Demonstrators in Sweida Tear Down Portrait of President Bashar Assad in Growing Anti-Government Protests
In the southern Syrian city of Sweida, anti-government protests have been gaining momentum over the past three weeks. The demonstrations, which initially began in mid-August due to the removal of fuel subsidies, have now swelled with crowds coming in from surrounding villages. Sweida, the capital of a province with the same name, is predominantly inhabited by Syria’s minority Druze sect and has remained under government control throughout the civil war.
The economic crisis in Syria has put a strain on the people, leading to growing criticism of President Bashar Assad. Sweida, known for its rare open criticism of the government, has seen public discontent rise as the economic situation worsens. The latest act of defiance came on Friday when demonstrators tore down a portrait of President Assad that was hanging above the local branch of the Farmers’ Union. The protesters then proceeded to weld shut the doors of the offices, symbolizing their rejection of the government’s policies.
Videos posted on activist pages show a group of men ripping the banner portraying Assad’s face and chanting slogans against him. The protesters gathered in Karama Square, carrying the multi-colored Druze flag and expressing their dissatisfaction with the current regime. “We raised our voices and Assad ran in fear!” they chanted. “Hey Bashar, we don’t want you!”
This act of tearing down Assad’s portrait follows a similar incident earlier in the week when demonstrators removed a portrait of his father, former President Hafez Assad, from a government building and smashed a bust of his head, slapping it with their shoes. These acts of protest highlight the growing anger and frustration among Syrians towards the ruling regime.
While open criticism of the government has been rare in areas under government control, the economic meltdown has pushed people to voice their discontent more openly. Sweida’s protests serve as a reminder that even in areas relatively spared from the violence of the civil war, the economic crisis is causing significant hardship and fueling public dissent.
It is worth noting that residents of other government-held parts of Syria, where restrictions are tighter, have resorted to more discreet gestures of protest to avoid detection by government forces. The fear of reprisals and the oppressive environment have forced many Syrians to express their dissatisfaction in subtle ways.
The growing anti-government protests in Sweida and other parts of Syria indicate a deepening crisis that the Assad regime must address. The removal of fuel subsidies was just one of many measures that have burdened the Syrian people, who are already grappling with a dire economic situation. As the protests continue to gain momentum, it remains to be seen how the government will respond and whether it will take steps to address the grievances of its citizens.
In conclusion, the tearing down of President Bashar Assad’s portrait in Sweida is a significant act of protest that reflects the mounting discontent among Syrians. The economic crisis has exacerbated the hardships faced by the people, leading to open criticism of the government. As anti-government demonstrations grow in size and intensity, it is clear that the Assad regime must take immediate action to address the grievances of its citizens and alleviate their suffering.