The recently released book, Burning Country: Syrians in Revolution and War by Robin Yassin-Kassab and Leila Al-Shami mentions that there was widespread poverty within Syria and that the Assad regime promoted neo-liberal policies of privatizing publicly owned assets to private companies.
In 2000, the state farms were privatised, increasing intensive commercial farming and leading to a wave of peasant evictions. A private banking system was introduced, the foreign exchange regime was liberalised, private investment was encouraged, with key industrial sectors brought under private control, and subsidies - including for food and fuel, a life-line to the poor - were reduced. International investment flooded in, particularly from the Gulf. (Chapter 2.)Among certain sectors of the left there is much focus upon neoliberalism and it is often condemned. Some on the far left (such as some Communist groups) chose to sympathize with the Assad regime in the early days of the uprising. But the Assad regime implemented neoliberal policies that those sort of leftists would typically condemn.
Elsewhere in Chapter 2 it is mentioned that in 2004 that 30% were impoverished. This was more severe in rural areas with up to 62% impoverished. Furthermore 11.4% were in extreme poverty.
It is also mentioned that property prices went up.
In the cities, the liberalisation of real estate sent property prices through the roof, and new laws made it easier to evict tenants. (Chapter 2.)It is also mentioned citing this 2010 IRIN article that in 2006-10 there was a terrible drought that caused many to fall into extreme poverty and ended the livelihoods of around 800,000 farmers and herders.
With so many people enduring these severe problems it is no surprise that when the first stirring of change emerged in 2011 so many Syrians would choose to respond to hope and marched for change.
Tragically the Assad regime chose to respond with violence initiating a horrifying cycle of violence with many Syrians rounded up into prisons in conditions so ghastly that a recent UN report said it might constitute extermination.
This violence seems to be reaching a terrible climax with a severe offensive against northern Aleppo.
This is so terrible. Who will protect the Syrians from the Assad regime? Syrians deserve to live in peace and safety.