Syria’s Culture: The Cure or the Curse?

Having a research project covering an ongoing event in the world such as the Syrian Civil War makes it dangerously easy to forego any deep historical research and dive straight into the immediate present. However, the primary focus of my research is the culture of Syria and its important role in the revival of the nation so simply reflecting upon the immediate series of events in Syria would be a disservice to the centuries of culture that have taken root in the nation and the history that has guided the country to its current disposition. It was during my historic research of Syria that I would run into a concerning matter regarding the nature of Syria’s rich culture and the possibility that a culture as rich and diverse as this nation’s may not in all actuality serve a beneficial role in the restoration of the ruined nation.

“Since before history was written, Syria has been fought over by foreign empires—Egyptians, Hittites, Assyrians, Persians, Macedonian Greeks, Romans, Mongols, Turks, British, and French. Only during the Umayyad Caliphate in the 7th and 8th centuries A.D. was it the center of an empire. But that relatively short period left Syria with its Islamic heritage. For many centuries, the society has been overwhelmingly Muslim.”

Like this mosque pictured above, numerous other religious structures have been badly damaged or otherwise destroyed. Other structures and building in locations such as Damascus are some of the oldest structures in the Middle East and is why the city is referred to as “The Old City”.

The long history of Syria’s numerous shifts of occupying powers has acuminated in a agglomeration of distinct historic structures from varying empires and have largely impacted the distinct communities that reside in Syria. Syria’s long history with invasions from empires have contributed to its expansive diversity to which, “…is absolutely the most varied society in terms of the immaterial heritage, customs and traditions, arts and local spoken dialects, which still use non-Arabic vocabulary.”

While the majority of the population affiliate themselves with the Islamic faith there is quite a diverse community of different muslim sects that contribute to the diversity of religions. However, as the diversity of Islamic sects meant a more varied culture it also gave way to the eventual  Alawite minority sect ruling over the rest of the nation and instilling their religious ideologies in law once the nation would go on to secure its own independence. In terms of recent historical events, this was a foreboding sign for the nation of Syria as a single minority religious sect became the most powerful social group in the nation.

 

Syria has only been a self-autonomous nation since 1961 after removing French control and temporarily joining the United Arab Republic.  Since its achievement of independence the nation has developed a strong sense of nationalism but struggled with grasping the notion of self-government (hence the short period of time the nation was a member of the U.A.R.). In response to this instability and idea that the nation was weakening that a stricter form of government in the form of President Hafez al-Assad. From here the road of oppressive government was paved and would eventually lead to a bloody revolution.

While the emphasis of my research is about the beneficial aspect of culture serving as a source of revitalization for the currently war-torn nation I cannot ignore the reality that culture can just as easily initiate destruction as it can bring restoration. My biggest concern about this matter is that I will fail to properly address the negative aspects of culture and its relation to the restoration of empire (or in this case, Syria). However, if I properly address the harm culture can potentially cause for a society than my notion of its beneficial nature will become a much more intriguing argument that can spawn more potential discussion of the matter.

 

 

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