An anti-Assad rally in Suwayda in southern Syria, September 8, 2023
UPDATE, SEPT 10:
Anti-Assad protests are in their fourth week in Suwayda Province in southern Syria.
Demonstrators continue to rally in al-Karama Square in the center of Suwayda city, criticizing the regime over inflation and living conditions and demanding political reforms.
Protesters have tore down posters of Bashar al-Assad and his late father Hafez
After ripping the banner of Bashar al-Assad above the local branch of the Farmers’ Union, men welded shut the doors of the offices.
Women singing and clapping in al-Karama Square on Sunday:
— السويداء 24 (@suwayda24) September 10, 2023
Men chanting for political change:
#شاهد: من ساحة الكرامة وسط مدينة السويداء، اليوم الأحد، ولليوم الثاني والعشرين على التوالي، تتواصل الاحتجاجات المطالبة بالتغيير السياسي، استنادا إلى القرار 2254.#مظاهرات_السويداء pic.twitter.com/XgWAvRDFb7
— السويداء 24 (@suwayda24) September 10, 2023
UPDATE 1147 GMT:
Protesters have gathered again in al-Karama Square in the center of Suwayda city.
Chants include, “Leave, Bashar, with Iran and Russia.”
— السويداء 24 (@suwayda24) August 30, 2023
UPDATE, AUG 30:
A scene from Suwayda city….
"We salute all the Syrian people.
we the free women of Swaida would like to salute all the free people of Syria.
We are on our way to Victory and Freedom,
and we will not leave this square.
We either die together or live together"#Syria #السويداء_تنتفض #FreeSyria pic.twitter.com/sguIOOdJ76
— Rami Jarrah (Alexander Page) (@RamiJarrah) August 28, 2023
UPDATE, AUG 29:
Protests are continuing across southern Syria.
For the 10th day in a row, demonstrators rallied on Tuesday in al-Karama Square in the center of Suwayda city. A group of protesters closed the offices of People’s Assembly members.
— السويداء 24 (@suwayda24) August 29, 2023
In western Suwayda Province on Monday night, people from nearby villages gathered in the town square in Ariqa.
— السويداء 24 (@suwayda24) August 28, 2023
Other videos on Monday showed protesters closing provincial roads. Several hundred people gathered in Suwayda city, waving Druze flags and chanting, “Long live Syria, and down with Bashar al-Assad.”
On Sunday night, activists welded shut the doors of a branch of the ruling Ba’ath party in the town of Melh in eastern Suwayda Province. One said:
From Melh, we call on you, Bashar al-Assad….We say leave, we don’t want you, you’re going to fall….
You have two options: either you leave with your dignity, or you are destined to die.
The exiled head of the Suwayda24 network, Rayan Maroufm explained:
Suwayda 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.
These protests have awakened hope in Syrians. Their demands are clear, and no one is making economic demands….If 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.
The Assad regime has not addressed the demands of the protesters. Instead, its “head of reconcilation”, Omar Rahmoun posted on social media that demonstrators are acting as a conduit for extremist groups.
Regime propagandists echoed the message, albeit incoherently.
Oh look! The OTPOR #CIA colour revolution symbol at "grassroots" #Syrian "revolution" 2:0 #Sweida. Why are signs written in English unless to appeal to "international community" & media for "aid" & terrorist support 4 partitioning cause. #UN 2254 = regime change. STAGED. #Syria pic.twitter.com/BZq01EVurX
— vanessa beeley (@VanessaBeeley) August 29, 2023
ORIGINAL ENTRY, AUG 27: Almost 12 1/2 years after the Syrian uprising of March 2011 for rights, reforms, and justice, protests are resurging across the south of the country.
Demonstrations in Suweida Province, which have periodically been held despite the Assad regime’s repression, resumed 10 days ago over economic crisis and deteriorating living conditions.
The protests have spread to neighboring Daraa Province, the catalyst for the 2011 rallies after the regime detained and abused teenage boys who posted grafitti on walls.
