Coordinates: 35°N 38°E / 35°N 38°E / 35; 38
الجمهورية العربية السورية (Arabic)
al-Jumhūrīyah al-ʻArabīyah as-Sūrīyah
Coat of arms
Anthem: "حماة الديار" (Arabic)
Guardians of the Homeland
and largest city
33°30′N 36°18′E / 33.500°N 36.300°E / 33.500; 36.300
Unitary dominant-party semi-presidential republic
• Prime Minister
• Speaker of the People's Council
• Proclamation of
Arab Kingdom of Syria
8 March 1920
State of Syria
State of Syria established under French Mandate
1 December 1924
Republic established by merger of States of Jabal
Alawites and Syria
• Independence (Joint UN / French Mandate ended)
24 October 1945
• Last French
17 April 1946
Secession from the
28 September 1961
• Ba'ath party
8 March 1963
• Current constitution
27 February 2012
185,180 km2 (71,500 sq mi) (87th)
• Water (%)
• July 2014 estimate
118.3/km2 (306.4/sq mi) (101st)
• Per capita
• Per capita
low · 149th
Syrian pound (SYP)
• Summer (DST)
Drives on the
ISO 3166 code
Syria (Arabic: سوريا Sūriyā), officially known as the Syrian
Republic (Arabic: الجمهورية العربية
السورية al-Jumhūrīyah al-ʻArabīyah as-Sūrīyah), is a
country in Western Asia, bordering
Lebanon and the
to the west,
Turkey to the north,
Iraq to the east,
Jordan to the
Israel to the southwest. The western two-thirds of Syria's
Golan Heights are since 1967 occupied by
Israel and were in 1981
effectively annexed by Israel, whereas the eastern third is
controlled by Syria, with the UNDOF maintaining a buffer zone in
between, to implement the ceasefire of the Purple Line. Israel's 1981
Golan annexation law is not recognised in international law. The UN
Security Council condemned it in Resolution 497 (1981) as “null and
void and without international legal effect.” Since then, General
Assembly resolutions on “The Occupied Syrian Golan” reaffirm the
illegality of Israeli occupation and annexation. Syria's capital
and largest city is Damascus. A country of fertile plains, high
mountains, and deserts,
Syria is home to diverse ethnic and religious
groups, including Syrian Arabs, Greeks, Armenians, Assyrians, Kurds,
Circassians, Mandeans and Turks. Religious groups include
Sunnis, Christians, Alawites, Druze, Isma'ilis, Mandeans, Shiites,
Salafis, Yazidis, and Jews.
Sunni make up the largest religious group
In English, the name "Syria" was formerly synonymous with the Levant
(known in Arabic as al-Sham), while the modern state encompasses the
sites of several ancient kingdoms and empires, including the Eblan
civilization of the 3rd millennium BC. Its capital
Aleppo are among the oldest continuously inhabited cities
in the world. In the
Damascus was the seat of the
Umayyad Caliphate and a provincial capital of the Mamluk Sultanate in
The modern Syrian state was established after the end of centuries of
Ottoman control in
World War I
World War I as a French mandate, and represented
Arab state to emerge from the formerly Ottoman-ruled Arab
Levant. It gained independence as a parliamentary republic on 24
October 1945 when
Syria became a founding member of the United
Nations, an act which legally ended the former French Mandate –
although French troops did not leave the country until April 1946. The
post-independence period was tumultuous, and a large number of
military coups and coup attempts shook the country in the period
1949–71. In 1958,
Syria entered a brief union with
Egypt called the
Arab Republic, which was terminated by the 1961 Syrian coup
Syria came into being in late 1961 after
December 1 constitutional referendum, and was increasingly unstable
until the Ba'athist coup d'état, since which the
Ba'ath Party has
maintained its power.
Syria was under Emergency Law from 1963 to 2011,
effectively suspending most constitutional protections for citizens.
Bashar al-Assad has been president since 2000 and was preceded by his
father Hafez al-Assad, who was in office from 1971 to 2000.
Syria is an unitary republic consisting of 14 governorates and is the
only country that politically espouses Ba'athism. It is a member of
one international organization other than the United Nations, the
Non-Aligned Movement; it has become suspended from the
Arab League on
November 2011 and the Organisation of
Islamic Cooperation, and
self-suspended from the Union for the Mediterranean. Since March
Syria has been embroiled in an armed conflict, with a number of
countries in the region and beyond being involved militarily or
otherwise. As a result, a number of self-proclaimed political entities
have since emerged on Syria′s territory, including the Syrian
Tahrir al-Sham and
Islamic State of
Iraq and the
Syria is ranked last on the Global Peace Index, making it the
most violent country in the world due to the war, although life does
continue on normally for most of its citizens as of December 2017. The
war caused 470,000 victims (February 2016
SCPR estimate), 7.6
million internally displaced people (July 2015
UNHCR estimate) and
over 5 million refugees (July 2017 registered by UNHCR), making
population assessment difficult in recent years.
