Two killed in rare Syria anti-govt protest

The Nation  |  Dec 05, 2022

BEIRUT    -   Protests in Syria’s Druze-major­ity Sweida province turned vi­olent on Sunday leading to the deaths of a protester and a po­lice officer, and wounding sev­en others. Anti-government demonstrations are rare in Syria where President Bashar Assad stamped out a pro-democracy uprising over a decade ago. As­sad survived the resulting civil war but the conflict has plunged Syria into poverty, coupled with a food security and energy cri­sis. Though Sweida has gener­ally been spared from the civ­il war, anti-corruption protests have occurred in the Druze-ma­jority province over the past few years, with tensions simmering between residents and the Syri­an government led by President Assad. Dozens of residents gath­ered by the Sweida governorate building, decrying the dire eco­nomic situation and chanting anti-government slogans be­fore some broke into the build­ing. The Syrian Interior Minis­ter in a statement said that the people who raided the build­ing were armed, and destroyed furniture, smashed windows, and looted files. The statement added that a police officer was killed after protesters attacked a police station.

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Activist media collective Su­wayda 24 and UK-based oppo­sition group the Syrian Obser­vatory for Human Rights said security forces fired live am­munition at protesters. One video from the activist collec­tive shows protesters carrying a wounded man bleeding from his thigh. “There is a large de­ployment of security forces in the area, and you can still hear gunshots,” Rayan Maalouf, who heads the Suwayda 24 collective told media. Nashaat al-Atrash, a Druze legislator in Syria’s Par­liament condemned protest­ers for raiding the governorate building and called for calm. “All of Syria is going through an eco­nomic crisis,” he said on Syria’s Al-Ikhbaria television, claim­ing that outside forces could be trying to stoke tensions through the angry demonstrations.

After an Islamic State mili­tant group attack on Sweida in 2018, more residents took arms to protect their neigh­borhoods. Local activists have reported clashes last summer between armed residents and armed groups aligned with the Syrian government and securi­ty agencies.

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