Syria/ 5.1 General legislation  

5.1.9 Language laws

First: the Syrian Constitution stipulates in its fourth article that: “The Arab language is the official language”.

Second: Article 24 of the Law of Governing Universities in the Syrian Arab Republic stipulates that:  “Arab language is the language of teaching at universities with the exception of foreign languages curricula, beside to scientific faculties where one or two curricula can be taught in a foreign language”.

Third: The Project for “Empowerment of the Arab Language”:

Under the directives of President of the Republic, the National Project for Empowerment of Arab Language began in Syria in August, 2006 under the supervision of the Vice-President Dr, Najah Attar and in cooperation with concerned Ministries and Bodies with the intention to set up an overall perspective, a joint framework, and a mechanism for empowerment of Arab language. The concerned bodies has each, within less than a year, set up its own work plan and formed a follow-up committees that hold meetings on a regular basis. Arabic has been decided on to be the official language in conferences and meetings in the Arab world as well as using it in international occasions and having representatives of the Arab states abide with this usage in the United Nations Assembly and its organizations. During the third International Conference on Linguistic and Cultural Diversity that was held in Yakutsk between 28/6 and 3/7/2014, the Assistant Minister of Culture presented a paper entitled The Role of Education in Preserving Linguistic Diversity, which focused on the nature of language, its relationship to cultural identity and the dangers of blacking out a whole language as it leads to the obliteration of others’ languages and their culture due to the interrelatedness of language and culture. This paper was presented at a time when political power in Syria had been repressing cultural rights including the mother tongue of Kurds in Syria for decades.

The concerned bodies have been assigned by Mrs. Attar are: Ministry of Culture, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Higher Education, Ministry of Information along with all affiliated establishments, Arab Language Academy, and Writers Union.

Within this context, the wide-spread of the Internet poses one of the biggest challenges because it generated a hybrid language, in other words a mixture of foreign, eloquent, and colloquial language that is being used widely on a daily basis.

Fourth:  The Project of Amending Law of “the Arab Language Academic Assembly” in Damascus to enable it to practise its role.

Following its establishment, the Arab Language Academy was able to play a leading role in reviving the Arabic language but this role has started to retreat starting from late of the 60's. Upon reconsideration, the legislative rules of the Academy were restricted and some very important articles have been eliminated such as articles addressing encouragement of creative work, publishing, literary criticism, and presenting creators to public and granting them prizes. This led to diminishing the influence of the Academy, keeping it away from the creative and cultural domain and turned it into a lifeless body. The underway project for Empowerment of Arab Language covers the Arab Academy of Language. And according to Dr. Attar, a new legislative draft has been presented, which takes into consideration the items removed and also benefits from the Egyptian experience in reviving the Academy in terms of number of the Academy members, and mechanism of members election or assignment. The project was issued by the cabinet of government on 4/6/2008 and working with law No.38 for the year 2001 was stopped[1].

Fifth: the First National Conference on the Industry of the Arab Digital Component:

The conference was held in Damascus in June, 2009 with the aim of expanding publishing Arabic language and Arab culture on the Internet.

Amongst the most important recommendations:

The necessity to set legislations specific of linguistic issues. This has been included in (The Project of Upgrading Arabic Language towards Society of Knowledge), proposed by Syria and later unanimously adopted by the Arab Summit and the Arab League. Article 4 of the legislation stipulates that: national legislations should be issued for protecting the Arabic language, promoting, developing and improving its usage by media outlets, in advertising, and via Arab internet websites.

Adopting Arabic to become amongst the seven acknowledged global languages (in the Global E-Library) established by the UNISCO. Although it has been four years since the first conference, there hasn’t been any other held, and there’s no signal of the fate of the requests on the ground for Syria, officially speaking.

In October 2012, ESCWA held a meeting that brought together government officials and organizations specializing in information technology and communications, investment institutions, and experts, operators and academics working in the Arabic digital content enhancement sector. During the meeting ESCWA announced that it would organize awareness campaigns on the importance of Arabic digital content production, and launch competitions for Arabic digital content on the national and regional levels through which winners could receive a sponsorship for a period between six months and a year in one of the region’s business incubators.    

It appeared on the website of “the Arab team for translation” on 23/11/2012 (some university students in Syria started a new project named Arabic Empowerment) which aims to provide the Arab scientific content on internet. Its method is translating scientific content from English to Arabic in the beginning, while there is a long-term project that passes translation over into explanation and production.

[1]SANA News Agency- 4/6/2008

Chapter published: 06-05-2016