2.1 Ancient antiquity
2.1.1 Eblaites and Amorites
Arameans and Phoenicians
2.2 Classical antiquity
2.3 Middle Ages
2.3.1 During Muhammad's era
2.3.3 Crusaders, Ayubids, Mamluks and Nizaris
2.4 Ottoman Syria
2.5 French Mandate
2.6 Independent Syrian Republic
2.7 Ba'athist Syria
2.8 Syrian Civil War
4 Politics and government
4.1 Human rights
4.3 Foreign relations
4.3.1 International disputes
4.4 Administrative divisions
4.5 Agrarian reform
4.6 Internet and telecommunications
5.1 Petroleum industry
5.3 Water supply and sanitation
6.1 Ethnic groups
6.4 Largest cities
10 See also
12 Further reading
13 External links
Main article: Name of Syria
Several sources indicate that the name
Syria is derived from the 8th
Luwian term "Sura/i", and the derivative ancient Greek
name: Σύριοι, Sýrioi, or Σύροι, Sýroi, both of which
originally derived from Aššūrāyu (Assyria) in northern
Mesopotamia. However, from the
Seleucid Empire (323–150 BC),
this term was also applied to The Levant, and from this point the
Greeks applied the term without distinction between the Assyrians of
Arameans of the Levant. Mainstream modern
academic opinion strongly favours the argument that the Greek word is
related to the cognate Ἀσσυρία, Assyria, ultimately derived
Akkadian Aššur. The Greek name appears to correspond to
Phoenician ʾšr "Assur", ʾšrym "Assyrians", recorded in the 8th
century BC Çineköy inscription.
The area designated by the word has changed over time. Classically,
Syria lies at the eastern end of the Mediterranean, between
the south and
Asia Minor to the north, stretching inland to include
parts of Iraq, and having an uncertain border to the northeast that
Pliny the Elder
Pliny the Elder describes as including, from west to east, Commagene,
Sophene, and Adiabene.
By Pliny's time, however, this larger
Syria had been divided into a
number of provinces under the
Roman Empire (but politically
independent from each other): Judaea, later renamed Palaestina in AD
135 (the region corresponding to modern-day Israel, the Palestinian
Territories, and Jordan) in the extreme southwest; Phoenice
(established in 194 AD) corresponding to modern Lebanon,
Coele-Syria (or "Hollow Syria") south of the Eleutheris
river, and Iraq.
Main article: History of Syria
Female figurine, 5000 BC. Ancient Orient Museum.
God head, the kingdom of
Yamhad (c. 1600 BC).
Since approximately 10,000 BC,
Syria was one of centers of Neolithic
culture (known as Pre-Pottery
Neolithic A) where agriculture and
cattle breeding appeared for the first time in the world. The
Neolithic period (PPNB) is represented by rectangular houses
Mureybet culture. At the time of the pre-pottery Neolithic, people
used vessels made of stone, gyps and burnt lime (Vaisselle blanche).
Finds of obsidian tools from
Anatolia are evidences of early trade
relations. Cities of
Emar played an important role during
Neolithic and Bronze Age. Archaeologists have demonstrated
that civilization in
Syria was one of the most ancient on earth,
perhaps preceded by only those of Mesopotamia.
Eblaites and Amorites
Ebla royal palace c. 2400 BC
Main articles: Amorite; Ugarit; Ebla; Yamhad; Qatna; and Mari, Syria
The earliest recorded indigenous civilisation in the region was the
Kingdom of Ebla near present-day Idlib, northern Syria. Ebla
appears to have been founded around 3500 BC, and
gradually built its fortune through trade with the
of Sumer, Assyria, and Akkad, as well as with the
Hurrian and Hattian
peoples to the northwest, in
Asia Minor. Gifts from Pharaohs,
found during excavations, confirm Ebla's contact with Egypt.
One of the earliest written texts from
Syria is a trading agreement
Ebla and an ambiguous kingdom called Abarsal
c. 2300 BC. Scholars believe the language of
Ebla to be among
the oldest known written
Semitic languages after Akkadian. Recent
classifications of the
Eblaite language have shown that it was an East
Semitic language, closely related to the
Ebla was weakened by a long war with Mari, and the whole of Syria
became part of the
Akkadian Empire after Sargon of Akkad
and his grandson Naram-Sin's conquests ended Eblan domination over
Syria in the first half of the 23rd century BC.
By the 21st century BC,
Hurrians settled the northern east parts of
Syria while the rest of the region was dominated by the Amorites,
Syria was called the Land of the Amurru (Amorites) by their
Assyro-Babylonian neighbors. The Northwest Semitic language of the
Amorites is the earliest attested of the Canaanite languages. Mari
reemerged during this period, and saw renewed prosperity until
Hammurabi of Babylon.
Ugarit also arose during this time,
circa 1800 BC, close to modern Latakia. Ugaritic was a Semitic
language loosely related to the Canaanite languages, and developed the
Ugaritic alphabet, considered to be the world's earliest known
alphabet. The Ugaritic kingdom survived until its destruction at the
hands of the marauding Indo-European
Sea Peoples in the 12th century
BC in what was known as the Late Bronze Age Collapse which saw similar
kingdoms and states witness the same destruction at the hand of the
Yamhad (modern Aleppo) dominated northern
Syria for two centuries,
Syria was occupied in the 19th and 18th centuries BC
Old Assyrian Empire
Old Assyrian Empire ruled by the
Amorite Dynasty of
Shamshi-Adad I, and by the
Babylonian Empire which was founded by
Yamhad was described in the tablets of Mari as the mightiest
state in the near east and as having more vassals than
Yamhad imposed its authority over Alalakh, Qatna,
Hurrians states and the
Euphrates Valley down to the borders with
Babylon. The army of
Yamhad campaigned as far away as Dēr on the
Elam (modern Iran).
Yamhad was conquered and destroyed,
along with Ebla, by the Indo-European
Asia Minor circa
From this time,
Syria became a battle ground for various foreign
empires, these being the Hittite Empire,
Mitanni Empire, Egyptian
Empire, Middle Assyrian Empire, and to a lesser degree Babylonia. The
Egyptians initially occupied much of the south, while the Hittites,
and the Mitanni, much of the north. However,
Assyria eventually gained
the upper hand, destroying the
Mitanni Empire and annexing huge
swathes of territory previously held by the
Hittites and Babylon.
