January 5, 2023 Special Dispatch No. 10405

Wave Of Anti-Regime Protests In Southern Syria: Long Live Syria; Down With Bashar Al-Assad

January 5, 2023
Syria | Special Dispatch No. 10405

Several weeks ago a wave of protests and demonstrations broke out in Syria, especially in the Al-Suwayda and Daraa governorates in the south, which are officially under the rule of the regime but where the regime's security control is weak. The protests include expressions of opposition to the regime and its head, President Bashar Al-Assad, and slogans reminiscent of the first stages of the Syrian uprising in 2011, such as "the people want to topple the regime," "long live Syria and down with Bashar Al-Assad," and "Syria belongs to us, not to the Assad family."  There were also calls to expel Iran and Hizbullah from Syria.

The protests erupted amid a severe economic crisis in the regime-held parts of Syria, involving a shortage of fuel, prolonged daily power and water outages, a steady rise in prices and an almost complete paralysis of commerce in the country.[1]

Websites covering events in the Al-Suwayda governorate, which has a Druze majority, report that the calls for demonstrations were prompted by growing feelings of rage and frustration among the locals. The first demonstration was held on December 4, 2022 in the city of Al-Suwayda and soon turned violent. The security forces fired at demonstrators, and the latter stormed and vandalized the governorate building, and also tore down and trampled pictures of President Assad. Since then there have been several further demonstrations in the governorate, but without violence. The protest was also evident on social media, with users calling for an uprising, for renewing the protests and for overthrowing the regime.

Towards the end of December protests broke out in the Daraa governorate as well. In that region the protesters' main demand was the release of local residents imprisoned by the regime.  The protests included anti-regime slogans and the raising of the Syrian revolution flag. Like in Al-Suwayda, protesters also called for the withdrawal of Iran's and Hizbullah's forces from Syria.

On December 27 it was reported that anti-regime slogans had been sprayed on walls in the Al-Midan neighborhood in the capital Damascus, as well as in the towns of Al-Hajr Al-Aswad and Al-Kiswa in the Damascus area. Some of the slogans called for the ouster of the regime and others decried the high cost of living and the corruption in the country. [2]

It should be noted that Al-Suwayda and Deraa governorates have seen several waves of anti-regime protests since the regime regained its control over them in 2018.[3] This report reviews the recent protests against the Syrian regime in these  governorates.

Protesters In Al-Suwayda Chant Slogans Against Assad, Tear Down His Picture

As stated, in the recent weeks the deteriorating economic situation in Syria sparked a wave of demonstrations in the Druze-majority governorate Al-Suwayda. The first and most significant demonstration took place on December 4, when several dozen people protested in front of the governorate building in the city of Al-Suwayda, calling to overthrow the Assad regime for its handling of the economic crisis. The regime's security forces fired in the air to disperse the demonstrators, who responded by torching a security forces vehicle. The growing tension eventually led the security forces to fire directly into the crowd, killing one of the demonstrators. This sparked riots in which a police officer was killed and 18 people were wounded.[4] 

Demonstration in front of the Al-Suwayda governorate building (images:, December 4, 2022)

Demonstrators torch a security forces vehicle (image:, December 4, 2022)

Several protesters also broke into the governorate building, vandalized furniture, stole documents and started fires.[5] One of them tore down and trampled the picture of Assad that hung at the front of the building.[6] Another burned a flag of Russia, Assad's ally, which the protesters hold partly responsible for the dire economic situation in Syria.[7]

A demonstrator tears down a picture of Bashar Al-Assad,  another tramples a picture of the previous president, Hafez Al-Assad (images:,, December 4, 2022)

Demonstrator burns Russian flag (image:, December 4, 2022)

The damage caused to the governorate building (images:,, December 5, 2022)

Syrian Opposition Activists: The Hungry People Ask For Bread And The Regime Responds With Live Fire; Down With This Criminal Regime

Criticism of the Syrian regime and support for the protests in Al-Suwayda also found expression in social media posts, many of which were uploaded with hashtags such as "Al-Suwayda is Rebelling" and "The Syrian Revolution." A December 4, 2022 post on the oppositionist Facebook page Al-Suwayda24, which covers events in the region, read: "The hungry people ask for bread and the regime responds with live fire… A regime that is not capable of providing its people with food and heating is an illegitimate regime. Those who persecute the people with taxes and bribery and give them nothing but threats and warnings are illegitimate… We want a new Syria that is worthy of us and of children's future."[8]

Syrian opposition elements praised the protests in Al-Suwayda. Opposition activist Dareen Al-'Abdalla wrote on Facebook: "Al-Suwayda is rebelling. The time has come for fierce rebellion. This protest movement deserves assistance and support [in its struggle] against Assad's regime, which deliberately orchestrates the chaos in Al-Suwayda. It relies on militias whose purpose is to murder and bomb in order to draw attention away from [the regime's] failure to effect any kind of improvement in the living conditions…"[9]

In a December 5 tweet, Dareen Al-'Abdalla wrote, "Al-Suwayda is rebelling. Twelve years of killing, exile and expulsion! When the world thinks [the uprising] is over, Al-Suwayda is [still] rebelling. Sweeping demonstrations against the Assad regime are erupting [there] and the slogans of the revolution are returning. The reasons for this are many, but the result is one: the murderous and criminal regime must fall. Long live Syria and down with Bashar Al-Assad.'"[10]

