Syria protests spurred by economic misery stir memories of the 2011 anti-government uprising

BEIRUT (HRNW) — Anti-government protests in southern Syria have stretched into a second week, with demonstrators waving the colorful flag of the minority Druze community, burning banners of President Bashar Assad’s government and at one point raiding several offices of his ruling party.

The protests were initially driven by surging inflation and the war-torn country’s spiraling economy but quickly shifted focus, with marchers calling for the fall of the Assad government.

The demonstrations have been centered in the government-controlled province of Sweida, the heartland of Syria’s Druze, who had largely stayed on the sidelines during the long-running conflict between Assad and those trying to topple him.

In a scene that once would have been unthinkable in the Druze stronghold, protesters kicked members of Assad’s Baath party out of some of their offices, welded the doors shut and spray-painted anti-government slogans on the walls.

The protests have rattled the Assad government, but don’t seem to pose an existential threat. They come at a time when government forces have consolidated control over most of the country. Meanwhile, Damascus has returned to the Arab fold and restored ties with most governments in the region.

Still, anger is building, even among Syrians who did not join the initial anti-Assad protests in 2011. Those demonstrations were met with a harsh crackdown and plunged the country into years of civil war.