Arameans and Phoenicians
Main articles: Arameans,
Syro-Hittite states, and Phoenicia
Amrit Phoenician Temple
Tel Halaf dating to the
Aramean kingdom of Bit Bahiani
Around the 14th century BC, various Semitic peoples appeared in the
area, such as the semi-nomadic
Suteans who came into an unsuccessful
Babylonia to the east, and the West Semitic speaking
Arameans who subsumed the earlier Amorites. They too were subjugated
Assyria and the
Hittites for centuries. The Egyptians fought the
Hittites for control over western Syria; the fighting reached its
zenith in 1274 BC with the Battle of Kadesh. The west remained
part of the Hittite empire until its destruction c. 1200 BC, while
Syria largely became part of the Middle Assyrian Empire,
who also annexed much of the west during the reign of Tiglath-Pileser
I 1114–1076 BC.
With the destruction of the
Hittites and the decline of
Assyria in the
late 11th century BC, the
Aramean tribes gained control of much of the
interior, founding states such as Bit Bahiani, Aram-Damascus, Hamath,
Aram-Rehob, Aram-Naharaim, and Luhuti. From this point, the region
became known as
Aramea or Aram. There was also a synthesis between the
Arameans and the remnants of the Indo-European Hittites, with
the founding of a number of
Syro-Hittite states centered in north
central Aram (Syria) and south central
Asia Minor (modern Turkey),
Carchemish and Sam'al.
A Canaanite group known as the
Phoenicians came to dominate the coasts
of Syria, (and also
Lebanon and northern Palestine) from the 13th
century BC, founding city states such as Amrit, Simyra, Arwad, Paltos,
Ramitha and Shuksi. From these coastal regions they eventually spread
their influence throughout the Mediterranean, including building
colonies in Malta, Sicily, the
Iberian peninsula (modern
Portugal), the coasts of North Africa, and most significantly,
founding the major city state of
Carthage (in modern Tunisia) in the
9th century BC which was much later to become the center of a major
empire, rivaling the Roman Empire.
Syria and the entire
Near East and beyond then fell to the vast Neo
Assyrian Empire (911 BC – 605 BC). The Assyrians introduced Imperial
Aramaic as the lingua franca of their empire. This language was to
remain dominant in
Syria and the entire
Near East until after the Arab
Islamic conquest in the 7th and 8th centuries AD, and was to be a
vehicle for the spread of Christianity. The Assyrians named their
Lebanon Eber-Nari. Assyrian domination ended
after the Assyrians greatly weakened themselves in a series of brutal
internal civil wars, followed by an attacking coalition of their
former subject peoples; the Medes, Babylonians, Chaldeans, Persians,
Scythians and Cimmerians. During the fall of Assyria, the Scythians
ravaged and plundered much of Syria. The last stand of the Assyrian
army was at
Carchemish in northern
Syria in 605 BC.
The Assyrian Empire was followed by the Neo-
Babylonian Empire (605 BC
– 539 BC). During this period,
Syria became a battle ground between
Babylonia and another former Assyrian colony, that of Egypt. The
Babylonians, like their Assyrian relations, were victorious over
Main articles: Eber-Nari, Coele-Syria,
Syria (Roman province), and
Ancient city of Palmyra
Zenobia, queen of Palmyra
The Achaemenid Empire, founded by Cyrus the Great, took
Babylonia as part of its hegemony of Southwest
Asia in 539 BC. The
Persians, having spent four centuries under Assyrian rule, retained
Imperial Aramaic as diplomatic language in the
Achaemenid Empire (539
BC- 330 BC), and also the Assyrian name of the satrapy of Aram/Syria
Syria was conquered by the Greek Macedonian Empire, ruled by Alexander
the Great circa 330 BC, and consequently became
of the Greek
Seleucid Empire (323 BC – 64 BC), with the Seleucid
kings styling themselves 'King of Syria' and the city of
its capital starting from 240.
Thus, it was the
Greeks who introduced the name "Syria" to the region.
Originally an Indo-European corruption of "Assyria" in northern
Greeks used this term to describe not only Assyria
itself but also the lands to the west which had for centuries been
under Assyrian dominion. Thus in the
Greco-Roman world both the
Syria and the Assyrians of
Mesopotamia to the east were
referred to as "Syrians" or "Syriacs", despite these being distinct
peoples in their own right, a confusion which would continue into the
modern world. Eventually parts of southern Seleucid
Syria were taken
Hasmoneans upon the slow disintegration of the Hellenistic
Syria briefly came under Armenian control from 83 BC, with the
conquests of the Armenian king Tigranes the Great, who was welcomed as
a savior from the Seleucids and Romans by the Syrian people. However,
Pompey the Great, a general of the
Roman Empire rode to Syria,
captured Antioch, its capital, and turned
Syria into a Roman province
in 64 BC, thus ending the Armenian control over the region which had
lasted two decades.
Syria prospered under Roman rule, being
strategically located on the silk road which gave it massive wealth
and importance, making it the battleground for the rivaling Romans and
Roman Theatre at Bosra
Roman Theatre at Bosra in the province of Arabia, present-day Syria
Temple of Jupiter, Damascus
Palmyra, a rich and sometimes powerful native Aramaic-speaking kingdom
arose in northern
Syria in the 2nd century; the Palmyrene established
a trade network that made the city one of the richest in the Roman
empire. Eventually, in the late 3rd century AD, the Palmyrene king
Odaenathus defeated the Persian emperor
Shapur I and controlled the
entirety of the Roman East while his successor and widow Zenobia
established the Palmyrene Empire, which briefly conquered Egypt,
Syria, Palestine, much of
Asia Minor, Judah and Lebanon, before being
finally brought under Roman control in 273 AD.
