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The New Arab Staff

Syria regime mobilises supporters after Suweidah anti-Assad protests

Syria's economic problems are worsening [Getty-file photo]

Date of publication: 10 June, 2020

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Suweidah province has seen large-scale protests against the Syrian regime.
Syrian supporters of Bashar Al-Assad held counter-demonstrations on Wednesday, after three days of protests in Suweidah province erupted against regime rule and the deteriorating economic situation.

Videos shared on social media showed crowds in central Suweidah rallying outside the local council building, carrying Syrian flags, portraits on Assad, and chanting pro-regime slogans.

Such rallies are often organised by regime cadres who allegedly coerce students and state employees into attending to boost numbers.

Suweidah activists said on social media that students were threatened if they did not attend the pro-regime rally. 

Syrian state media reported that demonstration by Assad loyalists in Suweidah were connected to new US sanctions, as part of the Caesar Act which will target key regime officials.

"Participants in the stand affirmed adherence to the national stances and the unity in the face of what Syria is facing of terrorist and economic war," SANA reported.

"Civil, popular, religious and official figures participated in the stand in condemnation of the so-called 'Caesar act.'"

Pro-regime figures have attempted to blame Syria's recent economic woes on US sanctions, although this theory has been rejected by most economists.

The Syrian lira has crashed to around 3,000 to the dollar - around six times weaker than pre-war levels - making imports expensive and staples such as bread increasingly unaffordable.

Lebanon's financial crisis and capital controls have seen remitannces to sharply Syria drop, and leading to a shortage of dollars.

There has also been a reported reduction in financial support from allies such as Iran.

Scenes of pro-regime supporters driving in convoys were also filmed in Syria.

The sceneswere reminiscent of the early days of the 2011 revolution when Assad supporters and civilians were mobilised by the regime to take part in counter-protests as unrest swept through the country.

It follows three-days of protests in Suweidah province, a Druze majority area that has enjoyed semi-autonomy during the war.

Even regime loyalists have also been angry at conscription, poor conditions in the army, and the high number of military deaths during the war.

The growing financial peril in Syria, has seen increased unease at the regime's handling of the economy.

Recent months have seen the lira crash, inflation skyrocket, and rampant unemployment.

Measures from the Caesar Act will be enacted next week and will see new sanctions on leading regime figures and companies.

The US Embassy Syria Twitter account (Washington does not have a diplomatic presence in Damascus) blamed Assad for the current economic crisis.

"The only exit strategy available to the Syrian regime is UNSCR 2254. The regime must take irreversible steps to implement a political solution to the Syrian conflict that respects the rights and will of the Syrian people, or face further targeted sanctions and isolation," the embassy tweeted on Wednesday.

"Bashar al-Assad and his regime are directly responsible for Syria's economic meltdown. The Assad regime squanders tens of millions of dollars each month to fund a needless war against the Syrian people instead of providing for their basic needs."

The Syria War erupted in 2011 after the Assad regime brutally cracked down on peaceful protests sparking an armed uprising from army defectors.

Since then around 500,000 Syrians have died in the nine-year war, mostly civilians killed in regime and Russian airstrikes and shelling.

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