As protests demanding the fall of Assad and his regime enter their 36th consecutive day in Syria’s southern Suwayda Governorate, the regime is resorting to new tactics to pressure the people, even as the movement continues to gain momentum under the leadership of prominent figures from the Druze community, such as Sheikh Al-Aql Hikmat Al-Hijri.
On Sunday, the regime announced a disruption of power in Suwayda Governorate, citing “a malfunction in the electrical supply line.” The Suwayda Electricity Company claimed that the province-wide outage was due to “a malfunction in the alternative line feeding the governorate in the area between Khirbet Ghazaleh and Sheikh Maskin.”
Meanwhile, the demonstrations persisted with unwavering determination to overthrow the regime. Demonstrators gathered in Karama Square in the center of Suwayda, chanting slogans for the unity of the Syrian people, the overthrow of the Syrian regime, and the departure of Assad.
Banners were raised during the protest, demanding the implementation of UN Resolution 2254 and the abolition of the Baath Party. In a symbolic gesture, young men hung a large picture of Sheikh Al-Aql Hikmat Al-Hijri on the Finance Directorate building overlooking Karama Square.
Sheikh Al-Hijri has been vocal, addressing the public, speaking to the press, and engaging with members of the EU Parliament. “The movement in the city of Suwayda has been brewing in the hearts of its residents for a long time,” stated Al-Hijri. “It didn’t emerge out of thin air but rather resulted from the failure of viable solutions. It is not limited to economic challenges and hunger but reflects the harsh reality imposed on the Syrians.”
While emphasizing the apolitical role of Druze clergy, Al-Hijri made it clear that there were definite limits that the community could not tolerate. “We don’t interfere in politics, but if politics encroach upon us, we will intervene.”
He stressed the importance of addressing the issue of drugs, saying, “Drugs are a red line for us. We will not compromise our faith, and we cannot turn a blind eye to the spread of illicit substances into our livelihoods, schools, and among our children. We’ve endured murder, imprisonment, torture, financial exploitation, and taxation in silence, but we cannot remain silent about drugs.”
According to the Sheikh, they have been in contact with high-ranking officials in the Assad regime since as early as 2015 to express the concerns and grievances of the Druze community. However, since the start of the recent Suwayda movement over a month ago, there has been no such contact. Al-Hijri emphasized that all foreigners, whether American, Iranian, Russian, or Turkish, were considered occupiers.
While contact with the Assad regime has ceased since the movement began, Sheikh Al-Hijri has established contact with EU representatives, including Catherine Langzeben, the Head of the Foreign Affairs Committee Syria representative in the European Parliament.
Langzeben stated that they spoke for over 40 minutes, during which she expressed the EU’s interest and support for the Suwayda Movement and ongoing events in the province. She mentioned that the EU Parliament was actively exploring practical measures to alleviate the suffering of Syrians and support their demands for justice, freedom, and equality while closely monitoring the situation in Suwayda and Daraa.
“We are deeply concerned about the safety of Sheikh al-Hijri and the peaceful demonstrators in Suwayda, Daraa, and across Syria,” she said, condemning last week’s firing on protesters by the Assad regime in Suwayda.
The Sheikh reiterated that peace, justice, freedom, and the establishment of a state governed by the rule of law were the primary goals of the movement. He emphasized that the protests represented the desires and struggles of all Syrians, from north to south and east to west, and urged the international community to facilitate the implementation of UNSC Resolution 2254. This, he believed, could bring an end to over a decade of instability and insecurity in the country, allowing the Syrian people to finally move forward in their lives.