The Suwayda Movement


The peaceful revolutionary movement in the city of Suwayda began, with its most important square named “Al-Karama Square” in 2016. This movement unsettled the Syrian regime and was followed by various waves of protests. In 2020, significant demonstrations emerged in Al-Karama Square, continuing into 2021. In its current wave, which began in August 2023, the situation in Suwayda, southern Syria, escalated after gunfire from the former party branch and then from the reconciliation hall, April 7 Hall, resulting in the first protester’s death in the new movement. Jawad Tawfiq Al-Barouki, aged 54, was killed, but the protesters remained steadfast and peaceful, demonstrating their significant challenge to the Syrian regime, which had bet that ignoring this movement would lead to its decline.

However, as time passed and the first protester fell due to ricocheting bullets fired from April 7 Hall (the reconciliation hall), the spiritual leader of the Druze community in Suwayda, Sheikh Hikmat Al-Hijri, described Al-Barouki as a “martyr of duty” and labeled the hands that fired the shots as treacherous. In his statement, Al-Hijri emphasized the importance of maintaining the peaceful course of the movement and urged the protesters to exercise restraint and not be drawn into the regime’s schemes. Observers note that there are real fears of the security situation exploding again, with military forces being amassed at Khalkhalah Military Airport at the entrance of Suwayda city.

The military buildup now on the city’s outskirts aims to send a veiled threat to the Suwayda movement, suggesting the possibility of turning it into an armed conflict zone. This comes amid the presence of military factions within the province, organized efforts to portray the Syrian revolution as divided from south to north, and classify it as a separate revolution from the mother revolution of 2011. Despite Suwayda city’s participation in the revolutionary movement from the start in Syria, the Syrian regime’s media blackout on this movement was a failed attempt to prove that what is happening is sabotage by extremist groups and “terrorist gangs.”

The movement in Suwayda began with demands for reform and ended with calls for the overthrow of the regime. Images of Bashar al-Assad and his father, Hafez al-Assad, were torn down, and the name of the President’s Square was changed to “Dignity Square.”

In recent months, the regime has tried to infiltrate Suwayda using soft power because it could not intervene militarily. This inability was due to its portrayal as the “protector of minorities” and its failure to justify its actions by claiming to fight terrorism, as it did in northern Syria. Instead, the regime resorted to sowing discord among the political components of the movement and pushing individuals to propose separatist projects. These attempts failed thanks to the movement’s effective management, its organisational committee, media solidarity, and the determination of the protesters, who continued their movement daily for nine consecutive months with particularly large gatherings on Fridays.

Women played a significant role in the Suwayda movement. They participated in large numbers in the organisational committees, political currents, positions, statements, and community visits. They also took part in decision-making inside and outside the square and in the media, never missing a day on the ground with activities, signs, and strong, new voices.

After the Syrian regime’s attempts to halt the movement failed, it recently sent significant military reinforcements to Suwayda Province, raising fears of military intervention to stop the movement. These reinforcements began arriving before resolving the crisis of university student “Danny Obaid,” who was arrested on charges of undermining the prestige of the Syrian state for posting in support of his province’s movement. He was arrested in Latakia and released after local factions in Suwayda detained several officers from the Syrian army and police. Mediations eventually led to their release in two batches before and after Danny Obaid’s return. Suwayda continues to demand the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 2254, which aims to end the bloody crisis that has gripped the country for 13 years.

Regarding the military reinforcements and preparations within the province, many vehicles equipped with medium machine guns, several tanks, and hundreds of personnel have been stationed at the largest convoy at Khalkhala Military Airport. The first batch entered the Military Intelligence Branch, planting personnel in the State Security Branch and in the forests of Qanawat town. In this context, many regime-supporting journalists and activists welcomed the entry of its forces into Suwayda, viewing it as a step towards ending the separatist project and returning the province to the “embrace of the homeland.” They are aware that Assad’s regime has reached a stage of significant weakness, evidenced by its concession to release the detained student due to fear of any reaction from the active international forces in the region.

It is difficult to predict the true objectives the Syrian regime aims to achieve by sending such reinforcements. However, one strong reason is likely to intimidate the protesters and break their resolve, turning the peaceful movement into an armed conflict and dragging the province into violence. This prompted a response from the people of Suwayda within the movement, issuing a statement from the popular movement in Suwayda Province. They sent a message to the Syrian people, declaring their “rejection of fighting or confrontation because the Syrian army personnel are Syrians,” and reaffirmed their legitimate national, constitutional, and legal demands through peaceful means. “This is not out of fear or cowardice—our history attests to that—but out of national responsibility and to preserve blood and what remains of the homeland destroyed by the regime, which brought in all the occupations. This army is to liberate occupied territories, not to shoot at our great people.” They also sent a message to the Syrian army: “Everyone deserves a dignified life, and we will defend it peacefully and bravely to build our country’s future.” They called on the army not to follow orders to aim their guns at their fellow countrymen, “You are guests, and we welcome you with flowers. If you come as invaders,that would be the wrong decision.”

In this regard, the Syrian Women’s Political Movement has been supportive of the movement and the women of Suwayda from the early days, contributing statements, position papers, and international dissemination of these stances. The SWPM continues to stand by this peaceful movement and condemns the military buildup in Suwayda. We, in the Syrian Women’s Political Movement, believe in peaceful solutions and demand the implementation of Resolution 2254. Peace, democracy, and a political solution are priorities, and political transition is the guarantee for all Syrians to live in a safe future, enjoying freedom and peace in a homeland characterised by citizenship and freedoms, moving towards a democratic Syria that ensures the rights and duties of all Syrians regardless of their affiliations and opinions.


The Political Committee of the Syrian Women’s Political Movement