TARTUS, Syria — Ever since hundreds of Alawite soldiers lost their lives in battles with the Islamic State (IS) in Raqqa and its countryside in July and August, anger and discontent has simmered. A massive protest followed in Homs, against the Oct. 2 terrorist attack that killed dozens of children in the mostly Alawite neighborhood of Akrama. Then the rise in fuel prices triggered protests in Tartus. While many parties consider these incidents collective Alawite rage that might lead to an Alawite revolution against the Syrian regime, there are more forces at play.
On the morning of Oct. 15, Al-Monitor witnessed several public minibus drivers gather in the new Tartus parking lot on a strike, and demonstrate there for an hour. About 11:30 a.m., they escalated their strike, and several of them parked in the surroundings of Al-Bassel garden, close to the municipality building in the city center, and stood in front of the building. Their complaints included the increase in the tariff from 15 Syrian pounds (9 cents) to 20 (12 cents), following the fuel price hike. This is not the first time that taxi drivers have protested the tariff in Tartus, and they have often gone on strike in the past. But this time was different, as they raised their voices and dared to protest openly in the streets. The news media reported on an anti-regime protest in Tartus and about arrests and oppression by security forces that day. Yet, not one person in Tartus told Al-Monitor they witnessed a protest against President Bashar al-Assad, and no one could name any of the alleged arrestees.