Celebrating Continuity: The Role of State Holidays in Syria (1918-2010)

Elie Podeh*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations

Abstract

National holidays are one of the major instruments of regimes and rulers aiming to legitimise their hegemony and maintain the social and political order. This article deals with the way in which successive Syrian regimes have celebrated the national-secular and religious-holidays. It compares the various Syrian regimes: the monarchy (1918-1920); the mandate period (1920-1946); and the republic period (1946-present).Although the latter period will be treated as a whole, the analysis differentiates between five periods: post-independence (1946-1958); the United Arab Republic (UAR; 1958-1961); the secessionist regime (1961-1963); and the Ba'th regime (1963-present), with Bashar replacing his father in June 2000. The main thesis of this article is that Syrian regimes prefer continuity over change in the realm of state holidays. Thus, in contrast to Iraq, where each new regime has attempted to delegitimise its predecessor by abolishing the national calendar and inventing a new one, Syrian regimes have added new holidays to the calendar without erasing the old ones. In this way, Syria's calendar resembles an edifice occasionally renovated according to the regime's needs, but never demolished. This policy emanated from a desire to demonstrate continuity even in times of change and upheaval, while at the same time consolidating the local national identity, which has often competed with other supra-identities, such as pan-Arabism and Islam.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)428-456
Number of pages29
JournalBritish Journal of Middle Eastern Studies
Volume40
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 2013

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