Opponents of al-Assad regime in As-Suwayda wait for their freedom

Demonstration in the city of As-Suwayda - 10 June 2020 (Suwayda 24)

Demonstration in the city of As-Suwayda - 10 June 2020 (Suwayda 24)


As-Suwayda – Rayan al-Atrash

An old woman has left her balcony light on at night for nearly 17 years. The old woman’s answer to those who asked her about that, was “Maybe a statement on the release of detainees from prisons would be issued at night and this light might help my son to get home easily. ”

The balcony light really severed its purpose when her son, Bayan al-Hinnawi, was released and returned to his family in a dark night, in 1991.

However, other lights are still  burning, waiting for the return of the absentees from As-Suwayda governorate, who are suffering from intimidation and arrest by the Syrian regime, aka”the protector of minorities.”

Arrests and dismissals… on charges of belonging to “opposition”

Qais Naim, a student at the Faculty of Engineering at the University of “Damascus,” was arrested, on 20 September, at the Palais des Congrès checkpoint and taken to the Political Security Division, accused of carrying “opposing political beliefs.”

The young student was known for his criticism of the Syrian regime’s policies and his participation in the protests that condemned the poor living conditions in his southern governorate during 2019.

A group of human rights activists and organizations in As-Suwayda expressed solidarity with him upon his arrest.

Besides, his arrest recalled the incident of the teacher Lala Salama Murad. Murad was dismissed on the charges of “ being anti-government activist, malevolent of the state, and its senior political leadership,” as written in the termination letter issued last May.

The arrest of activists, such as Naim, was not very uncommon in the past few months. Since the beginning of this year, anti-government demonstrations and protests had swept across the governorate; the government met these protests by waging a campaign of arrests that captured dozens of civilians to apply pressure on crowds of protesters to disperse and stop calling for reform and improving living conditions.

Since 2011, the Syrian regime has intended to show the Syrian revolution only with the Sunni component, trying to subjugate it to “the program of Islamization, black flags, al-Qaeda, and so-called Islamic State,” as highlighted by the writer and political researcher Abdel Nasser Abu al-Majd. Moreover, the Syrian regime strove not to present any of his opponents from other sects as well.

Most of the Syrian people’s participation in the popular protests since their inception, albeit to varying degrees, means that the revolution cannot be limited to the Sunnis without the Druze, Alawites, and Christians; Abdel Nasser Abu al-Majd spoke with Enab Baladi. However, the regime described the protesters’ goals from the beginning as seeking to establish “Islamic emirates.”

Even though the Syrian regime attempted to intimidate the people of As-Suwayda with the “Islamists” and to invite them to join its forces that suppressed the protesters from the start, they showed resistance to his invitation and were able to maintain a kind of neutrality within the conflict.

Abu al-Majd believes that the Syrian regime’s attempts to “Islamize” the revolution and promote the revolution’s  alleged demands  (to fight “the infidels”) have not canceled the real identity of the Syrian uprising as a “popular revolution against injustice.” The Syrian regime’s focus on suppressing the Sunni community does not mean that it “spares people from other sects from its oppression if they pose a threat to its existence.”

The Syrian regime does not want to antagonize and cannot ignore protesters 

Bayan al-Hinnawi, when he was arrested in 1974, was an officer with the rank of captain in the Syrian army, before moving between the security branches of the Military Security in addition to the Sednaya Military Prison, cells, and dormitories, after expressing his political opinion in a session with other elements.

In an interview with Enab Baladi, al-Hinnawi said that in the session, he denounced the Syrian intervention in Lebanon and Iraq, saying that “ We know our enemy,” which alludes to Israel. That sentence was sufficient to put him in prison.

Since the beginning of the rule of the “Baath” and the leadership of the former president, Hafez al-Assad, of Syria in 1971, the arrests of the people of As-Suwayda governorate have continued. The arrests have been directed towards members of other parties, opponents, and critics from various sects and governorates.

While the Syrian regime is promoting its interest in religious minorities in Syria, it has not lost sight of all opponents’ pursuit, most notably Shibli al-Aysami.

Al-Aysami was the former Secretary-General of the “Arab Socialist Baath Party” and one of its founders. He was kidnapped in 2011 because of his position on the Syrian revolution, when he visited his daughter in the town of Aley, in Mount Lebanon, at the age of 88, after years of having fled to Iraq since 1966.

Lawyer and member of the Committee for the Defense of Prisoners in As-Suwayda, Muhannad Baraka, told Enab Baladi that al-Aysami’s fate is still unknown, stressing the regime is the one responsible for his kidnapping. 

Despite al-Aysami’s age, the Syrian regime feared that he might create a revolutionary situation in As-Suwayda, which could be the beginning of protests in the rest of the governorate, according to Baraka.

According to statements issued last June by the Syrian Network for Human Rights, more than 2,170 detainees from As-Suwayda governorate are held in the Syrian regime’s prisons.

 Arrests have increased after the protests, which then stopped to turn into demands for detainees’ release, which the regime met in batches.

The writer and political researcher Abdel Nasser Abu al-Majd described the way the Syrian regime dealt with the As-Suwayda protests with “cunning.”  It did not completely suppress the protests “in order not to erupt a huge revolution like a volcano.” The Syrian regime, at the same time, did not ignore the protests and allow for boldness. Besides, the regime caught its opponent activists, arrested them for months, then released them.

The Syrian regime also tried to distract Syrian people from it by shedding light on the danger of the so-called  “Islamic State” and sow discord between the Druze community and the Bedouins, and between the people of the plain and the mountain, through a series of kidnappings and repeated attacks.

The people of As-Suwayda responded to these attempts with slogans, “Do you know who you are messing with. ISIS is created by you and belongs to you”, and “Revolut, oh As-Suwayda, and shake the Republican palace.


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