Suwayda internet cut off after protest critical of regime

The Syrian government reportedly cut off internet access to Suwayda province one day after more than a thousand residents demonstrated in the provincial capital in a move that organizers call an attempt to impede further demonstrations, reported pro-opposition All4Syria Wednesday.

“Take note: The internet is out throughout the entire province, so our information is not getting out,” reads the last post made Wednesday evening on the grassroots “You Strangled Us” campaign’s Facebook page. The group was responsible for organizing the initial protest outside the provincial governor’s office on Tuesday.

Syria Direct attempted to reach several different contacts in Suwayda Thursday, but messages sent via WhatsApp remain undelivered.

The campaign said its intention is to “gather together all of the poor people who have and continue to suffer from this war” to demand their “most basic rights” such as bread, water, fuel and electricity, according to posts on their Facebook page.

“The bread in Suwayda province is the worst bread in Syria, hands down,” Noura al-Basha, a pro-opposition journalist in Suwayda and member of the Syrian Revolution Coordination Union, told Syria Direct Wednesday. The quality of bread has gotten progressively worse over the past few months, she said, becoming “like refuse, its color tending to be black and having a repulsive taste and smell.”

The issue of corruption coupled with the lack of commodities and services in the province are closely linked. The smuggling of goods out of the province, specifically flour and fuel, has become a lucrative business in Suwayda that is contributing to the rapidly rising costs.

 Demonstrators protesting in front of Suwayda’s provincial government building. Photo courtesy of Suwayda Live News.

“Corruption has become widespread in the majority of the government bureaus without any sort of oversight,” one demonstrator told pro-opposition Suwayda Now on Tuesday.

“We will not allow those who are corrupt in this province and war profiteers to lap up what remains of our blood,” read one post on the “You Strangled Us” campaign’s Facebook page.

Protestors went as far as calling on the regime to remove a number of high-level government officials in Suwayda from office, including the directors of the water, electricity and energy companies as well as the heads of the security branches, the police chief and the governor, reported All4Syria on Tuesday.

The campaign was publicly planning a second demonstration, to be held on Wednesday, that organizers hoped would attract even more people. But the same day, it appears that the Syrian regime, which controls the province, cut off the internet. State media did not comment.    

The last post on the “You Strangled Us” page also announced that demonstrations would continue everyday at 2pm in front of the governor’s building.

“Nothing will stop us except the realization of our demands,” read the post.

Given the lack of access to sources on the ground, Syria Direct could not independently confirm that demonstrations took place on Thursday.

Moutasem Jamal

Moutasem Jamal studied English literature. He moved to Jordan after losing his job because of violence in his area.

Samuel Kieke

Samuel Kieke was a 2014-2015 CASA I fellow in Amman, Jordan. He received his BA from the University of Texas at Austin in Arabic Language and Literature, Middle Eastern Studies, and International Relations and Global Studies.