Mesopotamian Assyrian kingdom of
areas of north east
Syria between 10 AD and 117 AD, before it was
conquered by Rome.
Aramaic language has been found as far afield as
Hadrians Wall in
Ancient Britain, with inscriptions written by Assyrian and Aramean
soldiers of the Roman Empire.
The ancient city of Apamea, an important commercial centre and one of
Syria's most prosperous cities in classical antiquity
Syria eventually passed from the Romans to the Byzantines,
with the split in the Roman Empire.
The largely Aramaic-speaking population of
Syria during the heyday of
the Byzantine empire was probably not exceeded again until the 19th
century. Prior to the
Islamic Conquest in the 7th century AD, the
bulk of the population were Arameans, but
Syria was also home to Greek
and Roman ruling classes, Assyrians still dwelt in the north east,
Phoenicians along the coasts, and
Jewish and Armenian communities was
also extant in major cities, with
Nabateans and pre-
Ghassanids dwelling in the deserts of southern
Syriac Christianity had taken hold as the major religion,
although others still followed Judaism, Mithraism, Manicheanism,
Canaanite Religion and
Syria's large and prosperous population made
Syria one of the most
important of the Roman and Byzantine provinces, particularly during
the 2nd and 3rd centuries (AD).
Julia Domna, Syrian Roman empress of the Severan dynasty
Syrians held considerable amounts of power during the Severan dynasty.
The matriarch of the family and Empress of Rome as wife of emperor
Septimius Severus was Julia Domna, a Syrian from the city of Emesa
(modern day Homs), whose family held hereditary rights to the
priesthood of the god El-Gabal. Her great nephews, also
Syria, would also become Roman Emperors, the first being Elagabalus
and the second, his cousin Alexander Severus. Another Roman emperor
who was a Syrian was Philip the
Arab (Marcus Julius Philippus), who
was born in Roman Arabia. He was emperor from 244 to 249, and
ruled briefly during the Crisis of the Third Century. During his
reign, he focused on his home town of Philippopolis (modern day
Shahba) and began many construction projects to improve the city, most
of which were halted after his death.
Syria is significant in the history of Christianity; Saulus of Tarsus,
better known as the Apostle Paul, was converted on the Road to
Damascus and emerged as a significant figure in the Christian Church
Antioch in ancient Syria, from which he left on many of his
missionary journeys. (Acts 9:1–43)
During Muhammad's era
Main article: List of battles of Muhammad
Muhammad's first interaction with the people and tribes of
Invasion of Dumatul Jandal in July 626  where he
ordered his followers to invade Duma, because
intelligence that some tribes there were involved in highway robbery
and preparing to attack Medina itself.
William Montgomery Watt
William Montgomery Watt claims that this was the most significant
Muhammad ordered at the time, even though it received
little notice in the primary sources.
Dumat Al-Jandal was 800
kilometres (500 mi) from Medina, and Watt says that there was no
immediate threat to Muhammad, other than the possibility that his
Syria and supplies to Medina being interrupted. Watt
says "It is tempting to suppose that
Muhammad was already envisaging
something of the expansion which took place after his death", and that
the rapid march of his troops must have "impressed all those who heard
William Muir also believes that the expedition was important as
Muhammad followed by 1000 men reached the confines of Syria, where
distant tribes had now learnt his name, while the political horizon of
Muhammad was extended.
Main article: Bilad al-Sham
Umayyad fresco from Qasr al-Hayr al-Gharbî, built in the early 7th
By AD 640,
Syria was conquered by the
Rashidun army led by Khalid
ibn al-Walid. In the mid-7th century, the Umayyad dynasty, then rulers
of the empire, placed the capital of the empire in Damascus. The
country's power declined during later Umayyad rule; this was mainly
due to totalitarianism, corruption and the resulting revolutions. The
Umayyad dynasty was then overthrown in 750 by the Abbasid dynasty,
which moved the capital of empire to Baghdad.
Arabic – made official under Umayyad rule – became the dominant
language, replacing Greek and
Aramaic of the Byzantine era. In 887,
Syria from the Abbasids, and were
later replaced by once the Egypt-based Ikhshidids and still later by
the Hamdanids originating in
Aleppo founded by Sayf al-Dawla.
Crusaders, Ayubids, Mamluks and Nizaris
The 1299 Battle of Wadi al-Khazandar. The
Mongols under Ghazan
defeated the Mamluks.
Syria were held by French, English, Italian and German
overlords between 1098 and 1189 AD during the
Crusades and were known
collectively as the
Crusader states among which the primary one in
Syria was the Principality of Antioch. The coastal mountainous region
was also occupied in part by the Nizari Ismailis, the so-called
Assassins, who had intermittent confrontations and truces with the
Crusader States. Later in history when "the
Nizaris faced renewed
Frankish hostilities, they received timely assistance from the
After a century of Seljuk rule,
Syria was largely conquered
(1175–1185) by the Kurdish warlord Saladin, founder of the Ayyubid
dynasty of Egypt.
Aleppo fell to the
Hulegu in January
Damascus in March, but then
Hulegu was forced to break off
his attack to return to
China to deal with a succession dispute.
A few months later, the Mamluks arrived with an army from
Mongols in the
Battle of Ain Jalut
Battle of Ain Jalut in Galilee. The Mamluk
leader, Baibars, made
Damascus a provincial capital. When he died,
power was taken by Qalawun. In the meantime, an emir named Sunqur
al-Ashqar had tried to declare himself ruler of Damascus, but he was
Qalawun on 21 June 1280, and fled to northern Syria.