Syrian researcher Muhammad Al-Sukkeri, who is identified with the opposition, tweeted in a similar vein on December 4: "Syria belongs to us and not to the Al-Assad family. Long live Syria and down with Bashar Al-Assad. Congratulations to the residents of Al-Suwayda."[11]

According to Al-Rased, a Facebook page that covers events in Al-Suwayda, activists in various parts of Syria and abroad have launched a campaign in support of the Al-Suwayda protests, calling to hold rallies and to disseminate videos, photographs, posts and hashtags expressing solidarity with the demonstrators.[12]

From the social media campaign in solidarity with the Al-Suwayda protests: people hold up signs saying "Al-Suwayda is here, Syria is here" (image:, December 25, 2022)

Syrian Militia Commander and Member Of Assad Family: The Demonstrators Should Be Transformed Into Corpses

The Syrian regime, for its part, harshly condemned the protests. A December 4 statement from the Interior Ministry regarding the events in Al-Suwayda described the demonstrators as "outlaws" and vowed to arrest them and take legal measures against them.[13] In a post on his Facebook page, Jihad Barakat, the commander of the Maghawir Al-Ba'th militia, who is married to President Assad's cousin, claimed that the protestors had "external funding and support" and were "following the orders of their employers in Tel Aviv."[14] In another post he wrote: "Those who burned the flag of the Arab Syrian republic, tore up the picture of [our] leader [Assad] and torched vehicles must be transformed into corpses. Reverence for the state is above anything else, and nobody deserves [special] consideration. I recommend that the army come [to Al-Suwayda] and put up hanging poles. The security forces have pictures of all these traitors. It's time for revenge."[15]

At Subsequent Non-Violent Protests In Al-Suwayda, Locals Call For Expulsion Of Iran From Syria, Ouster Of Regime

Despite the regime's attempts to suppress the protest in Al-Suwayda governorate, the unrest there continued even after the December 4 demonstration, albeit with less violence.  On December 11, dozens of locals demonstrated in the city center, calling on the other governorates in Syria to hold a general strike.[16] On December 14 a similar demonstration was held in the town of Imtan in the south of the governorate,[17] and on December 19 there was a demonstration in Al-Karama square in the Al-Suwayda city center, in which locals held up signs bearing economic and political messages, such as "No to starvation and expulsion," and "When people are hungry they hold their leaders to account."[18]  On December 21 several young people blocked a major thoroughfare in the city for an hour, burned tires and held up signs saying "Out with Hizbullah and Iran" and "Prosecute the Corrupt [Officials]."[19]

Burning tires in Al-Suwayda (image:, December 21, 2022)

December 26 saw another demonstration in Al-Karama Square in Al-Suwayda, and the organizers reportedly intend to continue to hold them every Monday.[20] Protestors also sprayed graffiti around the city calling for the ouster of the Assad regime and freedom for the Syrian people.

Graffiti in Al-Suwayda governorate: Top left: "The Captagon[21] Dog Will Fall" (image:, December 25, 2022); top right: "Bashar Escobar Will Fall" (image:, December 26, 2022); bottom left: "Al-Suwayda supports Resolution 2254 [of the UN Security Council calling for a solution to the crisis in Syria]"; bottom right: "Freedom To Syrian People" (images:, December 26, 2022)

Protesters in Daraa Wave Syrian Revolution Flag, Call "The People Want To Oust The Regime"

As stated, since December 21 there have also been protests and unrest in various parts of the Daraa Governorate. Whereas in Al-Suwayda the trigger for the protests was the economic situation, the principal demand of the protesters in Daraa has been the release of locals incarcerated in regime prisons. But like in Al-Suwayda, the protesters express opposition to the regime and call for is ouster.

The protests in the governorate started in the city of Jasim and quickly spread to the towns and cities of Da'el, Tel Shihab, Al-Sanamayn, Al-Muzayrib, Ghabarib and Abta'. The protesters, waving Syrian revolution flags, demanded the release of the prisoners and chanted anti-Syrian regime slogans such as "the people want to bring down the regime" and "long live Syria and down with Bashar Al-Assad."[22] At some of the demonstrations, slogans were heard calling for the expulsion of the Iran and Hizbullah.[23]

Syrian Revolution flags at protests in Jasim and Tel Shihab (image:, December 23, 2022, December 25, 2022)

Protesters in Jasim hold up posters and banners featuring the Syrian revolution flag, calls for the release of local prisoners (image:, December 25, 2022)

According to the website Tajamu' Ahrar Horan, which covers events in Daraa governorate, and is identified with the Syrian opposition, one of the protests in Jasim took place opposite a culture center. The demonstrators took down the flag of the Syrian Arab Republic from the center wall and hung a Syrian revolution flag in its place.[24]


[1] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), December 8, 2022.

[2], December 27, 2022.

[4] Al-Akhbar (Lebanon),, December 4, 2022.

[5], December 4, 2022.

[6], December 4, 2022.

[7], December 4, 2022.

[8], December 4, 2022.

[9], December 4, 2022.

[10], December 5, 2022.

[11], December 4, 2022.

[12], December 25, 2022.

[13], December 4, 2022.

[14], December 4, 2022.

[15], December 5, 2022.

[16],, December 11, 2022.

[17], December 14, 2022.

[18], December 19, 2022.

[19], December 21, 2022.

[20], December 26, 2022.

[21] Captagon is a brand name for the drug compound fenethylline hydrochlorid. According to experts, the manufacture and distribution of this drug is a major source of income for the Syrian regime.

[22], December 24, 26, 2022; and, December 26, 2022

[23], December 24, 2022.

[24], December 26, 2022.

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