Cultural rights in the Middle East and North Africa

Art, revolution, and repression

Authored by: Mark LeVine

Routledge Handbook on Human Rights and the Middle East and North Africa

Print publication date:  November  2016
Online publication date:  November  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138807679
eBook ISBN: 9781315750972
Adobe ISBN: 9781317613763


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The dynamics surrounding freedom of cultural and artistic expression are part of a set of intertwined issues related to the place of human rights in contemporary societies in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). This chapter explores the nature and dynamics of cultural and artistic rights in the context of governments’ silencing and censorship of cultural expression and speech more broadly across the MENA. This context brings into play human rights discourses, the constitutional and legal framework in which these rights (and their curtailment) are situated, and finally the specific experiences of some of the region’s most important political and revolutionary artists during the half decade of the ‘Arab Spring era’ (which here includes the Iranian Green movement of 2009 and the Turkish Gezi protests of 2013). More broadly, this chapter recognizes the transformative and even revolutionary potential of art, which is why governments both attempt to instrumentally use it to their benefit and to repress art that challenges its systems of control.

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