Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 27 September 2020

Suweida protests: Syrian regime reacts with pro-Assad rally

The move echoes initial response to uprisings in 2011 before Bashar Al Assad unleashed his forces on the pro-democracy movement

An anti-Assad demonstration in Suweida on June 9, 2020. AFP via Suwayda24
An anti-Assad demonstration in Suweida on June 9, 2020. AFP via Suwayda24

The Syrian regime mounted a rally on Wednesday in Suweida to counter demonstrations denouncing Syrian President Bashar Al Assad that broke out in the mostly Druze city this week.

The pro-Assad rally in front of the governorate headquarters was the first loyalist response to the protests amid a collapse of the Syrian pound, which is triggering demonstrations of public discontent in regime areas unseen since 2011.

The official news agency said Suweida “witnessed today a mass patriotic stand” against American sanctions, which the regime blames for deteriorating economic conditions in Syria. Stiffened US penalties against dealing with the regime are due to come into effect next week.

The crowd “affirmed the national positions and the standing in one line against the terrorist and economic war Syria is being subjected to,” the regime’s media division said.

A smaller anti-Assad sit-in went ahead in a nearby square on the fourth consecutive day of sporadic anti-Assad marches in the city.

Suwayda24, a network of citizen journalists, released footage of dozens of young men and women at the sit-in, raising pictures of political prisoners in regime jails.

Situated between Damascus and Jordan, the Alawite-dominated regime considers Suweida a loyalist province. Its perceived loyalty, as well as other regions with the regime, is being tested by the collapse of the Syrian pound.

Currency monitor Syrian Pound Today said the pound is trading at 2,350, down from its 3,100 record earlier this week.

The exchange rate, however, remains a fraction of its 50 to the dollar value nine years ago.

One resident of Suweida, who declined to be named, told The National that many people in the city and the outlying towns “are on the verge of starvation”.

The pro-regime rally echoed the regime’s response to the outbreak of pro-democracy demonstrations in March 2011, which marked the peaceful phase of the Syrian revolt.

The regime rushed loyalists into the streets of Damascus nine years ago to march in support of the president after mostly female civic figures organised the first pro-democracy protest at Marjeh Square in the city.

The authorities used the same tactic days later, after killing two demonstrators in Deraa, which marked the beginning of mass violence against the protest movement, triggering a backlash against the regime later in 2011 and the militarisation of the revolt.

Updated: June 11, 2020 09:25 AM

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