The protests in Syria's southern province of al-Suwayda' primarily driven by the deterioration in living standards and the economic situation show no sign of abating. An important shift in the normative discourse surrounding the protests this time comes in the statements of the Mashayakh al-'Aql (the three highest Druze religious authorities in Syria) in support of the protests. Most notably, a statement issued from the "Dar al-Ta'ifa" ("Abode of the Sect") and bearing the personal stamps of two of the Mashayakh al-'Aql (Yusuf Jerbo' and Hamoud al-Hanawi) called for "a governmental change and the formation of a new government capable of managing the crisis, improving the situation, finding solutions and not off-loading responsibilities." The statement also calls on the government to cancel "all the recent economic decisions...and work to improve the livelihood situation and realise dignified life, and remove all the obstacles and phenomena that bring about the degradation of the citizens," and calls for "combating corruption, apprehend the sowers of corruption with all credibility, ad bring them to justice."
To be sure, this statement stops short of calling for the removal of Bashar al-Assad as president of Syria (a call that has been chanted by some demonstrators), and so does not amount to 'regime change' in the sense that is conventionally understood in the Syrian context, but it is significant nonetheless. Calls for replacement of leading figures within the government are now endorsed by the leading Druze religious authorities. Clearly, the protests now have more momentum than on previous occasions in terms of the degree of popular support.
To get some further insight on the protests, I conducted an interview with Hatem al-Zghayar of Harakat Rijal al-Karama ("Movement of the Men of Dignity"), the largest 'third-way' faction in al-Suwayda'. He is also calling for the government to resign. This interview was conducted on 23 August 2023. Any parenthetical insertions in square brackets are my own.
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Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi is an Arabic translator and editor at Castlereagh Associates, a Middle East-focused consultancy, and a writing fellow at the Middle East Forum. He runs an independent newsletter at aymennaltamimi.substack.com.