Shots fired at anti-government protest in Suweida, Syria

The south-western Druze city has been rocked by weeks of rallies calling for President Bashar Al Assad's resignation

Protests last month against Syrian President Bashar Al Assad in the central square of the mostly Druze south-western city of Suweida. Photo: Suwayda24.
Powered by automated translation

Anti-government protesters scattered on Wednesday after their demonstration near a government building in the south-western city of Suweida was hit by a fusillade of bullets, wounding at least three people, activists said.

Suweida has been rocked by weeks of rallies against the Syrian government, first organised as protests against worsening living conditions, but then branching out to include calls for President Bashar Al Assad to step down.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said residents tried to storm the ruling Baath party's provincial headquarters in the city in an attempt to close it for a second time – having already done so last month – while chanting slogans calling for freedom.

Security personnel guarding the building fired at the protesters to disperse them, which was followed by reports of injuries, the UK-based watchdog said.

Last month, demonstrators shut down the Baath party's provincial headquarters in Suweida for the first time.

The protest movement in Suweida province, which lies on the border with Jordan, started after the authorities announced a sharp increase in fuel prices last month.

Current unrest in Syria – and renewed dissent elsewhere – signal obstacles in Mr Al Assad's path to consolidate his power, especially following his readmission to the Arab League in May.

The civil war in Syria broke out after authorities used force to suppress the 2011 uprising against Mr Al Assad's rule. The president, who belongs to the Alawite sect, inherited power form his father, Hafez Al Assad, in 2000.

A sharp economic crisis in the past three years appears to be chipping away at the religious and ethnic alliance that had played a crucial role in helping Mr Al Assad maintain his seat of power in Damascus, observers say. The alliance comprises Alawite, Druze, Christians and other minorities, as well as affluent members of the Sunni majority.

The economic crisis in regime-controlled territories has deepened as the economy of neighbouring Lebanon has continued its meltdown. Since the two countries became independent of France in the 1940s, Lebanon has been the deposit house for Syria.

Updated: September 13, 2023, 12:56 PM