Protests occurred in southern Syria on Thursday as anger grows at the government over the dire economic situation.
Residents of Suwayda and surrounding areas protested against poor living conditions in the country. The demonstrators blocked roads, burned tires and chanted anti-government slogans, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.
Reuters reported that hundreds of people participated in the protests. The unrest was specifically motivated by rising fuel prices, according to the outlet.
Most residents of Suwayda are members of the Druze religious minority. The area is under the control of Syrian government forces.
Background: Syria’s economy is struggling. The country has been ravaged by the civil war that began in 2011. Corruption, poor governance and harsh Western sanctions have also added to the economic misery. On Tuesday, the Syrian pound fell to a new all-time low of 15,000 pounds to the dollar. The country is also experiencing high inflation, and the economy was further battered by the deadly earthquakes in February.
President Bashar al-Assad doubled public sector pay in a decree on Tuesday. The same day, the Ministry of Commerce lifted subsidies on petrol (gasoline) and partially lifted subsidies on fuel oil. As a result, the price of one liter of gasoline rose from 3,000 Syrian pounds to 8,000 pounds. The price of a liter of fuel oil rose from 700 pounds to 2,000, according to Agence France-Presse.
The government has been lifting various subsidies in the past year in an effort to improve the state’s deficit. The resulting price increases have led to protests throughout the country recently, according to The Associated Press.
Why it matters: The protests are significant because they are taking place in government territory. The Assad government and its allies have retaken most of the country from rebel groups, and protests in the areas it controls are relatively rare. The Syrian civil war began in 2011 when the government violently cracked down on protesters.
Protests have occurred in Suwayda in recent years, however. There were anti-government protests in the city in 2020 and 2022.
The poor economic situation also shows the limits of Syria’s reintegration into the Arab world. Syria was readmitted into the Arab League in May after being booted out in 2011 in response to the civil war.
Syria has been hoping for financial assistance from the Gulf on the backdrop of this. However, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have been focused on humanitarian aid, not helping the Syrian economy, according to a Tuesday report from the Middle East Institute.