Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Honors Thesis



First Advisor

Sally Childs-Helton

Second Advisor

Rusty Jones


"God, Syria, freedom, and that is all." These four words embody the goals of the Syrian Revolution. Yet, there is one key element of this chant that raises questions surrounding its meaning: freedom. For decades, the people of Syria have been subjected to restricted freedom by the Assad regime-especialIy musicalIy. The regime has artfulIy used music to legitimize its claim to the country. This utilization varies from early-learned pro-Baath chants to the monitoring of all performances held in the country. As Lisa Wedeen says in her work Ambiguities of Domination, "[this control of culture] isolates Syrians from one another, and it clutters public space with monotonous slogans and empty gestures."

The elusive cultural definition of freedom is a key aspect of the revolution. Tracing the experienced censorship since Assad's rise along with including early stories of revolutionary artists punished for their oppositional music, I analyze how fear of overstepping the boundaries drawn by the regime taints artists' views of freedom. I conclude that this fear inflicted on the people for decades has repressed artistic expression in revolutionary music. Hints of fear are found either in the music itself or the comments spoken by musicians with double meanings. There is currently limited literature on this topic; therefore, I evidence this claim through direct conversations in interviews with musicians. Fear is a defining aspect of Syrian culture. Thus, it is important that the scholarly and ultimately global community recognizes this fear and its impact on the music.