by Miriam Cooke
From 1970 until his death in 2000, Hafiz Asad ruled Syria with an iron fist. His regime controlled every aspect of daily life. Seeking to preempt popular unrest, Asad sometimes facilitated the expression of anti-government sentiment by appropriating the work of artists and writers, turning works of protest into official agitprop. Syrian dissidents were forced to negotiate between the desire to genuinely criticize the authoritarian regime, the risk to their own safety and security that such criticism would invite, and the fear that their work would be co-opted as government propaganda, as what miriam cooke calls “commissioned criticism.” In this intimate account of dissidence in Asad’s Syria, cooke describes how intellectuals attempted to navigate between charges of complicity with the state and treason against it.