Al-Ashqar, who had married a Mongol woman, appealed for help from the
Mongols of the
Ilkhanate took the city, but Qalawun
persuaded Al-Ashqar to join him, and they fought against the Mongols
on 29 October 1281, in the Second Battle of Homs, which was won by the
In 1400, the
Timur Lenk (Tamurlane)
invaded Syria, sacked
Aleppo and captured
Damascus after defeating the
Mamluk army. The city's inhabitants were massacred, except for the
artisans, who were deported to Samarkand. Timur-Lenk also conducted
specific massacres of the
Aramean and Assyrian Christian populations,
greatly reducing their numbers. By the end of the 15th
century, the discovery of a sea route from Europe to the Far East
ended the need for an overland trade route through Syria.
1803 Cedid Atlas, showing
Ottoman Syria labelled as "Al Sham" in
Main article: Ottoman Syria
Syrian women, 1683
In 1516, the
Ottoman Empire invaded the Mamluk Sultanate of Egypt,
conquering Syria, and incorporating it into its empire. The Ottoman
system was not burdensome to
Syrians because the Turks respected
Arabic as the language of the Quran, and accepted the mantle of
defenders of the faith.
Damascus was made the major entrepot for
Mecca, and as such it acquired a holy character to Muslims, because of
the beneficial results of the countless pilgrims who passed through on
the hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca.
Ottoman administration followed a system that led to peaceful
coexistence. Each ethno-religious minority –
Arab Shia Muslim, Arab
Sunni Muslim, Aramean-Syriac Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, Maronite
Christians, Assyrian Christians, Armenians,
constituted a millet. The religious heads of each community
administered all personal status laws and performed certain civil
functions as well. In 1831, Ibrahim Pasha of
Egypt renounced his
loyalty to the Empire and overran Ottoman Syria, capturing Damascus.
His short-term rule over the domain attempted to change the
demographics and social structure of the region: he brought thousands
of Egyptian villagers to populate the plains of Southern Syria,
Jaffa and settled it with veteran Egyptian soldiers aiming to
turn it into a regional capital, and he crushed peasant and Druze
rebellions and deported non-loyal tribesmen. By 1840, however, he had
to surrender the area back to the Ottomans.
Tanzimat reforms were applied on Ottoman Syria, carving out
the provinces (vilayets) of Aleppo, Zor, Beirut and
Mutasarrifate of Mount
Lebanon was created, as well, and soon after
Mutasarrifate of Jerusalem
Mutasarrifate of Jerusalem was given a separate status.
Deportees of the
Armenian Genocide of 1915
During World War I, the
Ottoman Empire entered the conflict on the
side of Germany and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It ultimately
suffered defeat and loss of control of the entire
Near East to the
British Empire and French Empire. During the conflict, genocide
against indigenous Christian peoples was carried out by the Ottomans
and their allies in the form of the
Armenian Genocide and Assyrian
Genocide, of which Deir ez-Zor, in Ottoman Syria, was the final
destination of these death marches. In the midst of World War I,
two Allied diplomats (Frenchman
François Georges-Picot and Briton
Mark Sykes) secretly agreed on the post-war division of the Ottoman
Empire into respective zones of influence in the Sykes-Picot Agreement
of 1916. Initially, the two territories were separated by a border
that ran in an almost straight line from
Jordan to Iran. However, the
discovery of oil in the region of
Mosul just before the end of the war
led to yet another negotiation with
France in 1918 to cede this region
to 'Zone B', or the British zone of influence. This border was later
recognized internationally when
Syria became a League of Nations
mandate in 1920 and has not changed to date.
Main article: French Mandate for
Syria and Lebanon
The inauguration of President
Hashim al-Atassi in 1936
In 1920, a short-lived independent
Kingdom of Syria
Kingdom of Syria was established
Faisal I of the
Hashemite family. However, his rule over Syria
ended after only a few months, following the Battle of Maysalun.
French troops occupied
Syria later that year after the San Remo
conference proposed that the
League of Nations
League of Nations put
Syria under a
French mandate. General Gouraud had according to his secretary de Caix
two options: "Either build a Syrian nation that does not exist... by
smoothing the rifts which still divide it" or "cultivate and maintain
all the phenomena, which require our abitration that these divisions
give". De Caix added "I must say only the second option interests me".
This is what Gouraud did.
Syrian rebels in Ghouta during the
Great Syrian Revolt
Great Syrian Revolt against French
colonial rule in the 1920s
Sultan al-Atrash led a revolt that broke out in the Druze
Mountain and spread to engulf the whole of
Syria and parts of Lebanon.
Al-Atrash won several battles against the French, notably the Battle
of al-Kafr on 21 July 1925, the
Battle of al-Mazraa
Battle of al-Mazraa on 2–3 August
1925, and the battles of Salkhad, al-Musayfirah and Suwayda. France
sent thousands of troops from
Morocco and Senegal, leading the French
to regain many cities, although resistance lasted until the spring of
1927. The French sentenced
Sultan al-Atrash to death, but he had
escaped with the rebels to Transjordan and was eventually pardoned. He
Syria in 1937 after the signing of the Syrian-French
France negotiated a treaty of independence in September
Hashim al-Atassi was the first president to be elected under
the first incarnation of the modern republic of Syria. However, the
treaty never came into force because the French Legislature refused to
ratify it. With the fall of
France in 1940 during World War II, Syria
came under the control of
Vichy France until the British and Free
French occupied the country in the Syria-
Lebanon campaign in July
1941. Continuing pressure from Syrian nationalists and the British
forced the French to evacuate their troops in April 1946, leaving the
country in the hands of a republican government that had been formed
during the mandate.
