The Syrian Regime is Responding to the August 2023 Protests with the Same Savage Mindset with Which It Reacted to the Protests of March 2011

No Fewer than 57 Civilians Arrested Over the Protests in Regime Areas Since the Beginning of August, including 11 Women, With Hundreds Persecuted

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Since the beginning of August, many regime-controlled areas of Syria have seen peaceful civil demonstrations, in which the protesters held the Syrian regime responsible for the worsening conditions in the country at all economic, social, and political levels. On August 17, the scope of these protests grew significantly, with thousands demonstrating then and since in the governorates of Daraa and Suwayda, in addition to other protest action taking place in Damascus, Rural Damascus (Rif Dimshaq), Latakia, Tartus, and Aleppo. The message was largely the same, namely that Bashar Assad is responsible for the position the country is in, with the protesters calling for ousting the Syrian regime.

Indeed, these protests have come at a time of multiple, unprecedented and increasingly dire economic, living, and human rights crises in Syria. A Syrian state employee currently earns an average monthly salary of no more than approximately $10, which is a natural outcome of the Syrian regime’s oppressive policies since March 2011. The Syrian regime’s gross human rights violations have resulted in the displacement of millions of Syrians, the killing of over 200,000 civilians, the enforced disappearance of approximately 132,000 Syrian citizens, and the deaths of at least 15,000 people due to torture, in addition to other crimes such as bombing hospitals and schools, and stealing and pillaging citizens’ properties and lands. These draconian practices have generated a climate of fear and terror that has naturally pushed away any influx of foreign capital, as well as failing to allow any degree of normality for local businesses which remain unable to operate amid such an atmosphere. All of these crises have been coupled with systemic corruption that infects every level of the Syrian regime’s hierarchy, in addition to worsening crises in Lebanese and recently Iraqi banks. In light of all these factors, it has become starkly clear that there is no way out of this disastrous downward spiral while the current regime led by Bashar Assad- remains in power.

Although voicing criticism of the regime and holding it accountable for its actions should be a fundamental right of the Syrian people who are peacefully expressing their opinions and calling for political change, the Syrian regime’s response in August 2023 has been the same as its response to the March 2011 movement: a reaction of state terror, iron and fire. We have monitored and documented multiple vicious methods used by the regime’s security forces, including arrest, torture, and enforced disappearance, with the regime also using its media outlets to slander protesters or anyone criticizing the regime in any way as traitors or collaborators working with foreign entities. The Syrian regime has also attempted to stage counter-demonstrations with loyalists chanting pro-regime slogans and threatening anyone opposing the regime.

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