Protests in southern Syria entered their fifth day on Thursday, in the Druze city of Sweida. The origin of these protests is attributed to the rise in fuel prices, which has subsequently worsened the already challenging economic conditions prevalent in the area. At the core of the demonstrators’ demands is the call for the removal of President Bashar-al-Assad.
The demonstrations intensified after Syrian President Assad’s decision last week to double public sector wages and pensions. The economic crisis has taken a more distressing turn due to the collapse of Syria’s currency, resulting in hyperinflation. This dire situation has led to nearly 90% of the population living below the poverty line. To compound matters, an abrupt surge in fuel prices has further exacerbated the economic crisis.
State media has not addressed the protests, but proponents of the government have assigned blame to foreign powers and western sanctions for actively contributing to the unrest. Alongside this, they have raised alarms about the potential escalation into a more extensive state of chaos if demonstrations continue.
The government’s security forces have so far refrained from suppressing the ongoing protests, a stance that observers have questioned as the forces’ rationale is not clear. Nonetheless, a contingent of analysts suggest that the government’s motives are grounded in concerns over repeating the widespread violence that acted as a catalyst for the significantly larger protest movement, the Arab Spring, back in 2011.