Independent Syrian Republic
Main articles: Syrian
Republic (1930–58), United
Arab Republic, and
1963 Syrian coup d'état
Aleppo in 1961
Upheaval dominated Syrian politics from independence through the late
1960s. In May 1948, Syrian forces invaded Palestine, together with
Arab states, and immediately attacked
Shukri al-Quwwatli instructed his troops in the front,
“to destroy the Zionists". The Invasion purpose was
prevention of the establishment of the State of Israel. Defeat in
this war was one of several trigger factors for the March 1949 Syrian
coup d'état by Col. Husni al-Za'im, described as the first military
overthrow of the
Arab World since the start of the Second World
War. This was soon followed by another overthrow, by Col. Sami
al-Hinnawi, who was himself quickly deposed by Col. Adib Shishakli,
all within the same year.
Shishakli eventually abolished multipartyism altogether, but was
himself overthrown in a 1954 coup and the parliamentary system was
restored. However, by this time, power was increasingly
concentrated in the military and security establishment. The
weakness of Parliamentary institutions and the mismanagement of the
economy led to unrest and the influence of
Nasserism and other
ideologies. There was fertile ground for various
Syrian nationalist, and socialist movements, which represented
disaffected elements of society. Notably included were religious
minorities, who demanded radical reform.
In November 1956, as a direct result of the Suez Crisis, Syria
signed a pact with the Soviet Union. This gave a foothold for
Communist influence within the government in exchange for military
Turkey then became worried about this increase in the
strength of Syrian military technology, as it seemed feasible that
Syria might attempt to retake İskenderun. Only heated debates in the
United Nations lessened the threat of war.
On 1 February 1958, Syrian President
Shukri al-Quwatli and Egypt's
Nasser announced the merging of
Egypt and Syria, creating the United
Arab Republic, and all Syrian political parties, as well as the
communists therein, ceased overt activities. Meanwhile, a group of
Syrian Ba'athist officers, alarmed by the party's poor position and
the increasing fragility of the union, decided to form a secret
Military Committee; its initial members were Lieutenant-Colonel
Muhammad Umran, Major
Salah Jadid and Captain Hafez al-Assad. Syria
seceded from the union with
Egypt on 28 September 1961, after a coup.
Hafez al-Assad greets
Richard Nixon on his arrival at
The ensuing instability, following the 1961 coup culminated in the 8
March 1963 Ba'athist coup. The takeover was engineered by members of
Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party, led by
Michel Aflaq and Salah al-Din
al-Bitar. The new Syrian cabinet was dominated by Ba'ath
On 23 February 1966, the Military Committee carried out an intra-party
overthrow, imprisoned President
Amin Hafiz and designated a
regionalist, civilian Ba'ath government on 1 March. Although
Nureddin al-Atassi became the formal head of state,
Salah Jadid was
Syria's effective ruler from 1966 until November 1970, when he was
deposed by Hafez al-Assad, who at the time was Minister of
Defense. The coup led to a split within the original pan-Arab
Ba'ath Party: one Iraqi-led ba'ath movement (ruled
Iraq from 1968 to
2003) and one Syrian-led ba'ath movement was established.
In the first half of 1967, a low-key state of war existed between
Syria and Israel. Conflict over Israeli cultivation of land in the
Demilitarized Zone led to 7 April pre-war aerial clashes between
Israel and Syria. When the
Six-Day War broke out between
Syria joined the war and attacked
Israel as well. In the final
days of the war,
Israel turned its attention to Syria, capturing
two-thirds of the
Golan Heights in under 48 hours. The defeat
caused a split between Jadid and Assad over what steps to take
Quneitra village, largely destroyed before the Israeli withdrawal in
Disagreement developed between Jadid, who controlled the party
apparatus, and Assad, who controlled the military. The 1970 retreat of
Syrian forces sent to aid the
PLO during the "Black September"
Jordan reflected this disagreement. The power
struggle culminated in the November 1970 Syrian Corrective Revolution,
a bloodless military overthrow that installed
Hafez al-Assad as the
strongman of the government.
On 6 October 1973,
Egypt initiated the Yom Kippur War
against Israel. The
Israel Defense Forces reversed the initial Syrian
gains and pushed deeper into Syrian territory.
In early 1976,
Syria entered Lebanon, beginning the thirty-year Syrian
military occupation. Over the following 15 years of civil war, Syria
fought for control over Lebanon.
Syria then remained in
Dmitry Medvedev arriving in
Damascus in May 2010
In the late 1970s, an
Islamist uprising by the
Muslim Brotherhood was
aimed against the government. Islamists attacked civilians and
off-duty military personnel, leading security forces to also kill
civilians in retaliatory strikes. The uprising had reached its climax
in the 1982
Hama massacre, when some 10,000 – 40,000 people were
killed by regular
Syrian Army troops.
In a major shift in relations with both other
Arab states and the
Syria participated in the US-led
Gulf War against
Syria participated in the multilateral Madrid
Conference of 1991, and during the 1990s engaged in negotiations with
Israel. These negotiations failed, and there have been no further
direct Syrian-Israeli talks since President Hafez al-Assad's meeting
with then President
Bill Clinton in Geneva in March 2000.
Military situation in the
Syrian Civil War
Syrian Civil War as of
000000002018-01-22-0000January 22, 2018.
Controlled by Syrian
Controlled by North
Syria Federation (SDF)
Controlled by the
Syrian opposition and Ahrar al-Sham
Turkey and TFSA
Controlled by the
Islamic State (ISIL)
Tahrir al-Sham (al-Nusra)
(For a more detailed, up-to-date, interactive map, see Template:Syrian
Civil War detailed map.)
