayor since the civil council of Raqqa was founded in April 2017. Born in 1988, the Kurdish woman studied civil engineering, which is a major plus for the reconstruction of Raqqa. To understand Leyla Mustafa’s achievements, it is necessary to remember the context of Raqqa. An ancient city with Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Turkish, Islamic and Catholic histories, the capital of ISIS captured territories from 2014- 2017. A city virtually destroyed and devastated by ISIS, the US bombing and the war to evict ISIS.

Mustafa experienced the occupation of Raqqa first hand, because Raqqa is her native city: stoning, beheadings, crucifixions, amputations. She also saw the slave markets, where Yazidi women abducted from Shengal were sold, and fled to Qamishlo with her family. From a distance she watched Raqqa's descent into hell.

In explaining the prize, the World Mayors institution wrote: “Leyla, a civil engineer in her 30’s has been joint president of the Raqqa Civil Council (RCC), an assembly since its creation in 2017 just before Isis was defeated to re-build and restore the life of the City.

Leyla is a joint president with an Arab joint president. A remarkable attempt to bring together diverse communities to work together.

By 2017 and Isis’s defeat by the Syrian Democratic force, thousands of locals had been forced to flee, most buildings had been destroyed, there was no infrastructure, running water or electricity and few medical services. Its communities and civil life destroyed by ISIS.

Yet by 2020, Raqqa’s Museum, once the symbol of the city’s diverse cultural, religious and historical heritage was on its way to being rebuilt and restored as a symbol of Raqqa’s re-birth.

There is the reclamation of the equally symbolic Al- Naim square, once ISIS’s execution and killing ground, with thriving shops, small businesses and a busy day to day community life.

There is the gradual restoration of electricity and water supplies across the city, the re-building of hospitals, local health centres and schools. 

There is the restoration of homes, street markets, businesses and local community life, all of which contribute to the rebirth of Raqqa as people return gradually to try to re-build their lives.

Leyla, as co-president of the RCC, has been the one consistent and significant figure in Raqqa’s rebuilding and revival since 2017.”