Syrians in rebel-held Idlib mark 10 years since uprising


BEIRUT — Thousands of Syrians in the last opposition-held area of the country protested Monday, marking 10 years since the start of a popular uprising against President Bashar Assad’s rule that later spiraled into an insurgency and civil war.

The protest in Idlib city was the largest in years, and aimed at recreating the early days of peaceful protests in which tens of thousands called for Assad’s downfall. However, Syrian rebels have been crushed in most of the country and no longer pose a military threat to Assad. His troops, backed by Russia and Iran, have vanquished opposition-held territory over the past few years.

The city of Idlib is the last urban area still under opposition control in Syria, located in a shrinking rebel enclave in the northwestern province of the same name.

“A decade of global abandonment,” read one of the banners carried by protesters.

The Syrian conflict has killed more than half a million people and displaced half the country’s pre-war population of 23 million. Those displaced include more than 5 million refugees, mostly in neighboring countries.

In Idlib’s Sabaa Bahrat square, more than 2,000 people gathered to mark the anniversary — almost none of them wearing masks to protect against coronavirus — with some chanting “no retreat, no surrender.”

“Injustice will eventually come to an end and righteousness will be victorious,” said citizen journalist Salwa Abdul-Raham, who is based in Idlib and took part in the protest.

“Those who lost their children or lost their lives, their blood will not be in vain,” she said. “There is divine justice and victory will be achieved to bring freedom and justice.”

Protests also took place in other rebel-held parts of Syria, including western districts of Aleppo province where demonstrators carried posters reading: “At the end of the decade, we renew the pledge.”

Also on Monday, Syrian security forces thwarted an attack in the capital Damascus killing thee militants and detaining three others, state TV reported. The TV said three of the attackers had explosive belts, an apparent reference to suicide attacks.

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