Hafez al-Assad died on 10 June 2000. His son, Bashar al-Assad, was
elected President in an election in which he ran unopposed. His
election saw the birth of the
Damascus Spring and hopes of reform, but
by autumn 2001, the authorities had suppressed the movement,
imprisoning some of its leading intellectuals. Instead, reforms
have been limited to some market reforms.
On 5 October 2003,
Israel bombed a site near Damascus, claiming it was
a terrorist training facility for members of
Islamic Jihad. In
March 2004, Syrian
Arabs clashed in the northeastern city of
al-Qamishli. Signs of rioting were seen in the cities of
Hasakeh. In 2005,
Syria ended its occupation of Lebanon. On 6
September 2007, foreign jet fighters, suspected as Israeli, reportedly
Operation Orchard against a suspected nuclear reactor
under construction by North Korean technicians.
Syrian Civil War
Main article: Syrian Civil War
Syrian Civil War
Syrian Civil War was inspired by the
revolutions. It began in 2011 as a chain of peaceful protests,
followed by a crackdown by the Syrian Army. In July 2011, Army
defectors declared the formation of the Free
Syrian Army and began
forming fighting units. The opposition is dominated by
whereas the leading government figures are generally associated with
Alawites. According to various sources, including the United
Nations, up to 100,000 people had been killed by June
2013, including 11,000 children. To escape the
violence, 4.9 million Syrian refugees have fled to neighboring
countries of Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon, and Turkey. An
estimated 450,000 Syrian Christians have fled their homes.[needs
update] By October 2017, an estimated 400,000 people had been killed
in the war according to the UN.
In an effort to restore law and order, the Russian Federation army
claims to have "signed agreements with some 1,571 representatives of
the inhabited areas in Syria," where they have agreed to cease all
hostilities against the Syrian government. In addition, some 219
Syria who had formerly been suspected by the government of
involvement in armed resistance have agreed to the terms of a
Main article: Geography of Syria
Syria map of Köppen climate classification.
Mediterranean Sea, as viewed from the coastal city of Latakia
Syria lies between latitudes 32° and 38° N, and longitudes 35° and
43° E. It consists mostly of arid plateau, although the northwest
part of the country bordering the
Mediterranean is fairly green. The
Northeast of the country "al-Jazira" and the South "Hawran" are
important agricultural areas. The Euphrates, Syria's most
important river, crosses the country in the east. It is considered to
be one of the fifteen states that comprise the so-called "Cradle of
civilization". Its land straddles the "northwest of the Arabian
The climate in
Syria is dry and hot, and winters are mild. Because of
the country's elevation, snowfall does occasionally occur during
winter. Petroleum in commercial quantities was first discovered
in the northeast in 1956. The most important oil fields are those of
Suwaydiyah, Qaratshui, Rumayian, and Tayyem, near Dayr az–Zawr. The
fields are a natural extension of the Iraqi fields of
Kirkuk. Petroleum became Syria's leading natural resource and chief
export after 1974. Natural gas was discovered at the field of Jbessa
Panoramic view of Ayn al-Bayda, Latakia, a village in Northern Syria.
Politics and government
Main article: Politics of Syria
See also: Syrian Civil War
The Syrian Parliament in the mid-20th century
Syria is formally a unitary republic. The constitution adopted in 2012
Syria into a semi-presidential republic due to
the constitutional right for the election of individuals who do not
form part of the National Progressive Front. The President is
Head of State
Head of State and the Prime Minister is Head of Government. The
legislature, the Peoples Council, is the body responsible for passing
laws, approving government appropriations and debating policy. In
the event of a vote of no confidence by a simple majority, the Prime
Minister is required to tender the resignation of their government to
The executive branch consists of the president, two vice presidents,
the prime minister, and the Council of Ministers (cabinet). The
constitution requires the president to be a Muslim but does not
Islam the state religion. On 31 January 1973, Hafez al-Assad
implemented a new constitution, which led to a national crisis. Unlike
previous constitutions, this one did not require that the President of
Syria be a Muslim, leading to fierce demonstrations in Hama,
Aleppo organized by the
Muslim Brotherhood and the ulama. They
labelled Assad the "enemy of Allah" and called for a jihad against his
rule. The government survived a series of armed revolts by
Islamists, mainly members of the
Muslim Brotherhood, from 1976 until
The constitution gives the president the right to appoint ministers,
to declare war and state of emergency, to issue laws (which, except in
the case of emergency, require ratification by the People's Council),
to declare amnesty, to amend the constitution, and to appoint civil
servants and military personnel. According to the 2012
constitution, the president is elected by Syrian citizens in a direct
Syria's legislative branch is the unicameral People's Council. Under
the previous constitution,
Syria did not hold multi-party elections
for the legislature, with two-thirds of the seats automatically
allocated to the ruling coalition. On 7 May 2012,
Syria held its
first elections in which parties outside the ruling coalition could
take part. Seven new political parties took part in the elections, of
Popular Front for Change and Liberation
Popular Front for Change and Liberation was the largest
opposition party. The armed anti-government rebels, however, chose not
to field candidates and called on their supporters to boycott the
The President is currently the Regional Secretary of the Ba'ath party
Syria and leader of the National Progressive Front governing
coalition. Outside of the coalition are 14 illegal Kurdish political
Syria's current president,
Bashar al-Assad and first lady Asma
al-Assad in Moscow, 2005
Current speaker of the People's Council of Syria, the Syrian Orthodox
Hammouda Sabbagh meeting with his Iranian counterpart
Syria's judicial branches include the Supreme Constitutional Court,
the High Judicial Council, the Court of Cassation, and the State
Islamic jurisprudence is a main source of legislation
and Syria's judicial system has elements of Ottoman, French, and
Syria has three levels of courts: courts of first
instance, courts of appeals, and the constitutional court, the highest
tribunal. Religious courts handle questions of personal and family
law. The Supreme State Security Court (SSSC) was abolished by
Bashar al-Assad by legislative decree No. 53 on 21 April
The Personal Status Law 59 of 1953 (amended by Law 34 of 1975) is
essentially a codified sharia. Article 3(2) of the 1973
Islamic jurisprudence a main source of
legislation. The Code of Personal Status is applied to Muslims by
As a result of the ongoing civil war, various alternative governments
were formed, including the Syrian Interim Government, the Democratic
Union Party and localised regions governed by sharia law.
