Syria: Newlyweds join Suweida protesters as spiritual leader warns of demographic change
Hamad and Aya al-Sehnawi joined protesters in Al-Karama Square, where for 47 days protesters have gathered to call for a political transition in Syria, amid a severe economic crisis and the continuation of authoritarian rule.
Donning traditional attire from Suweida, Aya and her new husband Hamad stepped out of a car and were welcomed by chants, songs and confetti.
#شاهد: عروسان يصلان إلى ساحة الكرامة وسط مدينة السويداء حيث تستمر المظاهرات في الساحة، لليوم السابع والأربعين على التوالي. اليوم الخميس، الخامس من تشرين الأول.#مظاهرات_السويداء pic.twitter.com/BlYZDont0M— السويداء 24 (@suwayda24) October 5, 2023
The event was considered by local people to symbolise the solidarity and unity of Suweida, which, despite being targeted by a deadly Islamic State group attack which killed around 250 people in 2018, has largely disassociated from Syria’s conflict, which has gone on for 12 years.
But a worsening socioeconomic situation in Syria and regime neglect and corruption has prompted Syrians there to come out in protest.
Demands to improve living conditions and security have gradually turned into calls for the complete downfall of the regime.
Local people have long complained of the substantial presence of Iran-backed militias allied with the regime.
Protesters have organised larger gatherings in Al-Karama Square on Fridays and received messages of support from across the country.
The regime has largely taken a hands-off approach to the protests in Suweida, careful not to upset the Druze minority – unlike in other parts of Syria in the previous decade, where regime forces used deadly violence against protesters, firing on crowds.
On Wednesday, Druze spiritual leader Sheikh Hekmat al-Hijri who has become a main figure in the Suweida protests warned of the regime’s "malicious" plans to change Syria’s religious demographics.
"The people of the [Suweida] governorate did not rise up for new reasons, but rather for their experience over the years, where the youth reached a stage in which they began to feel that the homeland was not theirs anymore and they began searching for another homeland," Al-Hijri said.
The sheikh said that Syria was the target of a "malicious" plan to bring about demographic changes across the country. He considered that many "national ideas" had already been replaced with "ideological ideas," in an apparent reference to the increase in sectarianism.