Druze protests in the south of Syria

Unusually clear and peaceful criticism of Assad’s politics

The Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) welcomes the Druze protest that have been going on in as-Suwayda in southern Syria – which is mainly inhabited by Druze people – for the last ten days. “We are in close contact with the Druze activists and dignitaries in the region. Their protests are different from the protests in other parts of the country, as in the Sunni areas, for example. The protests are peaceful, without Islamist slogans and without involvement of Syrian Islamists that are controlled by Turkey or Qatar,” stated Dr. Kamal Sido, the STP’s Middle East Consultant, in Göttingen today.

The protesters are blocking the main roads, both in the province and in the city of as-Suwayda. They are demanding better living conditions and an end to corruption and state arbitrariness. Some are even demanding Assad to step down. “Many of the offices of Assad’s Baath party were closed down,“ Sido reported. “It is striking that Assad did not yet order the protesters to be gunned down. What stops him is the fear that he might lose support of the minority groups in the country, which, together, form the majority of the population.” Thus, the protests in the south of Syria are a chance for the German Foreign Office to overthink its Syria policy. The concerns of large parts of the population must be taken seriously – their fears that an Islamist regime might take power if Assad loses control. This is especially true of the Druze, the Christians, the Alevis, Yazidis, but also the Kurdish and Armenian population groups. The democratic Arab Sunnis in the country are against an Islamist regime – as favored by Turkey and Qatar – as well.

The protesters are expressing surprisingly clear criticism of the government. Among other demands, the people are calling for a military administration that should protect the people in as-Suwayda from attacks by the so-called “Islamic State” (IS) and other Islamist militias. “Some of the placards also express solidarity with the people in northern Syria – and some of the slogans clearly express opposition to the Turkish occupation of Afrin. The democratic stance of the protesters has led to a wave of sympathy and solidarity in all of Syria,” Sido added. “Thus, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, which are controlling almost a third of the country, have expressed solidarity with the people of as-Suwayda.” They are calling for an implementation of UN Resolution 2554, according to which there must be a peaceful and orderly transition in Syria.

Most of the Druze people in the country, around 700,000 people, live in as-Suwayda. The religious community has around 1 million members – in Israel, Jordan, and Lebanon, among others, They see themselves as the “al-Muwahhidun”, as monotheists. Another Druze self-description is “Bani Maaroof”, which means “people of good deeds”.