Cultural Pursuits Disappear From Syria
By: Anas Zarzar
Published Thursday, June 28, 2012
Cultural activity in Damascus and the other provinces and cities of Syria has stagnated due to the escalating political crisis that began nearly a year and a half ago.
The cultural festivals that were a staple of the recreation and tourism season each summer have had no real audience since the continuous violence has taken center stage, commanding complete attention, not just in Syria, but over the entire world.
Normally, the numerous summer festivals, full of performances and cultural activities in Syria’s urban and touristic centers, would be at the forefront of people’s minds at this time of year.
Events such as the International Basra Festival in Daraa, the Idlib Folk Arts Festival, the Love and Peace Festival in Lattakia, and the Youth Theatre Festival have historically been held all around Syria. They take place thanks to various local and national government institutions, independent organizations, and Syrian businessmen abroad who want to encourage tourism in their home country.
Today, however, official organizations are avoiding all activities and festivals.
Everyone in Syria is naturally preoccupied with the latest political developments and the constant threat of violence.
Celebration and festivities are hardly a priority for those who have witnessed the bloodshed.
Cultural figures who had major followings on stage have by and large opted to leave Syria and watch the drama unfold from a safe distance.
Some of them worked with friends and managed to bring festivals into being, such as the Sendian Festival, which is held annually in the city of Malajah in Tartous.
Likewise, the International Sculpture Festival supervised by actor Fares al-Helou took place in his home village of Mashta al-Helou near Homs.
However, the heads of recreational companies, festivals, and cultural activities have mostly left the country, leaving behind everyone who does not have the luxurious option of escaping the bleak reality of life in Syria now.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.