Fresh wave of protests in As-Suwayda: Causes and repercussions
In early February 2022, a new wave of protests began in different parts of As-Suwayda Governorate, expressing anger and discontent with the Syrian regime, after the latter removed subsidies for staple items for hundreds of thousands of families. According to the recent decision, the affected people have become obligated to obtain food and catering supplies at the market price.
Later on February 6, the protests expanded and evolved from demonstrations to cutting off the main and secondary roads, including those that connect the governorate center with the capital, Damascus.
It is noted in this wave, however, the participation of different groups of the governorate's population, as the protests included those affected by the decision of removing the basic foodstuffs subsidies and the deteriorating living conditions, intellectuals, civil society activists, and unarmed members of the local factions. This tells why there are multiple slogans among protesters as some of them were denouncing the regime’s practices that led to the impoverishment of the population and others demanding the freedom and independence of Syria, which was embodied in the slogan “neither eastern nor western, we want Syria without dependence on foreigners.”
In this regard, it is possible to identify a number of indirect causes that previously contributed - and still are - to the continuation of the popular protests in As-Suwayda:
• The deterioration of living and economic conditions, and the decline in the level of services provided by the regime, which still clings to the priority of imposing security at the expense of providing services and improving economic conditions.
• Continuing pressure from Russia and the regime to impose forced conscription on the people of the governorate; thousands of whom refrain from joining the regime forces; For fear of being drawn into a confrontation with the rest of the Syrian people. The last of these practices is the attempt to form a large military force from the population of As-Suwayda who have failed to perform compulsory service, led by the son of Brigadier General "Issam Zahreddine", whose father was killed in Deir ez-Zor previously, although its scope of activity is only southern Syria.
• Rejection of Russia and Iran's continued attempts to expand their influence and presence in As-Suwayda.
Although it is not the first time that As-Suwayda has witnessed protests from the population over the poor living conditions, the continuation or stopping of this wave appears to be linked to a number of factors, namely:
- To depend on acts of repression, similar to the wave of protests that took place in As-Suwayda in mid-2020, as campaigns of arrests and detention of demonstrators, along with promises of responding to demands, led to end it. It was noticeable at the time that weapons were not used by the security forces. Therefore, if these forces use weapons during the new wave, the possibility of an escalation by the protesters does not seem excluded.
- The position of local factions, religious references, and notables; Where they are not supporting the protests currently, with the exception of the "Fahd" forces; Rather, they often prefer calm to escalation. However, it is not excluded that Russia will play a role in this regard through the channel of communication that links it with the leader of the "Men of Dignity" movement, Yahya al-Hajjar.