Syrian security forces detain protesters in southern city
BEIRUT (AP) — Syrian security forces detained several demonstrators Monday in a southern city that has seen days of anti-government protests amid a crash in the local currency and sharp price increases, opposition activists said.
Monday’s crackdown is the first since protests began in the city of Sweida last week, where dozens of people have been demonstrating every day over deteriorating living conditions.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitor, said government supporters attacked the protesters in Sweida with “hard objects” wounding several. It said security forces detained more than 10 protesters.
The Observatory said the detentions led to another protest in which the demonstrators called for the release of those detained. Some protesters also called for the overthrow of President Bashar Assad, who has largely succeeded in crushing the nationwide uprising that began in 2011.
The Suwayda 24, an activist collective covering events in the province, said security forces detained four protesters.
The economic meltdown comes ahead of new U.S. sanctions against any entity or country that does business with the Syrian government. The sanctions are due to take effect later this week but they have shaken the already teetering economy.
Known as the U.S. Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act, the sanctions are expected to worsen the already dire economic situation in Syria, where more than 80% of people live below the poverty line.
The national currency, the Syrian pound, has tumbled in recent weeks, reaching a record low to the dollar. The pound, which traded at 47 pounds to the dollar before the 2011 uprising, plunged to over 3,000 to the dollar last week before it made some gains in later days.
Prices of basic goods have skyrocketed while some staples have disappeared from the market as merchants and the public struggled to keep up with the rising cost of living.