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The New Arab

Syrian regime loyalists turn on the government

Security threats across the country are forcing pro-Assad loyalists to defect [Getty]

Date of publication: 22 February, 2016

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A growing number of Syrian regime loyalists are turning against Damascus as bombing and general lawlessness undermine government claims that security for Syrians is a priority.
At the start of the 2011 Syrian revolution, residents of the central Syrian city of Homs took to the streets in protest against regime brutality.

The city soon became a bastion of opposition against Damascus rule, but a wave of bombing and shelling by regime forces reduced large parts of the city to rubble.

Five years later, and Islamic State group bombs are having the same affect in a pro-regime district of the city.

Al-Zahraa has witnessed twin bomb attacks in December last year killing 48 people, and another IS attack a month later left 24 dead and 100 injured.

The regime's inability to bring security to the city led to protests from largely pro-regime Homs residents. They directed their anger at the governor Talal al-Barazi, who they blamed for the lapse in security.

On Sunday, another blast rocked the largely Alawite district and killed 57 people. Protests erupted again both on the streets and on social media.

Pro-regime activists shared a video showing residents at the scene of the explosions surrounding two Syrian officials as they scurried to their car.

The video shows the angry protesters kettling the Minister of Interior Mohammad al-Shaar and Govenor Barazi who had been described as a "traitor" by regime Homs locals.

They called for calm before being bundled into their vehicle by security for their own safety.

The regime also felt the heat last summer in its Latakia heartlands. Thousands took to the streets of the provincial capital to protest against the murder of an army officer by a member of the Assad clan.

Although it is impossible to judge the level of anger among regime loyalists, it is clear that many are raising questions about Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's management of the war, particularly after tens of thousands of government faithfuls have been killed in fighting with rebels.

Thousands of the president's own Alawite community are said to be growing increasingly disillusioned with the regime. They say it is they who are making all the sacrifices in the war while the Assad family is safe.

The 'shabiha' gangs or "ghosts" who had previously protected Assad strongholds as a show of loyalty to the president, have been accused of kidnapping and robbing Latakia and Tartous locals on numerous occasions.

Although most of the pro-regime civilians are many miles from the frontlines in the war, the lawlessness of these areas, the brutish behavior of loyalist "gangs", and now frequent IS bomb attacks, have led many to question if Damascus really does represent security.

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