The province of Soueïda, stronghold of the Druze minority, under control of the Syrian regime, has been the scene of demonstrations since mid-August. Faced with the specter of contagion to the rest of the country from a protest fueled initially by the dizzying rise in the cost of living, but which has taken a political turn against the power, the regime seems to be betting on time. Hoping in particular that Moscow and Tehran will continue to support him.
The demonstrators, who are now in their third week of mobilization in the provinces of Daraa and Soueïda, in southern Syria, are not taking off against the Damascus regime. Initially mobilized against the economic situation, they also target President Bashar al-Assad in their slogans., accused of selling the country’s resources to foreign powers, notably those to whom it owes its survival: Russia and Iran.
Over the weeks, the protesters’ demands have continued to evolve, denouncing what they call the “Captagon Republic”, in reference to the synthetic drug produced locally by those close to those in power, and demanding, as during of the 2011 uprising, the fall of the regime.
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They also demand the drafting of a new Constitution – to include the demand for the implementation of UN Resolution 2254, which provides for the organization of elections supervised by the UN – and the return of refugees who fled the war.
Triggered after the repression of anti-government demonstrations in 2011, the conflict has left nearly half a million dead, displaced millions of people, ravaged infrastructure and fragmented the country.
A power “in a state of incapacity”
These demonstrations and the nature of the demands indicate that popular anger is deeply rooted in the country. Coupled with the rise of dissidence among certain Arab tribes in the northern and northeastern regions of the country, who have expressed their desire to regain control of their regions at the expense of central power, they constitute a serious challenge for Bashar’s regime al-Assad.
Not to mention that the Syrian economy continues to collapse – the hope of a recovery in the situation thanks to the reestablishment of relations with certain Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia having quickly disappeared. According to local observers, Bashar al-Assad has closed the door on any possibility of reform capable of resolving Syria’s problems.
According to Jihad Yaziji, editor-in-chief of The Syria Report and economic journalist, the Syrian government “is currently in a state of incapacity.” While the war is supposed to be in its final phase, no solution, no political agreement has been reached to end it and launch reconstruction projects, he emphasizes.
“The Syrian regime is economically cornered, offers no perspective and has no solution or plan to revive the economy, insists Jihad Yaziji. However, the current demonstrations are not only due to the economic situation, but also to the absence of any hope for the future.”
More formidable for Bashar al-Assad, faced with the specter of a contagion of the protest to the rest of the country, there is, according to the journalist, “a deep feeling that the cost of silence has become higher than the danger of demonstrating “.
“The cost of repression is high”
Faced with such a situation, the government could be tempted, once again, to opt for fierce repression of the protest movement.
But Jihad Yaziji explains that “the cost of repression is high” and will make the regime even more vulnerable. According to him, the latter’s priorities are to contain the demonstrations in the South, in Soueïda and Daraa, “because they are peripheral and not central regions”, and to adopt a policy of terror in the coastal regions, in Damascus. and in the center of the country by launching arrest campaigns and seeking to stifle opposition voices.
In a report published on September 2, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (OSDH), an NGO based in the United Kingdom and with an extensive network of sources in Syria, at least 223 people were arrested over the course of in August, including 57 civilians who participated in the demonstrations.
The journalist predicts that it will however be difficult for the regime to replay the “community card” in the province of Soueïda considered as the cradle of the Druze minority, while the regime’s narrative presents the Syrian president, from the Alawite community, as the guarantor and protector of minorities against the Sunni majority.
To survive, the regime hopes above all that Moscow and Tehran will continue to support it at all costs, continues Jihad Yaziji.
The support of his foreign sponsors saved his day during the war. In 2013, Iran opened a $3.6 billion credit line to Damascus for the oil needs of internationally embargoed Syria in exchange for the right to invest in the country. On the military level, Russian support has enabled the resumption of territories beyond the control of President Bashar al-Assad. Results on the battlefield which gave him more room to maneuver in negotiations.
“The regime is playing for time while knowing that its allies will continue to support it despite the differences in their relations,” concludes journalist Jihad Yaziji. “It makes no concessions, takes no initiative and is betting on time by telling itself that some Western countries no longer see Syria as a priority and do not believe in the existence of an alternative to Bashar al-Assad, and that at best, this can only come from within the regime itself. even.”
Source: France 24