The latest demonstrations have been spurred by a collapsing currency and soaring inflation, including the regime’s increase in fuel prices on August 15 — the third hike this year.
The subsequent rallies are larger than those which have broken out in recent years, now extending from Suwayda’s Jabal al-Druze to Daraa’s Houran Plain. There are even gatherings on the Mediterranean coast, normally an area loyal to the regime.
The Syrian pound — 47:1 v. the US dollar in March 2011 and 6,500:1 at the start of 2023 — is now at 15,100:1. The rate of inflation is 139% and increasing.
On August 15, as the regime raised fuel prices, Bashar al-Assad issued decrees doubling public sector salaries, wages, and pensions. But the order will only make a dent in the cost of living, and will do nothing for those who are outside the public sector.
As the Syrian pound sank, the price of essentials such as sugar, vegetable oil, and olive oil rose between 30% and 50%.
“Abdulmajid al-Ahmad”, a resident of Inkhil in northern Daraa Province, told Syria Direct that the doubling of his father’s monthly pension “is not a solution….It is only enough for three days.” The cost of a 30-barrel tank of drinking water alone takes up almost half the pension.
Economist Manaf Quman summarizes, “The salary an employee takes home at the end of the month is spent in the market in a single day.”
“Leave! We Want to Live”
There were demonstrations at 40 different sites in Suwayda Province last week, including the provincial capital Suwayda city. On Sunday and Monday, a general strikes closed government offices, blocked roads, and called for Assad’s departure.
On Friday, hundreds of people gathered in Suwayda city in the largest demonstration so far. They chanted, “The people want the fall of the regime”, “Go away, Bashar. We do not want you”, and “Syria is ours and not the Assad family’s”.
In neighboring Daraa Province, there were nine rallies, including scores of people gathered in Busra al-Sham. Demonstrators held up placards such as “Leave! We want to live” and “Silence today means the tyrant continues”.
“We have come to the streets in Bosra al-Sham to confirm our continuation of the Syrian revolution and the demands that brought us here in 2011,” said activist Ahmad Mekdad. “We will not go back on our demands for freedom, dignity and a united Syria.”
A remarkable sight — Syrians chanting the anthems of the 2011 revolution 12yrs later, in 2023.
After 500,000+ dead, 120,000+ disappeared, industrialized torture, 82,000 barrel bombs, 340+ chemical attacks… they persist.
— Charles Lister (@Charles_Lister) August 25, 2023
No Relief in Sight
Economist Quman said the economic crisis is unlikely to ease:
Whoever wants to raise salaries and wages has to ensure stability in the production rates of basic goods. The increase in the money supply should be an expression of growth in real production to ensure price stability.
None of this has happened in Syria over the past years. The regime prints banknotes without the slightest value. This increase will evaporate before it reaches the hands of an employee, due to the market’s reaction and the imbalances in the economy.
The Assad regime was reportedly offered $4 billion by Saudi Arabia this spring — more than the annual Government budget of $2 billion to $3 billion — if Damascus suppressed its involvement in the captagon drug trude.
However, economist Karam Shaar notes, “The money didn’t come as a result of pressure from the West, which insists on the regime making real concessions in exchange for funds.”
Shaar says the regime has “no real supporter left but Iran”, given that Russia’s “military and political intervention is greater than its economic [intervention]”.
The regime is making “investment concessions in Syria to Tehran at an unprecedented pace”.
But Iran is also facing serious economic problems, as there is not yet the prospect of a deal over its nuclear program and thus a lifting of US-led sanctions.
The regime’s concern is betrayed by escalating rhetoric from its propagandists. The British disinformation warrior Vanessa Beeley — embedded in Damascus with an apartment and pink VW Beetle provided by regime officials — tried to erase the protests by blaming foreign forces.
My latest report for UK Column news:
SYRIA: Western Intelligence agencies recycle the 2011 "Revolution" in southern #Syria with Israel playing an instrumental role.
Syrians, despite the hardships they are enduring remain opposed to further sectarian division.
— vanessa beeley (@VanessaBeeley) August 26, 2023