Syria: Anti-regime protests continue, International Community must side with Syrians

Syria: Anti-regime protests continue, International Community must side with Syrians
A rare instance of protest in regime-held territory illustrates the continued resistance of Syrians but also, desperation. Courtesy: US News.

Protests in the southern governorate of Sweida, Syria, are likely to continue throughout September as opposition to the regime persists despite the Assad's violent repression. Since 20th August 2023, protests and a general strike have been occurring in the Druze majority city. The time is ripe for the international community to side with a brutalised citizenry and reverse normalisation policies with the Assad regime.


Sweida, a city with a population of around 770 000, it is deep within regime territory. This has made it rather rare for citizens to openly criticise Assad. However, the complete deterioration of an already destitute economy (in particular the further depreciation of the Syrian Lira), failed policies and flagrant displays of wealth from regime classes has pulled protestors from silent criticism to open displays of protest. Various groups have amalgamated to openly oppose the regime; a new group called the August 10th movement (a largely youthful, online group), women’s organisations, religious figures (largely but not exclusively Druze), urban and rural working people, intellectuals and oppositional politicians have all openly taken part. In a clear illustration of the pervasive nature of this unrest, the Ba’ath Party Headquarters has been forced to close and pictures of Assad, as well as, regime symbolism has been destroyed.


The demands are fairly simple, and possess glaring similarities to the demands of those on the streets of Damascus in 2011; the removal of Assad, the toppling of the regime, and the creation of a state run by Syrians. Protestors are simply gathering for the most basic of allowances, the implementation of human rights, freedom from despotism in general and justice for the abuses of the past 12 years. Though at the forefront of contemporary demands is the uptake of the 2015 UNSC Resolution 2254, which called for the implementation of a transitional government with executive powers in Syria. Regime-openness to this is incredibly unlikely. Assad’s 9th August Sky News Arabia interview illustrated to Syrians what they largely already knew, he is still uninterested in changing anything about the regime whilst hugely downplaying the ferocity of protests.


For many, this represents a final flicker of resistance in Syria. As relations with the Arab World, as well as, the wider geopolitical community, have normalised, people recognise that as Assad regains legitimacy on the global stage, the likelihood that any demands will be met falls. Assad’s invitation and attendance to critical geopolitical events, like COP28, will only serve to destroy the hope of Syrians. Historical evidence has clearly illustrated that Assad will not allow for citizens to gain any democratic controls, meanwhile, support from the external world are vital for the regime to regain any kind of control of the entire nation. Under current trajectories, it is likely that Assad, clinging to power, will slowly regain control as the international community continues to ignore the plight of Syrian’s. We must act now to prevent this. 


impACT calls on the UNSC members, the Arab World, and all nations attending COP28 to protect those currently risking their lives in regime territory, and Syrian’s across the country, by confronting Assad. He must be banned from international events and encouraged to undertake the transition laid out in the 2015 UNSC 2254. He must face justice for his crimes. 


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