Syria: Suweida protesters smash statue of Bashar al-Assad's father Hafez
Hundreds of angry protesters in the southern Syrian city of Suweida smashed the statue of the country's late president on Monday as they marked the 2015 assassination of a prominent anti-government Druze leader.
Protesters smashed the statue of current Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's late father and predecessor, Hafez al-Assad.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitor, said the protesters initially went into the Suweida municipality building and removed Hafez al-Assad’s statue from the yard, carried it to a nearby street and smashed it there.
Some demonstrators angrily kicked chunks of the statue as it lay on the ground.
Several demonstrators marched up to the building of the local branch of the social security and tore down a giant poster of Bashar Assad, according to videos circulated on social media and opposition activists.
Hundreds of protesters including women and children were in Al-Karama Square on Monday morning, raising placards that condemned the regime led by Bashar al-Assad, The New Arab's sister outlet Syria TV reported. Anti-regime chants could also be heard.
Monday marked the eighth anniversary of the assassination of cleric Sheik Wahid Balous, a prominent critic of Assad. He had called on the youth in Suweida to refuse to serve in the military.
Balous, a strong supporter of rebels trying to topple Assad, died in one of two bomb explosions on 4 September 2015 that also killed 25 others. Some have blamed the government for the killing.
On Sunday, a sit-in tent was set up in the southern Syrian city's Al-Karama Square by a group of local young men, a correspondent for The New Arab's Arabic-language sister site Al-Araby Al-Jadeed said, more than a fortnight after demonstrations were first launched in the area.
The young men said the protest camp was an escalation in the demands made during more than two weeks of protests, Al-Araby Al-Jadeed reported.
Demonstrations had initially called for government action on surging inflation and poor living conditions, but have since escalated to a demand for the fall of the Assad regime and for a UN resolution approved in 2015, and aimed at bringing about political transition in Syria, to be implemented.
Despite attempts by attempts by regime forces to clamp down on dissent other protests have broken out in the Druze-majority province, Al-Araby Al-Jadeed reported.
Protesters in Suweida have removed or defaced images of Assad and ruling Baath party slogans outside schools and state buildings and at the entrances to towns.
Home to most of Syria's Druze community, the province had remained in regime hands throughout the war and was largely spared the violence seen elsewhere.
However, demonstrations against the Assad regime have taken place sporadically in Suweida since 2011, when the Assad regime brutally cracked down on peaceful protest and sparked an ongoing civil war.
More than half a million Syrians have died as a result of the 12-year war, and millions have been displaced from their homes.