In Sweida, government forces repress a sporadic protest against living conditions, a protester and a police officer lost their lives.
As security forces put down a rare protest by hundreds against deteriorating living conditions, two people—a protester and a policeman—were killed on Sunday in Sweida, a city in southern Syria.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that tensions were high in the regime-controlled city after protesters stormed a government building, threw rocks at it, and removed a sizable portrait of President Bashar al-Assad from its facade.
According to Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman, “at least one protester and one police officer were killed.”
He added that government forces have spread out in the city, dispersing protesters, and that the protester was shot dead when security forces opened fire after protesters entered the building.
Four additional people with gunshot wounds were reportedly taken to a hospital in the Druze-majority city, according to local news outlet Suwayda24, who also confirmed the two fatalities.
Less than 3% of Syria’s population before the war, the Druze have largely avoided involvement in the civil war, and their homeland is the Sweida region south of Damascus.
Since it started in 2011 when anti-government protests were brutally put down, that war has killed close to 500,000 people, torn the nation apart, and brought about an economic collapse.
Earlier in the day, Suwayda24 shared pictures on social media of protesters chanting against the government while security personnel stood watch outside the structure.
Other pictures showed a burning military vehicle and burning tires on the city’s main streets. Some of the video contained audible gunshots.
According to Syria’s interior ministry, a “group of outlaws” attempted to storm the police headquarters and killed one policeman in the process.
The ministry claimed that some protesters had weapons.
According to a statement released by the ministry on Sunday, “We will hunt down the criminals and take legal action against anyone who attempts to compromise the security and stability of the Sweida governorate and the safety of its citizens.”
Official documents and files were set on fire after “lawbreakers” broke into the provincial government building, according to state television.
Syria’s economy has been severely harmed by both its protracted civil war and Western sanctions imposed on Damascus, and the value of the local currency has fallen.
The UN estimates that 12.4 million people are food insecure and that 90% of the population now lives below the poverty line.
Nationwide electricity rationing and persistent fuel shortages, which severely impair daily life, have been particularly hard on Sweida and other cities.
More electricity rationing is one of the austerity measures that the government recently announced.
The Observatory reported at the time that hundreds of Sweidans took to the streets in February to protest the lack of democratic government and to call for better living conditions. There were smaller demonstrations there in 2020.