Tensions rise as the Syrian regime targets Suweida protesters
On September 14, a dramatic escalation unfolded in Suweida as Syrian regime forces allegedly injured three demonstrators. This marks the first instance of the regime resorting to violence in the region since protests erupted in early August, as reported by New Arab.
The epicenter of these rallies, al-Karama Square in Suweida city, has been buzzing with demonstrators for over a month. Their chants, demanding better economic conditions, predominantly revolve around the dissolution of the Syrian regime, notes the Syrian Observer.
While Suweida, a Druze-majority province, witnessed a relatively restrained regime response, its neighbor Daraa faced brutal suppression. This restraint was shattered as protesters neared the Baath Party headquarters in Suweida. The protestors were met with gunfire from individuals in the building.
Video evidence from a local media source, Suweida 24, captured men, one notably in military gear, aiming at the protesters from the rooftop.
Reflecting on the chaos that followed the firing, activist Ma'an al-Khadaj shared with The New Arab, "The streets were filled with anger, but we managed to restore calm. The consensus among the gathered protesters was to proceed but with non-violence." Khadaj opined that the regime's sudden aggression seems designed to provoke and escalate the till-now peaceful protests, giving them grounds for more severe actions.
Echoing Khadaj, human rights advocate Lana Aswad told TNA, "The regime might think it can manipulate the situation, but we are not blind to its tactics. We're committed to maintaining peace in our protests." Aswad reaffirmed her commitment: "Having once embraced the cause, fear is no longer in our lexicon. Retreat is not an option."
Demonstrators in Suweida harbor aspirations of sparking a chain reaction, envisioning parallel protests across areas under the regime's dominion to effect a shift in Syria's leadership paradigm. Though sporadic demonstrations have been noted in Daraa, other regions under the regime's control have manifested their dissent through subtle channels: anonymous online posts or the discreet distribution of political leaflets.
But as tensions escalate in Suweida, the regime's oppressive tactics in Daraa and its crackdown on online dissent—even in regions considered regime bastions like Latakia and Tartous—indicate stormy days ahead.
Rayan Maarouf, the chief editor of Suweida 24, gave a grim prognosis to TNA, stating, "With the regime seemingly running out of options, it's evident that it's leaning more towards violence. Given its history, the Syrian regime won't think twice before resorting to its brutal ways."