A general strike and civil disobedience in the southern Sweida governorate of Syria continued for the second day in a row, with more than 20 protests recorded.
Routes in and out of the city of Sweida were closed by authorities on Monday, and several Syrian government offices and institutions, including the main building of the governor’s ruling Baath Party, were closed, according to local sources. media.
Hundreds of civilians gathered on Sunday in the city’s Karama Square, in protest against the increase in food and commodity prices, as well as the Syrian government’s decision to increase fuel subsidies, but some also called for the overthrow of President Bashar al-Assad.
More than 42 protests were reported across Sweida governorate, Sweida 24 media network said.
“We are protesting against the decline of the economy, the state of chaos that the country is experiencing, and the widespread corruption in all state institutions, from the presidency to the smallest government department,” said Jameel, a 25 -year-old resident of the town of Sweida. .
Another protester, Mohammed, told Al Jazeera that al-Assad had consolidated the resources of the state in the hands of his closest associates, a continuation of the approach of his father and successor as president, Hafez.
“By pressuring the people’s economy, selling the country’s resources to Russia, and enabling Iran’s influence in Syria, al-Assad pushed the people of different provinces to divide the country into regions and adopt the a self-governing system,” Mohammed said.
There was no comment from the Syrian government about the unusual protests.
Sheikh Hikmat al-Hajri, the spiritual leader of the united Druze sect, issued a statement on Saturday expressing deep concern about the current economic situation. He called for action to achieve change and justice.
The Druze, members of a minority religious group in Syria and other parts of the Levant, make up the majority of Sweida’s population.
Protests demanding the fall of al-Assad began in different parts of Syria in 2011 and soon erupted into an armed conflict, after government forces attacked the protesters. Sweida itself has always been controlled by the government – although protests against the government have occurred, especially in 2020.
Despite the focus on the economic problems facing Syria, many demonstrators have political demands.
“The main reasons that brought me to the streets with the protesters were the demand for the release of all prisoners, in addition to the rising cost of living, the lack of medicines for children and the elderly, and the loss of electricity and water,” said Adam.
The 25-year-old told Al Jazeera that al-Assad’s government since 2012 has been trying to divide the people of Syria.
“We are the children of this country, and we don’t want to leave it or become second-class citizens while Russian soldiers and Iranian militias exploit the resources of our country,” he said.
Daraa returned to the front
While opposition groups remain in control of territory in northwest Syria after being defeated in other areas by government forces and their allies in Russia and Iran, opposition continues to flare up in regions controlled by the government – despite the government’s intolerance of criticism.
Daraa, which neighbors Sweida and was once a stronghold for opposition forces that was recaptured by the government in 2018, has also seen protests in recent days.
On Saturday, dozens of protesters gathered in front of the historic Umayyad Mosque in Daraa city and raised the flag of the Syrian revolution, before chanting slogans demanding the release of prisoners and the overthrow of al-Assad’s government. .
“We are participating in a demonstration to demand the release of our prisoners who have been held in al-Assad prisons for more than 10 years, in addition to highlighting the worsening economic situation we are facing,” said Abu Mohammed, a farmer from the western countryside of Daraa. .
Daraa is considered the cradle of the Syrian revolution and the first city where protests broke out in Syria. Armed opposition factions were in control of most of the wider governorate by the end of 2011.
After years of fighting with the government, a settlement agreement under Russian supervision was reached in which opposition forces agreed to surrender their heavy weapons and disband themselves, while allowing members to keep light weapons.
The result is in stark contrast to other parts of Syria, where fighters and opposition supporters have been killed, imprisoned or forcibly displaced as government control returns to their areas.
However, opposition supporters in Daraa, such as Abu Mohammed, point out that a more sinister outbreak continues in the governorate.
“Since the al-Assad regime controls Daraa, the killings of activists have not stopped, in addition to the security crackdowns and extortion we face at the al-Assad regime checkpoints,” he said, adding that the government, since taking control of Daraa, has driven people to flee by systematically shelling cities and villages, and conducted a widespread campaign of arrests.
“If this regime is not overthrown, our living conditions will not improve, the grip of security will not weaken, and we will not live in peace in our country,” said Abu Mohammed.
“We welcome the uprising of our people in Sweida,” he added. “And we call on our people in Damascus, Homs, Aleppo, and all the provinces of Syria to rise again against this regime.”