August 23, 2023
From Syria 360

The Cradle News Desk

The Druze-majority region launched a general strike over the weekend to protest the lifting of fuel subsidies and a significant currency depreciation

Protests over rising fuel prices and worsening living conditions continued on 22 August for a third day in Syria’s Suwayda governorate across dozens of locations on the third day of a general strike.

Protesters in the Druze-majority governorate blocked the roads with burning tires and raised banners expressing their demands while the Baath party headquarters remained closed.

As-Suwayda 24’s correspondent said that the number of protesters in Al-Seer Square in Suwayda city on Tuesday has increased compared to the previous days.

According to the Syrian Observer, the protests began on 16 August, following a significant currency depreciation, with one US dollar reaching the equivalent of 15,000 Syrian pounds. At the start of the Syrian war 2011, one US dollar was equivalent to 47 Syrian pounds.

Earlier last week, the Syrian government lifted fuel subsidies, increasing the price of fuel from 3,000 pounds to 8,000 Syrian pounds per liter.

The hike in fuel prices led to chaos on the streets as bus and taxi drivers refused to work.

Though on paper, the US-led war on Syria ended in 2019, the economic situation in the war-torn country has continued to deteriorate, making living conditions for many Syrians intolerable as a result of rampant economic sanctions imposed by the west.

Furthermore, the government has had difficulty in maintaining subsidies for food and fuel thanks to the US occupation of Syria’s northeast, the country’s energy and grain-producing regions. US planners have admitted that the economic strangling of Syria seeks to keep Syrians immiserated and spark opposition against the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

In December of last year, Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar reported that popular protests in Al-Seer Square in Suwayda demanding an increase in the governorate’s allocations of fuel and an increase in the number of hours of electric power supply turned into clashes with security authorities during which two were killed and others wounded. The clashes were caused by what the Syrian Ministry of Interior described as “outlaws” for storming and vandalizing the governorate building and shooting on the police command guard.

Sources in Suwayda told Al-Akhbar that what happened in the city was “an attempt to ride the wave of protests by parties that have not been revealed yet,” noting that “the quick move by the city’s notables to contain the situation nullified the effects of the protests.”

“What happened was that there were people who suddenly entered with weapons among the demonstrators heading from the Al-Seer Square to the governorate building, and they fired bullets and vandalized the building,” the report added, considering that “whoever carried out the vandalism is inevitably linked to the outside, and wants bloodshed to cause great strife.”

This resembled anti-government protests in the southern city of Deraa in 2011 that sparked the broader war. In that case, the US State Department trained activists to exploit local grievances and call for protests locally and via social media.

Al-Qaeda militants, with backing from foreign intelligence services, then infiltrated the protests to open fire on Syrian police and security forces.

Al-Akhbar reported that in 2022, Arab diplomats leaked details of US efforts to make Suwayda an autonomous zone outside Damascus’ control, similar to the area east of the Euphrates River run by the Kurds in coordination with US occupation forces. The diplomats said the plan would serve Israel and Jordan, turning southern Syria into a buffer zone, as is the case in northern Syria, where Turkiye occupies territory in conjunction with local proxy militias known as the Syrian National Army (SNA).