A Cry for Change: Unrest and Economic Crisis Sweep Across Syria’s Souweida Region
Renewed Protests Amid Economic Crisis
In the southern region of Syria, Souweida, hundreds of residents have turned to public demonstrations in a call for political change. The protests, which started due to the plunge of the Syrian currency, have evolved into a plea for President Bashar al-Assad to step down. These dramatic events cap nearly two weeks of demonstrations initially triggered by the country’s economic crisis and rapidly escalating living conditions.
Syria is currently in the throes of a deep economic crisis, with its currency reaching a record low of 15,500 Syrian pounds to the US dollar last month. This alarming depreciation contrasts starkly with the 47 pounds to the dollar rate at the start of Syria’s war 12 years ago. The protests, initially driven by surging inflation and the country’s worsening economy, have quickly shifted focus, with demonstrators calling for a change in government.
Unusual Protests in Government-Controlled Areas
These demonstrations, centered in the government-controlled province of Souweida, are unusual. Souweida is the heartland of Syria’s Druze, a religious minority that has largely remained neutral in the conflict between al-Assad and the Syrian opposition. Open criticism of the government has been rare in government-controlled areas, but as the economic situation worsens, the discontent has gone public. Despite apparent divisions within the Druze leadership over the protests, the turnout remained large.
Protests Spreading to Neighboring Provinces
Protests have also ignited in the neighboring province of Daraa, where the 2011 protests initially sparked. Protesters carried the three-star flag, a symbol of Syria’s uprising, and signs criticizing Iran’s role – a key ally to al-Assad. The peaceful protests in 2011 were met with a violent response from the Syrian government, leading to the outbreak of a war that continues to this day and has resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths.
The Humanitarian Crisis Deepens
The war in Syria has inflicted immense suffering on the Syrian people, with hundreds of thousands dead and millions displaced both within the war-torn country and as refugees since the fighting began in 2011. The humanitarian situation in Syria remains dire, with many people lacking essentials including food, clean water, and healthcare.
The catastrophic earthquake on February 6, 2023, has compounded the layers of suffering, making Syrian children and women more vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. The more than decade-long Syrian conflict, coupled with emergencies including a global food crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic, a cholera outbreak, and the recent earthquake have aggravated conditions.
The Syrian Conflict: A Snapshot
The conflict that began following a crackdown on peaceful student protests against the government of Syria on March 15, 2011, has escalated to full-scale violence now entering its 12th year. An estimated 15.3 million people, almost 7 out of 10 in Syria, will require life-saving aid in 2023. Furthermore, 6.8 million people are displaced within Syria, the largest number globally, and the highest number of people in need since the start of the conflict.
The conflict has devastated the country and its people, with consequences that continue to impact the nation today. Loss of life, destroyed infrastructure, economic impact, and displacement are the stark realities of Syria’s ongoing conflict.
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