Syrians in Assad regime-held Suwayda strike over living conditions

Syrians in Assad regime-held Suwayda strike over living conditions
With the Syrian regime lifting fuel subsidies on an already impoverished population, Syria's Suwayda province has seen a growing amount of popular unrest, leading to a general strike.
2 min read
21 August, 2023
Protests have erupted in Suwayda and all across Syria [Getty]

Hundreds of Syrians staged a general strike on Sunday against deteriorating living conditions and price hikes, local media reported, amid a series of sporadic demonstrations in the country's regime-held south.

The rare strike in Suwayda province comes after the government this week lifted fuel subsidies, dealing a blow to people already struggling with the heavy toll 12 years of war have exacted on Syria's economy.

Local news outlet Suwayda24 said protests were held in "more than 40 points across Sweida province" on Sunday as part of the strike.

In a report published on Facebook, it said "hundreds" protested in the centre of Suwayda city, and posted images of dozens of people demonstrating on the streets while nearby shops appeared shut.

"We want to live with dignity, we want those arrested (to be released), we want a future for our children," one placard read.

"Freedom for the people and independence is greater than the position of president," read another.

Syria's war has killed more than half a million people and displaced millions since it broke out in 2011 following President Bashar al-Assad's violent repression of peaceful protests.


Strike 'unprecedented since 2011'

Suwayda - the heartland of the country's Druze minority community - has been mostly spared by fighting, but its economic impact on the province has prompted occasional protests against living conditions.

In December, one protester and a policeman were killed when security forces cracked down on a demonstration in Suwayda city.

Suwayda24 called Sunday's strike "unprecedented" since 2011, noting government offices had shut and protesters had chanted anti-Assad slogans.

It posted pictures of small groups of protesters blocking roads in the province, sometimes with burning tyres.

Pro-regime radio station Sham FM said university exams in the area were postponed, citing road blockages.

For several days, protests have taken place in Suwayda and neighbouring Daraa province, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a war monitor.

Dozens demonstrated in Daraa on Saturday, some raising the Syrian opposition flag and calling for Assad's departure, according to the Britain-based Observatory, which has a network of sources inside Syria.

Daraa was the cradle of the 2011 uprising, but returned to regime control in 2018 under a Russia-backed ceasefire deal.