Dating back to the 3rd century BC, Syria is one of the oldest inhabited areas in the world. Modern Syria was created as a French mandate in 1920 and, after 2 decades of revolts, Syria was recognized as an independent republic in 1944.  Independence was followed immediately by 2 decades of political upheaval, during which a series of military coups led to a political takeover by the Baath party and a failed union with Egypt and Iraq. The Baath party has ruled exclusively since then, with power concentrated in the presidency and a core group of military and political loyalists. Despite claims of reform, Syria has a poor record on human rights and civil liberties. The current government has been criticized for imprisoning activists, censoring media, detaining bloggers, and torturing prisoners. It has also been severely criticized for legitimizing discrimination against women and even so-called “honor crimes”.

Syrian Hip Hop has had a harder time than many of its neighboring Arab movements, given the strict restrictions on freedom of speech and the strong resistance to Western cultural influence in Syria. Nevertheless, a few groups have emerged, the most prominent of which is Murder Eyez, from Aleppo, who have been featured on the “Beit Il Hip Hop” mixtape by FredWreck, as well as several collaborations with groups from Lebanon, Egypt, and Palestine, and have performed in Beirut. Another group to recently gain notoriety is Sham MCs, whose self-produced 2009 CD “Crossword” was the first full Syrian rap album to be released and caught the attention of Al Jazeera and Foreign Policy magazine. Still, the most widely-known Syrian rapper is actually a Saudi Arabia-born MC who was raised in Washington DC and now lives in Los Angeles, Omar Offendum. Offendum has collaborated with many of the leading Arab Hip Hop groups as part of the Arab Summit album and has performed and given lectures throughout the world.

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