Protests continue in Sweida despite fear of Syrian government crackdown

Dire economic conditions, including an acute fuel shortage, drive show of anger in Druze stronghold against Bashar Al Assad's regime

A protest in Sweida, south-west Syria, earlier this month. Economic woes have brought residents on to the streets. Reuters
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Demonstrators took to the streets of the government-held province of Sweida, in south-western Syria, on Sunday, in the latest in a series of protests over the country's dire economic situation.

Dozens of residents protested over fuel shortages, the sharp devaluation of the local currency and rising prices.

Fuel shortages have forced state agencies to close temporarily, led to the postponement of sporting events and put winter heating beyond reach for many.

Protesters demonstrated peacefully amid an intense security deployment, but vowed to continue until their demands were met, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitor.

Simmering discontent over Syria’s economic woes erupted into a violent protest on December 4 in the predominantly Druze city.

At least two people were killed — a protester and a police officer — as residents stormed the Sweida governor's office and tore down pictures of President Bashar Al Assad.

The size of the demonstrations has dwindled since then, due to fears protesters would face a crackdown by security forces, the observatory reported.

Protests are rare in most of Syria's government-held cities, although there have been other stand-offs in Sweida during particularly bad economic times.

The Druze enclave holds a mutually beneficial relationship with Syria’s regime and is given a small degree of autonomy in exchange for most of the province’s population staying out of the country’s civil war, which began in 2011.

Government-held Syria has become dependent on oil imports following the loss of control over its oil-producing eastern territory.

The government has blamed the fuel crisis on US sanctions that complicate and delay oil shipments from its ally, Iran.

Updated: December 12, 2022, 10:35 AM