Syrians strike over living conditions in regime-held south

Hundreds take part in day of industrial action in Sweida province

Demonstrators in Sweida protest against the Syrian government decision to increase fuel prices, on August 17. Suwayda 24 / Reuters
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Syrians in the regime-held south of the country staged a general strike on Sunday against deteriorating living conditions and price rises, local media reported, amid sporadic demonstrations.

The government this week lifted fuel subsidies, dealing a blow to people already struggling with the heavy toll that 12 years of war have exacted on Syria's economy.

Protests were held in "more than 40 points across Sweida province" on Sunday as part of the strike, local news outlet Suwayda24 said.

In a report published on Facebook, it said hundreds protested in the centre of Sweida city, and posted images of dozens of people demonstrating on the streets while nearby shops appeared to be shut.

"We want to live with dignity, we want those arrested [to be released], we want a future for our children," one placard read.

"Freedom for the people and independence is greater than the position of president," read another.

Syria's war has killed more than half a million people and displaced millions since it broke out in 2011 after President Bashar Al Assad's repression of peaceful protests.

It spiralled into a deadly conflict that pulled in foreign powers and militias.

Sweida – the heartland of the country's Druze minority community – has been mostly spared from fighting, but its economic impact on the province has prompted occasional protests against living conditions.

In December, one protester and a policeman were killed when security forces cracked down on a demonstration in Sweida city.

Suwayda24 called Sunday's strike "unprecedented" since 2011, noting government offices had shut and protesters had chanted anti-Assad slogans.

It posted pictures of small groups of protesters blocking roads in the province, sometimes with burning tyres.

Pro-government radio station Sham FM said university exams in the area were postponed because of road blocks.

For several days, protests have taken place in Sweida and neighbouring Deraa province, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a war monitor.

Dozens demonstrated in Deraa on Saturday, some raising the Syrian opposition flag and calling for Mr Al Assad's departure, according to the Britain-based Observatory, which has a network of sources inside Syria.

Deraa was the cradle of the 2011 uprising, but returned to regime control in 2018 under a Russia-backed ceasefire deal.

Updated: August 21, 2023, 4:52 AM