Syria/ 8.4 Amateur arts, cultural associations and civil initiatives  

8.4.2 Cultural houses and community cultural clubs

There were around 510 cultural centers in 2010 in the country on governorate, city and village levels. These centers are administratively affiliated to the directorates of culture and are the property of, pursuant to the Presidential Decree issued 1982, Ministry of Local Administration (city and governorate councils) and MOC (established and funded by governorates and run and supervised by MOC).

According to their statutes, cultural centers perform the following duties:

  • Spread cultural awareness, introduce Arab and world culture and provide the means that help to create a vivid cultural movement by facilitating book reading, delivering lectures, conducting seminars and organizing reading sessions.

  • Develop the artistic taste and promote all types of art (painting, sculpture, photography, music, acting, folk arts and cinema) by staging fairs, concerts and music listening sessions.

  • Promote the establishment of culture and art associations and clubs, support them, and follow up their activities.

  • Facilitate the means of popular culture via popular culture institutes affiliated to the cultural centers and also via literacy centers and mobile cultural units.

  • Dedicate special attention to children's culture by staging activities, establishing libraries and conducting art courses.

Since 2011 new tasks have been added to the activity of cultural centers. In September 2011 the assistant to the Minister of Culture spoke to the Elaf internet newspaper stating that ‘the Ministry worked throughout the month of Ramadan on holding a number of activities in line with the holiday spirit, such as Ramadan nights’.

On 23/9/2013, presiding over the Higher Council for Economic and Social Planning, the Syrian Prime Minister asked the Ministry of Culture ‘to make more effort in order to activate the role of cultural centers, spread awareness and enlightened though, and fight against terrorist ideology)’      

Cultural centers consist of the following sections:

  • Cultural guidance: This section is in charge of delivering lectures, conducting seminars, staging exhibitions and displaying films.

  • Library: Each cultural center has a public library and a children's library. Subscription fees are symbolic and the number of books available varies from one center to another.

  • Book selling stand: Book selling stands in all branch cultural centers are authorized to sell books issued by MOC with the following discounts: 40% for the public, 50% for members of the Teachers Union and 55% for journalists and workers in the MOC and its directorates. 

Each center contains a lecture room, cinema, theater, gallery and an internet room. 

Most centers on theprovinces level have mobile cultural units equipped with books and audio-visual equipment to spread knowledge in rural areas.

Despite the resources available in these centers, there was a strong debate about the effectiveness of the activities of these centers and their ability to attract audience and intellectuals.

Most of these centers have shut their doors and the infrastructure of some was damaged as a result of the ongoing events that started in Syria in 2011.

The current Culture Minister Dr. Riad Nasaan Agha also criticized these centers by saying: "The condition of cultural centers is unacceptable and I call upon all governors to come up with initiatives to turn these centers into active places by appointing dynamic directors capable of interacting with intellectuals, writers and various cultural activities".

The persons in charge of these centers on the other hand believe that they are exerting their full efforts to activate the centers but the problem lies in the insufficient funding, double administrative affiliation (Governorate and MOC), dependent decision-making and poor media coverage for  activities.

Chapter published: 09-05-2016