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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

The Arab Spring: Popular Culture and the Shaabi Arts: Syria

This guide covers developments in pop culture in parts of the Arab world affected by the Arab Spring and more recent political movements. Countries of focus include Sudan, Syria, Yemen, Iraq, and Egypt

Sample Keywords

  • "Your Turn, Doctor"
  • Bashar al-Assad
  • Daraa, Dara'a
  • بشار الأسد
  • Syria Uprising
  • الانتفاضة السوريا
  • Syria Revolution
  • الثورة السوريا
  • Syria Refugee 
  • اللاجئين السوريين
  • "Arab Spring" Syria 
  • الرببع العربي السوري
  • Demonstrations Syria
  • مظاهرات سوريا
  • Homs Syria
  • حمص سوريا
  • Aleppo Syria
  • حلب سوريا

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Pop Culture


(PC: Victoria & Albert Museum Blog)

Modern Syrian pop culture exists in a precarious position, responding to, and shaping one of the longest-running and deadliest civil conflicts of the 21st century so far. Many major contributors to this pop culture are also fighters on one side or another of the war. Music, art, and other forms of culture have served to fuel protest and raise global awareness of Syria's plight.

General Resources:


Hip hop in Syria is highly politically motivated, and almost exclusively aligned with the anti-Assad opposition. These artists also tend to have an international affiliations, either being based outside of Syria or looking to garner international attention to Syria's plight through their music.

Artist Profiles


Graffiti has played an important role in the cultural dimension of the ongoing civil war in Syria. In the early days of the war and the tense months leading up to it, graffiti served as a subversive form of expression for those dissatisfied with the the al-Assad government, especially young people.

General Resources



(PC: Syria Direct)


(PC: The Atlantic Council)

"Your Turn, Doctor"

(PC:The National)

This slogan, thought to originate with Moawiya and Samer Sayasina (two high schoolers from the city of Daraa), is both a rallying cry and one of the important early flashpoints of the Syrian Civil War. "Doctor" refers to Bashar al-Assad, who is a trained medical doctor. Shortly after painting the slogan, Moawiya and Samer were taken into custody and tortured by security forces. These events lead to widespread outrage and an upswell of resistance against Bashar al-Assad.

Further Reading:

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