August 31, 2023

Unrest in Syria’s Southern Druze City of As-Suwayda: Implications for Change and Regional Dynamics

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by Hadeel Oueis, Senior Research Fellow

As the Syrian conflict enters a new phase, recent events in the southern Druze city of As-Suwayda have reignited the attention of both the Syrian opposition and international observers.

Once frustrated by the slow pace of change in Syria, opposition groups are now closely monitoring the unfolding protests in As-Suwayda. The city, still under the control of the Assad regime, has become a focal point of calls for change amid a challenging backdrop of economic deterioration and shifting regional dynamics.

The echoes of the protests that shook Syria in 2011 have returned, this time resonating within the streets of As-Suwayda. The protesters’ demands, anchored by a plea for the departure of its President Bashar al-Assad, reverberate against the backdrop of an increasingly deteriorating economic situation. Yet, skepticism remains about whether the momentum generated in As-Suwayda can transcend the city’s borders and drive change at a national level.

Since the emergence of the 2011 uprising, Syrian President Assad has exhibited a calculated approach toward minority-majority dynamics within the republic. By avoiding violent clashes with groups like the Druze and Kurds, Assad has sought to depict the opposition movement in large cities, mostly inhabited by Sunni Muslims, as dominated by jihadists, with minorities as his allies against such extremism. This strategy is evident in his handling of As-Suwayda’s protests, marked by restraint compared to the forceful response to Sunni-majority cities like Aleppo and Homs.