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Albin Szakola

Protests continue in Syria Druze region

Just as they did last Sunday, the protesters started chanting bold slogans challenging regime authority over the province.

Suweida rally. (Facebook/You Broke Us"

BEIRUT – Protesters have gathered yet again in the center of Syria’s Suweida to protest against government mismanagement of the Druze populated province.

 

Shortly after midday Thursday, dozens of protesters rallied in the provincial capital’s main square for the latest demonstration organized by “You Broke Us” (حطمتونا#) movement, an activist group making a raft of social and economic demands.

 

Just as they did last Sunday, the protesters started chanting bold slogans challenging regime authority over the province, where political movements independent of both Damascus and the Syrian opposition have sprung up in recent years.

 

“There it is, there it is, the Syrian revolution, peacefully, peacefully!” the crowd shouted in one of the videos filmed Thursday.

 

 

“The people want to bring down corruption,” protesters chanted in another video of the afternoon rally.

 

The crowd called for action against poor governance, shouting “O’Syrian lift your hand up, we don’t need to corrupt! O’Syrian lift your hand up, we don’t need the traitor!”

 

 

According to a local news outlet, the protesters also turned their ire against Syria's Suweida Political Security Branch chief Wafiq Nasser and the province’s governor Atef Nadaf.

 

The rally did not only focus on local issues in Suweida, with protesters bearing placards saluting all the cities of the country, including Maarat al-Numan, a rebel-hold Idlib town where residents have held a number of protests against the Al-Nusra Front.

 

Swaida Khabar reported that local government security agencies mobilized a parallel protest, in which hundreds of Assad supporters gathered bearing Syrian flags and portraits of the country’s president.

 

“The ‘Shabiha’ tried to start a quarrel with the protesters by directing swears and insults at them,” the outlet claimed, adding, however, that residents prevented any clash from erupting between the two groups.

 

“You Broke Us” announced its public presence on March 13 in an opening statement in which it vowed to organize a “long-term protest” until its demands to help “build a better future for the province” were met.

 

The organization’s manifesto is not overtly political and does not take any firm stance on the regime’s presence in Suweida, similar to a previous grassroots movement that briefly held a series of protests in the fall of 2015.

 

Instead, “You Broke Us” lists eight main problems it says are blighting the lives of the province’s residents: rampant corruption, poor electrical services, declining provision of fuel and heating gas, the firing of state employees who refuse military service, the fixed salary of state employees amid the inflation wracking the country, high prices for basic commodities, increased lawlessness, and poor healthcare.

 

Up until the latest rallies, the student-led civil society movement’s protests have focused on the dismissal of public teachers who refused to sign-up for state military reserve service, a heavy-handed regime move that ran contrary to Suweida residents’ long-running opposition to conscription in the Syrian army to potentially fight in far-off battlefronts.

 

Amin Nasr translated Arabic-language material.

April 21 protest in Suweida. (Facebook/You Broke Us"

There it is, there it is, the Syrian revolution, peacefully, peacefully!