Women in As-Suwayda are on the front lines of Syria's anti-Assad protests

Women in As-Suwayda are on the front lines of Syria’s anti-Assad protests

Residents of the Syrian city of As-Suwayda have been out in the streets protesting the regime of President Bashar al-Assad for the past few weeks. Despite the security risks, women have been on the front lines. We interviewed three women to find out what the protests mean to them. 

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Protesters in the Syrian town of As-Suwayda have been gathering for the past four weeks in the square they’ve dubbed Dignity Square, calling for the overthrow of the Syrian regime and the application of UN resolution 2254 – a plan aimed at ending the Syrian conflict that began in 2011 and ensuring a peaceful transfer of power. 

These latest protests were sparked by the government’s decision on August 15 to end subsidies on petrol, which resulted in a 200 percent increase in prices – an impossible burden for residents. The protesters initially were protesting the increasingly difficult living conditions before starting to openly call for the fall of the Syrian regime. 

On August 31, 2023, thousands of people participated in a gathering in the town centre, the biggest protest since the start of this movement, according to several of our Observers.

Read moreAssad faces anger in the streets as protests sweep southern Syria

The FRANCE 24 Observers team was able to speak with three protesters who live in As-Suwayda. We are calling one of them Lina (not her real name):

There were a lot of people there protesting. And, every day, there are new faces. Our participation in these protests is a message that we are sending to the international community.

There is a United Nations resolution, resolution 2254. Why hasn’t it been enacted? The proof incriminating the regime isn’t lacking. This regime killed women and children. It put thousands of people on the road to exile. 

It even used chemical weapons. The Caesar photographs [Editor’s note: a series of photographs of people tortured to death that were leaked by a forensic photographer working with the Syrian army] are there. There is all of this proof. If there isn’t a political solution, then people will keep going to the city squares to protest. 

During the Arab Spring, which began in 2011, Syrians rose up against a regime that has now been in power for more than 50 years. Assad’s regime is now accused of crimes against humanity for the bloody repression it carried out against the protest movement and the use of chemical weapons against civilians.

Several protesters tore down a large poster of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from a public building on September 3, 2023.

Zena (not her real name) lives in As-Suwayda. She’s 70 years old.

Women have suffered the most under this unjust regime. Some women have lost their sons in the war. Others can’t see their children anymore because they’ve been forced into exile. And others fear that their children will be arrested by the regime. 

More than 12 million Syrians have been displaced by this conflict. Nearly 6.8 million of those are still within Syria’s own borders. 

Twelve years of war have ravaged the Syrian economy. Power and water cuts are common and often long-lasting. Salaries in Syria are abnormally low: public workers earn, on average, only 12 euros a month. More than 90 percent of the population lives below the poverty line.

Nour (not her real name) is a doctor is As-Suwayda:  

Of course women are there to protest along with the rest of the population. Women have a particularly important role because, before, the Syrian regime was able to accuse protesters of being revolutionaries with radical and religious sentiments. But now that women are participating, it is clear that our revolution is not religious but civilian in nature.

During a meeting with his Iranian counterpart on September 3, Syrian Minister of Foreign Affairs Faisal Mekdad celebrated what he described as “the resolve [of the Syrian people] when faced with all of these Western conspiracies”. The Syrian government continues to blame the deterioration of living conditions in Syria on Western sanctions, even though they were temporarily lifted after the earthquake in February 2023 to facilitate humanitarian aid.

About 306,000 civilians have died in Syria since the start of the war in 2011, according to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. The Syrian Network for Human Rights estimates that at least 15,039 people have died due to torture at the hands of Syrian regime forces.