In the second month of ongoing Sweida protests, their resonance continues to reverberate throughout Syria, both domestically and among the Syrian diaspora, garnering international media attention. These demonstrations persist despite disparaging remarks from the "Al-Baath" newspaper, which has likened journalists covering Sweida's news to pests in need of extermination.
Sweida's protest squares remain filled with demonstrators in both the city and its outskirts. Their chants vociferously demand the overthrow of the regime, and the echoes of revolutionary songs, stemming from the 2011 revolution, fill the air. The crowd fervently calls for a rejection of the prevailing status quo, pressing for a political resolution that reunites Syria while safeguarding the dignity of its people. This dignity has been brutally compromised by the Assad regime's deployment of barrel bombs, aerial assaults, savage arrests, and chemical and conventional warfare against Syrian towns and villages.
One notable figure on the scene is Sheikh Hikmat al-Hajari, who is considered as the leader of the Druze community in Syria. He has adamantly asserted that the Syrian people's demands for a political resolution and the regime's ousting are non-negotiable. Sheikh al-Hajari has refused to engage with representatives of the Assad regime, including the governors of Sweida, Bassam Barssik, and rural Damascus, Safwan Abu Saada, whom the regime had promised high-ranking positions in exchange for quelling the Sweida uprising.
Speculations and scenarios abound regarding the potential for Daraa and Sweida to attain self-administration under the regime's aegis, possibly through a clandestine accord with the Arab League or under the American umbrella, in an anticipated expansion of American influence in the Tanf region and eastern Euphrates. These rumours may align with the views expressed by Nouri al-Maliki, a formidable Iranian figure in Iraq, who has issued warnings about the Iraq-Syria border situation.
On the domestic front, retired General Naif Al-Aql, a recipient of the Republic's medal, has presented an initiative for governing Sweida with a local council, divorcing it from the clutches of the regime's intelligence apparatus and the drug trade, which has become a crucial revenue source for the Assad family.
Regime-aligned media persists in accusing the people of Sweida of separatism, alleging support from Israel, and participation in a global conspiracy, echoing the regime's narrative. The hoisting of the Druze flag with its distinctive colours may serve as the pretext for these allegations, despite the protest chants in Sweida squares emphasising Syrian unity, as well as spiritual leaders who have consistently and repeatedly rejected any accusations of separatism.
The current protests in Sweida come at a sensitive and critical phase after Syrians suffered a devastating setback following the normalization of the Assad regime with Arab countries in May.
However, the Assad regime appears uninterested in engaging with Arab initiatives or any political resolution. It has failed to take confidence-building measures, respond to the repercussions of UNSC Resolution 2254, or commit to the political process. In a recent interview with Sky News Arabia, Assad displayed indifference to the reckless policies that have pushed Syria into disintegration, as well as economic and social collapse.
During the interview, Assad attempted to re-write history by laughably claiming that the total number of Syrians who had protested against him had never surpassed a hundred thousand people. This ridiculous assertion starkly contrasts with the grim reality, as the fate of over a hundred thousand detainees still remains unknown, and as the memory of protests with hundreds of thousands of Syrians still painfully lingers in our collective conscience. Shortly after his remarks, the people of Sweida, encompassing not only the Druze but also the Bedouins and other communities, united in a resounding call for Assad’s departure.
Today, Arab nations bear a heavy responsibility to recalibrate their strategies. The scenes in Sweida underscore that the sole viable path to attain peace in Syria is through the full implementation of a political transition, eschewing normalization with the Assad regime. This approach is key to addressing the refugee crisis and security concerns, by directly confronting those connected to the regime, Hezbollah, and Syrian militias engaged in captagon production, distribution, and smuggling.
As long as the Assad regime remains in power, it will maintain its alliance with Tehran. Its history and behaviour establish it as a regional rogue player, showing no regard for the security of neighbouring nations or global peace. The transformation of Syria's leadership through the enforcement of Resolution 2254 and the initiation of the transitional process, as demanded by protesters, promises to initiate reconstruction and economic revival, ultimately fostering stability within the country and the broader region. With these considerations in mind, Arab governments must recognize that supporting the Syrian regime will not usher in stability. Instead, the crisis will endure, and the Syrian people will continue to pay with their lives and livelihoods.
The international community also bears responsibility for the present state of Syria. It has not effectively addressed the regime's atrocities, enforced a meaningful political solution, or acted on UN resolutions. The Assad regime has repeatedly deployed chemical weapons, engaged in systematic torture, extrajudicial killings, forced displacement, enforced disappearances, and targeted civilians, hospitals, schools, and public markets. Resolution 2254 has not been seriously implemented, and discussions regarding a constitutional framework have largely stalled, with no consensus on a timetable.
Syrians endure oppression, bloodshed, and displacement, and the root cause of their suffering—the ongoing rule of the Assad regime—is overlooked. The international policies that have allowed Russia's involvement in Syria bear responsibility for Moscow's continued assertiveness in Syria and beyond, as evidenced by its actions in Ukraine. History demonstrates that neglecting war criminals and rogue actors inevitably leads to the perpetuation and expansion of their crimes.
In Sweida and across all Syrian provinces, men, women, and children are taking to the streets, resolutely proclaiming their demand for enduring peace, freedom, dignity, and decent living conditions. They seek liberation from the Assad regime and the realization of the rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Their earnest plea is for meaningful engagement and the full implementation of UNSC Resolution 2254 to bring about political change in Syria, securing political, civil, and human rights for all citizens of Syria.
Joy has swept through the ranks of the 2011 revolution supporters, prompting them to organize rallies and lectures in northern Syria, the east, and among the diaspora. These areas have become havens for those fleeing the clutches of Assad's intelligence apparatus and sectarian militias. Some have boldly raised the Druze flag, undeterred by accusations of treason, embracing any slogan that advances their liberation from the oppressive Assad era.
It is essential to underscore the prevailing challenges of soaring prices, hunger, and poverty that have eroded the dignity of Syrians within the country, rendering them apathetic to potential losses.
The Sweida protests have rejuvenated the Syrian revolution's commitment to peaceful means, sparking renewed international discourse. This may compel nations to revisit the Syrian issue and reinvigorate international courts in the pursuit of accountability for the Assad regime and those implicated in its violence, drug production and trafficking.
The protests also kindle hope for a free Syria that safeguards the dignity of its citizens. The question remains as to whether concerted efforts will coalesce to ensure the success of this resurging revolution for the Syrian people.