Syria has witnessed a wave of anti-government protests in the past two weeks, as people in several regions have expressed their anger and frustration over the deteriorating economic and living conditions in the country. The protests have also escalated into calls for the departure of President Bashar al-Assad, who has been in power since 2000 and has led the country into a devastating civil war since 2011.
The protests started in the southern province of Sweida, home to most of Syria’s Druze minority, after the government cut fuel subsidies and raised prices earlier this month. The move triggered a sharp decline in the value of the Syrian pound, which has lost more than 90 percent of its value since the start of the war. The protesters have gathered daily in the city’s Karama Square, blocking roads, chanting slogans, and removing or burning portraits of Assad. They have also demanded the release of political prisoners and an end to corruption and repression.
The protests have spread to other parts of Syria that are under government control, such as Aleppo, Daraa, Deir Ezzor, and Jableh. In some areas, protesters have hoisted the flag of the Syrian revolution, a symbol of defiance against Assad’s rule. The protests have also received expressions of solidarity from opposition-held areas in northern Syria, such as Idlib and Afrin.
The government has responded to the protests with force and intimidation, deploying security forces and loyalist militias to disperse the crowds and arrest activists. The government has also accused the protesters of being influenced by foreign powers and terrorist groups, and has warned that any unauthorized gatherings will be dealt with firmly. However, the protesters have vowed to continue their peaceful demonstrations until their demands are met.
The protests have been described by some observers as a new revolution or a second wave of the 2011 uprising that sparked the civil war. Others have argued that the protests are mainly driven by economic grievances and do not necessarily reflect a political change in the public opinion. Some have also expressed doubts about the sustainability and impact of the protests, given the fragmentation and exhaustion of the Syrian society after more than a decade of conflict.
The civil war in Syria has claimed more than 500,000 lives and displaced more than 12 million people since 2011. It has also involved regional and international actors who have supported different sides in the conflict. Assad has managed to regain most of the territory he lost to the opposition with the help of his allies Russia and Iran. However, he has failed to address the root causes of the conflict and to provide basic services and security to his people. The country is also facing a severe humanitarian crisis, exacerbated by sanctions, corruption, and Covid-19.