Syrians celebrate release of activist Rita Al-Aqbani in Suweida

Syria has been ravaged by war, with thousands languishing in the Assad regime’s jails [Getty]

Syrians celebrated the release of civil rights activist Rita Al-Aqbani from a security prison in Damascus on Friday, The New Arab’s Arabic language sister publication Al-Araby Al-Jadeed reported.

Many people gathered in the city of Suweida in southern Syria to demand the immediate release of all political detainees after she was freed.

Prior to her release, there was a tense atmosphere in the city, where most of the residents are from Syria’s minority Druze community.

Activists congregated in the Al-Karama Square to call for an end to authoritarian rule and the oppression of activists. Around 13 people were detained by regime forces at the protest.

According to the Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR), Al-Aqbani worked at the St. Ephrem Patriarchal Development Committee in Suweida and was arrested on 10 June, before being taken to an undisclosed location.

The rights group noted she was arrested without any court-issued legal warrant being presented, and her family was not informed of her arrest. Her phone was also seized, and she was not able to contact her family.

The war in Syria has ravaged the country’s economy, healthcare system and infrastructure, and displaced nearly half the country’s population.

Protests against the regime have been ongoing in Suweida province, however, for over a year. The Druze-majority province was left largely to itself throughout most of the Syrian conflict, and given a measure of autonomy.

Over 500,000 people have been killed since the Syrian conflict broke out in 2011 – which began when President Bashar Al-Assad’s forces violently cracked down on pro-democracy protesters – mostly as at the hands of the regime and its ally Russia.

With crucial backing from Iran and Russia, the Assad regime has been able to regain control of most areas of Syria once held by rebel forces.

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