GIf everything were right, Bashar al-Assad would not be shaking hands in Jeddah and Beijing, but would be standing trial in The Hague. In many places people seem to have forgotten what around five million people once fled. You’re too busy trying to get rid of them. Not only in Europe, but also in Lebanon and Turkey. Human rights organizations have been accusing the Erdogan government of illegal deportations to Syria for years. In a country where graveyard peace reigns, where the population lives in poverty and the bankrupt regime has gotten into the drug business to stay in power. In the hope that he would curb this business, Assad was readmitted to the Arab League.
The religious minority tried to protect itself
Twelve years after the protests began in Syria – apart from the Kurdish northeast, the areas occupied by Turkey and the Idlib region, where Islamists now rule – most of the country is again under Assad’s control. And that’s exactly where the protests are now taking place. In Suwaida, a provincial town in the south, and has been for five weeks. That is remarkable. Because Suwaida is mainly inhabited by Druze. And the majority of them stayed out of the protests against Assad twelve years ago. But they also didn’t take part in their suppression. Sometimes they didn’t even show up for military service. Mostly, mind you, because of course there were also ardent supporters and bitter opponents of the regime among the Druze. But overall, the religious minority tried to remain neutral and protect itself.
In 2018 there was a brutal attack by IS. The terrorists attacked villages, massacred families, and suicide bombers blew themselves up in the center of Suwaida. 250 people were murdered and 36 women and children were kidnapped. It was later said that the regime had let IS have its way. It had already threatened to hand over Suwaida to the Islamists because of a lack of loyalty.
Even though Suwaida was spared from Syrian and Russian bombs, the consequences of the war were still felt there. And now Damascus has also removed the subsidies for gasoline. But the protests in Suwaida are not only directed against the removal of subsidies, the protesters are demanding the overthrow of the regime. With the same slogans that were chanted in Syria in 2011.
The news site Suwayda 24 has been showing the gatherings in Al-Karma Square for weeks. There are old people there and young people. The women in the front row: loose hair, jeans and a T-shirt (I mention this because it is not the case, as is often claimed, that there is no longer any non-Islamist opposition to the Assad regime in Syria today). Speeches are given, there is dancing and singing. Druze flags are waved. A drummer beats his instrument and a woman distributes fresh fruit among the demonstrators. Videos show how the gate to the Baath party headquarters is welded shut, and Assad images are painted over and torn down. Leading Druze sheikhs have joined the protests. And protests are now taking place not only in Suwaida, but in the entire province, neighboring Daraa and occasionally in other parts of Syria.
Darkness cannot drive out darkness
The posters that you see in Suwayda are also remarkable. They are not only in Arabic, but also in English, German, French. So they are not only directed against Assad, but also at the Western world, at us. And this despite the fact that no one has abandoned the people in Syria anymore – Obama’s famous red line, which no longer applied when Assad used poison gas.
The posters say: “Darkness cannot drive away darkness – only light can do that”, “Life without freedom is like a body without a spirit”. The Turkish occupation of Afrin is condemned, the release of political prisoners is demanded, clarification about the fate of the disappeared and compliance with UN Resolution 2254. This was passed in 2015 and provides for an end to violence against civilians, a handover of power and freedom Choose.
When you look at the protests, you feel fear. Because the regime only speaks the language of violence. Last week, security forces shot at protesters in Suwayda. Mortar shells were used elsewhere. But there is also hope. If Assad were to fall, not only would a brutal dictator and war criminal fall, but also one who only stayed in power with the support of Iran and Russia. If justice wins in Syria, these two unjust regimes would also lose, at least in Syria.
In Suwaida it is said: “There is no turning back. We have made our decision. There can only be freedom and nothing else.”
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