Home Investigative Reports Syria: Ongoing Crackdown on Freedom of Peaceful Assembly

Syria: Ongoing Crackdown on Freedom of Peaceful Assembly

All dominant forces in Syria continue unabated to deny persons the basic right to freedom of opinion, expression, and assembly

by bassamalahmed
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Slogans raised during As Suwayda protests.

The right to peaceful assembly and protest has never been respected in Syria in the last four decades, to say it mildly. Since 2011, the Syrian regime escalated its crackdown against peaceful demonstrators by killing, arresting, torturing, and forcibly disappearing them. However; today, the repressive response to protests is a common practice among all dominant forces including, Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), the Türkiye-backed Syrian National Army (SNA), and the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES).

Between January 2021 and March 2023, Syrians for Truth and Justice (STJ) monitored no less than 80 peaceful assemblies in different parts of Syria. Most of these assemblies were met by deadly crackdowns; protesters were beaten, arrested, and shot.

In more detail:

  • In HTS areas (Idlib): STJ documented nine peaceful assemblies, four of which were met with a violent crackdown and one was prevented on the pretext of not being authorized.
  • In SNA areas: STJ documented over 37 peaceful assemblies; at least 11 of them were met with a violent crackdown.
  • In AANES areas (including in Deir ez-Zor): STJ documented over 32 assemblies and protests, five of which were met with a violent crackdown.
  • In regime areas: STJ documented a number of protests and assemblies, many of which were met with a violent crackdown

In the same vein, Afrin, a previously Kurdish-majority district of Aleppo, witnessed unprecedented peaceful protests following the killing of four Kurdish young men as they were celebrating Newroz, the Kurdish New Year, on March 21, 2023. This was followed by threats and attacks on protesters on several occasions.

For their part, 155 Syrian organizations condemned the killing of the Kurdish civilians calling on the United Nations (UN) to take all necessary measures to protect the civilians in Afrin and throughout Syria and immediately cease the massive violations against them.

According to the UN Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner, “Everyone has the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association, which are essential components of democracy. The right of peaceful assembly includes the right to hold meetings, sit-ins, strikes, rallies, events or protests, both offline and online.”[1]


The present report is based on 21 testimonies, including six from eyewitnesses and participants in protests met with violence in Idlib; six from sources in the SNA areas, rural Aleppo; six from eyewitnesses in AANES areas; and three from sources in regime-held As Suwayda province.

STJ conducted the interviews physically and online between December 2022 and late February 2023. Notably, the interviewees’ testimonies were cross-checked with information from credible open sources.


You may read and download the full version of this report (19 pages), in PDF format by clicking here.



[1] “Freedom of assembly and of association”, the UN Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner, 20 December 2022, https://www.ohchr.org/en/topic/freedom-assembly-and-association (Last accessed: 5 April 2023).

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