People gather in Suwayda in Syria to protest against Bashar al-Assad’s regime. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
Syrian protests enter second week with calls for Assad to go
· A spate of protests and strikes across government-held areas in southern Syria have continued into their second week, with demonstrators increasingly unafraid to call for the removal of the president, .
gathered in the southern city of Suwayda on Monday, closing provincial roads.
The province of Suwayda has remained under government control since Syria’s
2011 uprising and is home to much of the country’s Druze minority.
shared by the activist-led organization Suwayda24 showed several hundred people
gathered in a central square waving Druze flags and chanting “long live Syria,
and down with Bashar al-Assad”.
video circulating online showed activists chanting on Sunday evening after
welding shut the doors of a branch of the ruling Ba’ath party in the town of
Melh in the east of Suwayda province.
protester explained that they targeted the building due to its role in
suppressing previous protests calling for an increase in basic services such as
water and electricity.
then directed his cries towards the Syrian president, who has worked to stamp
out all dissent since protests against his rule first erupted in 2011. “From
Melh we call on you, Bashar al-Assad … we say leave, we don’t want you, you’re
going to fall.”
He added: “You have two options: either you leave with your dignity, or you are destined to die.”
spurred by a rise in fuel prices and anger at economic corruption and
mismanagement quickly morphed into anti-government demonstrations, including
repeated calls for Assad to leave. Demonstrations have grown steadily
throughout Syria’s south.
Suwayda, people held signs citing a UN security council resolution demanding a
transitional government, or calling for the release of thousands that have been
forcibly disappeared by the Syrian security apparatus since protests first
gripped the country 12 years ago.
hasn’t witnessed a civil strike and movement like this before. People don’t
want reforms. This regime is not able to provide people with any of their
needs,” said Rayan Marouf, the exiled head of Suwayda24.
protests have awakened hope in Syrians. Their demands are clear, and no one is
making economic demands. People in Suwayda also protested over the past few
years and nothing changed.”
emphasised that the renewed protests were about calls for political change,
rather than economic grievances that saw smaller protests in Suwayda in
they wanted economic reforms they would have protested differently, they would
have taken to the streets, for example, and tried to break into banks, or
called for a change of ministers and to bring back fuel subsidies. They
wouldn’t have attacked the Ba’ath party offices, one of its few functioning
branches in Syria. People want Assad to go,” he said.
demonstrations in majority Druze areas, which have drawn support from local
clerics and other groups in the area, like Bedouin, represent a further blow to
the Assad regime, which has long touted its defence of the country’s
Syrian pound has hit historic lows throughout the summer, plummeting to almost
15,000 to the dollar on the black market, depreciating threefold since its
value late last year. The government continues to hike wages amid a costly
restructuring plan on subsidies for basic goods, including bread and petrol.
efforts by Assad to oversee a return to the Arab League and re-establish
relations with former foes in the Gulf, his control over Syrian territory
remains fractured and a profound economic crisis persists.
government has offered little comment on the protests, apart from the state’s
head of reconciliation, Omar Rahmoun, who posted on social media to accuse
protesters of acting as a conduit for extremist groups.
has blamed its collapsing economy on western sanctions, which increased
following documentation of war crimes committed by the Assad regime as well as
its role in the regional drug trade.
said the protests show Assad’s efforts at control have done little to quell
public anger, even in government-held areas. “People want a fair government,
and al-Assad’s regime is incapable of giving his people that. Whatever this
regime does it won’t be enough for his people,” he said.
world thinks that Bashar al-Assad has won after being readmitted to the Arab
League, but it’s those on the ground who decide whether he’s a legitimate ruler
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