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Syrians in Daraa and Sweida continue protests over rising fuel prices

In the southern provinces of Daraa and Sweida, protests over rising fuel prices and worsening living conditions erupted on Sunday, with the Syrian army responding by force
People are protesting in the southern Syrian city of Suweida on August 21, 2023, after the government raised fuel prices.
People are protesting in the southern Syrian city of Sweida on 21 August 2023, after the government raised fuel prices (AFP)

Protests over rising fuel prices and worsening living conditions entered their second consecutive day in Syria's regime-held provinces of Daraa and Sweida on Monday.

Hundreds of Syrians in the cities of Daraa and Sweida, home to the country's Druze population, took to the streets on Sunday to protest an increase in fuel prices that has further impacted the living standards of ordinary Syrians, who are already struggling to afford basic necessities amid unbridled inflation. 

Shops and official government buildings continue to be closed, and the headquarters of the local Baath party branch has been blocked by protesters, as well as several roads inside and around Sweida, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.  

Video footage emerged online showing hundreds of protesters in the streets of Daraa and Sweida chanting anti-government slogans. 

Protesters were also reportedly seen waving Free Syrian Army (FSA) flags. 

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According to reports by Turkiye newspaper and videos online, the Syrian army opened fire on protesters on Sunday night.

Local media outlet Suwayda24 called the protests "unprecedented" since 2011 and reported that protests were held in more than 40 points across the province. 

Deteriorating living conditions 

The protests first erupted on 16 August, following a significant currency depreciation, with one US dollar equivalent to 15,000 Syrian pounds on Tuesday. At the start of the Syrian uprising in 2011, one US dollar was equivalent to 47 Syrian pounds. 

Earlier last week, the Syrian government lifted petrol subsidies, leading to an increase in the price of petrol from 3,000 pounds to 8,000 Syrian pounds per litre.

The hike in fuel prices led to chaos on the streets on Wednesday, as bus and taxi drivers refused to work.

Daraa and Sweida are known to be the cradle of the Syrian uprising of 2011. Protests initially erupted in Daraa in 2011 after a group of teenagers was arrested over anti-regime graffiti. A Russian-backed ceasefire deal in 2018, however, saw the city return to regime control. 

Sweida has been mostly spared from fighting during Syria's civil war, but occasional protests against living conditions have occurred there due to the war's economic toll on the region. 

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