06/11/2020, 10.17
SYRIA
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Druze Sweida demonstrates against the economic crisis and Assad's 'regime'

For the fourth consecutive day, the Druze-majority town in the southwest of the country has demonstrated en masse in the first anti-government manifestation since the war began. One inhabitant: "Ours is a cry of despair". Pro-government media censor protests. Damascus supporters attack American sanctions.

Damascus (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Hundreds of Syrians from the Druze-majority town of Sweida took to the streets yesterday, for the fourth consecutive day, to demonstrate against the worsening economic conditions, exacerbated by the new coronavirus pandemic.

Echoing the protests of the 2011 Arab Spring, which spilled over into a bloody war with hundreds of thousands of victims and millions of refugees, for the first time since the beginning of the war in Syria, the demonstrators intoned slogans and chants including the removal of President Bashar al-Assad. Despite being under the aegis of the Syrian army, the inhabitants gathered around the main square of the southwestern town, calling for the fall of the "regime".

Asked by L’Orient-Le Jour (LOJ), 35-year-old Rawad says: "We are not only demonstrating against hunger, but to change this corrupt regime in its entirety. We can't take it anymore, ours is a cry of desperation ". He has been out of work for several months, due to the crisis and restrictions imposed to contain the new coronavirus pandemic.

"Recent fires in agricultural fields - adds activist Souheil el-Ghazi, close to the opposition - in the province of Sweida have sparked the anger of the inhabitants" exasperated by the "slowness in the reaction of the government and its inability to protect the area".

The country is experiencing a very serious economic crisis, while the local currency is losing more and more value. Today a dollar is traded at 3 thousand lire and the free fall does not seem to stop. At the start of the conflict, nine years ago, the local currency corresponded to 47 local lire.

Protesters are calling for an end to rampant corruption and the expulsion of Iranian and Russian troops, who support Damascus in the fight against rebel and jihadist groups. Noura al Basha, activist in the area, speaks of "popular anger" due to "worsening economic, social, security and political conditions".

Yesterday, for the first time since the protests began (censored by newspapers and official agencies), dozens of pro-government supporters promoted a pro-Damascus counter-demonstration outside the provincial offices. At the same time, Assad's supporters attacked the tightening of American sanctions (better known as Caesar's law), which will enter into force later this month.

The city of Sweida had so far been spared both by the protests of the beginning of the war and by the bloodiest drift of these years of conflict, remaining under government control. The majority of the Druze population has always refused involvement in the war.

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