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Demonstrators in As-Suwayda tear down Assad picture as protests escalate

September 9, 2023 at 10:48 am

People gather to protest against Bashar al-Assad regime in al-Bab district of Aleppo, Syria on August 25, 2023. [Bekir Kasım – Anadolu Agency]

Demonstrators in the city of As-Suwayda in southern Syria tore down a picture of Syrian regime President Bashar Al-Assad on Friday, with the escalation of anti-government protests that began three weeks ago, with crowds flocking from nearby villages to participate.

Pictures and footage posted on social media by activists showed a group of men tearing down a banner bearing an image of Al-Assad hanging on a branch of the Farmers’ Union.

More than 2,000 people demonstrated on Friday in the As-Suwayda governorate, continuing a movement that has been ongoing for three weeks. It began as a protest against the deteriorating economic conditions and developed to demand the overthrow of the regime, according to activist reports.

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Dissatisfaction with Al-Assad has been growing in As-Suwayda since demonstrations began there mid-August over the lifting of fuel subsidies, the latest step in a series of measures that have increased pressure on citizens at a time when they are already suffering from the impact of the economic collapse.

The protests began in the southern governorates of Daraa and As-Suwayda, but their momentum continued in As-Suwayda, which has witnessed occasional movements in protest against the dire living conditions.

One of the participants in the central demonstration in As-Suwayda reported that about 2,000 people demonstrated in Karama Square, in addition to hundreds in other villages.

Demonstrators chanted to music, “We want freedom, despite you, Bashar, we want freedom,” carrying colourful flags symbolising the Druze faith.

Rayan Marouf from the local As-Suwayda 24 network shared that the Friday demonstrators in Karama Square came from all over the governorate.

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The intensity of the protests usually declines during the week as citizens are busy with work, according to activists, with the momentum of protests picking up on Fridays, reminiscent of the unprecedented protests that Syria witnessed in 2011 before it turned into a violent conflict that continues to this day.

As-Suwayda is the capital of the governorate of the same name, and most of its residents are from the Druze minority. The city has remained under government control since the start of the civil war and has largely avoided the violence seen in other areas of the country.

Public criticism of the government is rare in areas under its control, but the economic situation is fuelling public discontent, which has increasingly begun to be directed at Al-Assad.

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