September 14, 2023

A message from a protester in Suwayda, Syria

Salma (pseudonym) is a Syrian activist and university student from Suwayda. She is the founder of Tal3at Soriat, a women’s movement leading a new wave of protests in Syria

For the fourth week in a row, demonstrators in the city of Suwayda in southwest Syria are protesting for the overthrow of the regime. These are the largest and most sustained protests in Syria in years. In response, yesterday the Syrian regime fired directly on protesters, injuring three, and has launched a campaign of arrests in other Syrian cities to prevent popular movements there. We are appealing for solidarity.

I am a university student majoring in sociology and filmmaking. For me, the peaceful protests taking place in my city cannot be separated from the revolution that began in 2011. I lost many of my friends and loved ones during the conflict in Syria. Some of them were forced to flee the country, some of them are still detained by the Syrian regime and we know nothing about them. Some even died under torture in prisons or were killed by bombs. Every day I see poverty, forced displacement, and the psychological effects of the regime’s massacres.

Before this recent wave of protests, spiritual leaders in Druze-majority Suwayda have mostly taken a neutral position towards the Assad regime, but many of them are now backing the demands of the protesters. It is a sign of how bad things have become that people here are challenging the regime so strongly now.

I ask for your solidarity with all the people in my city, who are bravely stepping onto the streets daily to protest against Assad’s regime, foreign occupation, and corruption. The attacks on protesters yesterday are extremely dangerous, but you can give us a bridge that crosses borders. You can put pressure on international bodies to reopen the doors of justice. Use your free voice and let everyone know that in Syria we are not safe or free as long as Assad’s regime is in power.

Take action: Stand with us now by sharing banners and photos from our protests on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram to support the protesters and call on the international community to condemn the violence against us.

The Syrian revolution shaped me and I am protesting peacefully in Suwayda’s ‘Dignity Square’ to continue resisting and working for the free Syria that we always dreamed of.

You only need to look to see who we Syrians really are. We want a free, democratic, multicultural and unified Syria. We want effective implementation of UN Resolution 2254 and to hold Bashar Assad and everyone who committed war crimes accountable. We want all our detained and forcibly disappeared families and friends to be released from prisons. And we want Syrian women to be leaders in all political change processes, without fear of expressing our opinions.

Six years ago when I was in high school in Suwayda, my teacher asked: “What is home for you?’’ I didn’t dare answer his question, but when he asked again I said, “I am still searching for a free homeland, without barriers, bullets, or prisons. That is why I can’t tell you what home is for me. I’ve never known it.”

I refuse to leave Syria because I believe the revolution hasn’t stopped since it started in March 2011, and it will not stop. Once again the regime has proven it only knows the language of violence. It’s time for change and we have had enough.