Arts and Culture in the Middle East

Countries in the Middle East face a wide array of challenges in promoting the arts and protecting freedom of expression for artists. RAND's research focuses on policy solutions that may help address these issues and improve the cultural climate for artists and people in the region.

Our Work

  • Damaged artifacts inside the museum of the historic city of Palmyra, Syria, March 27, 2016, photo by SANA/Reuters


    We're Just Beginning to Grasp the Toll of the Islamic State's Archaeological Looting in Syria

    May 15, 2019

    Greenland, et al.

    During the Islamic State's rise, looted artifacts were said to be a significant source of income for the group. But no one had identified the value, using empirical data and systematic calculations, of the artifacts that were known to exist in Syria's archaeological sites. Until now.

  • Children in Baghdad


    Cultural Oasis

    May 24, 2016

    Arabic-language materials targeted to children can be effective in cultivating a well-educated citizenry open to new ideas and capable of challenging the intolerant ideas of others in the Arab world. By capitalizing on the rich cultural resources already being produced in Arabic, these resources can reinforce tolerance, promote new ideas, and support the development of critical thinking.

  • boy watching a graffiti artist in Cairo


    Artists and the Arab Uprisings

    May 28, 2013

    Schwartz, et al.

    Although the Arab uprisings lifted some previous barriers to artistic expression, new limitations and challenges have emerged. What are these challenges, and what are the policy shifts that may be necessary to better support regional artists and their work?

  • U.S. marines climb up to topple a statue of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein at al-Fardous Square in Baghdad, Iraq, April 9, 2003


    Repatriating Part of Saddam Statue Could Promote Democracy

    Jun 7, 2012


    Proactive protection and repatriation of artworks and artifacts can demonstrate our respect for another nation's heritage when the chaos of conflict obscures the value of cultural identity, writes Erik Nemeth.

  • Congressional Briefing Podcast


    Nurturing the Arab Spring: What Can Be Done to Remove Existing Barriers to Freedom of Expression in the Arab World?

    Jun 13, 2011

    In this June 2011 Congressional Briefing, RAND researchers discuss the growing body of creative works produced by Arab authors and artists that counter the intellectual and ideological underpinnings of violent extremism, factors that thwart the distribution of such works, and policy recommendations for overcoming those barriers.

  • Politicized art in Egypt's Tahrir Square on February 9, 2011


    Barriers to the Broad Dissemination of Creative Works in the Arab World

    Sep 22, 2009

    Schwartz, et al.

    Many analysts have examined the media that violent extremists use to communicate their core messages. Far less research, however, has been devoted to the growing body of creative works produced by Arab authors and artists that counter the intellectual and ideological underpinnings of violent extremism.

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