Representatives of the Syrian Interim government were invited to take
up Syria's seat at the
Arab League on 28 March 2013 and was
recognised as the "sole representative of the Syrian people" by
several nations including the United States,
United Kingdom and
Parliamentary elections were held on 13 April 2016 in the
government-controlled areas of Syria, for all 250 seats of Syria's
unicameral legislature, the Majlis al-Sha'ab, or the People's Council
of Syria. Even before results had been announced, several
nations, including Germany, the United States and the United Kingdom,
have declared their refusal to accept the results, largely citing it
"not representing the will of the Syrian people. However,
representatives of the Russian Federation have voiced their support of
this election's results. Syria's system of government is considered to
be non-democratic by the North American NGO Freedom House.
Main article: Human rights in Syria
Wounded civilians arrive at a hospital in Aleppo, October 2012
The situation for human rights in
Syria has long been a significant
concern among independent organizations such as Human Rights Watch,
who in 2010 referred to the country's record as "among the worst in
the world." The US State Department funded Freedom House
Syria "Not Free" in its annual Freedom in the World
The authorities are accused of arresting democracy and human rights
activists, censoring websites, detaining bloggers, and imposing travel
bans. Arbitrary detention, torture, and disappearances are
widespread. Although Syria's constitution guarantees gender
equality, critics say that personal statutes laws and the penal code
discriminate against women and girls. Moreover, it also grants
leniency for so-called 'Honour killing'. As of 9 November 2011
during the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad, the United
Nations reported that of the over 3500 total deaths, over 250 deaths
were children as young as 2 years old, and that boys as young as 11
years old have been gang raped by security services
officers. People opposing President Assad's rule claim that
more than 200, mostly civilians, were massacred and about 300 injured
Hama in shelling by the Government forces on 12 July 2012.
In August 2013, the government was suspected of using chemical weapons
against its civilians. US Secretary of State
John Kerry said it was
"undeniable" that chemical weapons had been used in the country and
that President Bashar al-Assad's forces had committed a "moral
obscenity" against his own people. "Make no mistake," Kerry said.
"President Obama believes there must be accountability for those who
would use the world's most heinous weapon against the world's most
vulnerable people. Nothing today is more serious, and nothing is
receiving more serious scrutiny".
The Emergency Law, effectively suspending most constitutional
protections, was in effect from 1963 until 21 April 2011. It was
justified by the government in the light of the continuing war with
Israel over the Golan Heights.
In August 2014, UN Human Rights chief
Navi Pillay criticized the
international community over its "paralysis" in dealing with the more
than 3-year-old civil war gripping the country, which by 30 April
2014, had resulted in 191,369 deaths with war crimes, according to
Pillay, being committed with total impunity on all sides in the
Alawites and Christians are being increasingly
targeted by Islamists and other groups fighting in the Syrian civil
In April 2017, the U.S. Navy carried out a missile attack against a
Syrian air base which had allegedly been used to conduct a
chemical weapons attack on Syrian civilians, according to the US
Main article: Syrian Armed Forces
Syrian soldier wearing a Soviet-made Model ShMS
nuclear-biological-chemical warfare mask aiming a Chinese Type-56
automatic assault rifle
President of Syria
President of Syria is commander in chief of the Syrian armed
forces, comprising some 400,000 troops upon mobilization. The military
is a conscripted force; males serve in the military upon reaching the
age of 18. The obligatory military service period is being
decreased over time, in 2005 from two and a half years to two years,
in 2008 to 21 months and in 2011 to year and a half. About 20,000
Syrian soldiers were deployed in
Lebanon until 27 April 2005, when the
last of Syria's troops left the country after three decades.
The breakup of the Soviet Union—long the principal source of
training, material, and credit for the Syrian forces—may have slowed
Syria's ability to acquire modern military equipment. It has an
arsenal of surface-to-surface missiles. In the early 1990s, Scud-C
missiles with a 500-kilometre (310-mile) range were procured from
North Korea, and Scud-D, with a range of up to 700 kilometres (430
miles), is allegedly being developed by
Syria with the help of North
Korea and Iran, according to Zisser.
Syria received significant financial aid from
Arab states of the
Persian Gulf as a result of its participation in the Persian Gulf War,
with a sizable portion of these funds earmarked for military spending.
Main article: Foreign relations of Syria
Diplomatic missions of Syria
Ensuring national security, increasing influence among its Arab
neighbors, and securing the return of the Golan Heights, have been the
primary goals of Syria's foreign policy. At many points in its
Syria has seen virulent tension with its geographically
cultural neighbors, such as Turkey, Israel, Iraq, and Lebanon. Syria
enjoyed an improvement in relations with several of the states in its
region in the 21st century, prior to the
Arab Spring and the Syrian
Since the ongoing civil war of 2011, and associated killings and human
Syria has been increasingly isolated from the countries
in the region, and the wider international community. Diplomatic
relations have been severed with several countries including: Britain,
Canada, France, Italy, Germany, Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, the United
States, Belgium, Spain, and the
Arab states of the Persian Gulf.
Map of world and
Syria (red) with military involvement.
Countries that support the Syrian government
Countries that support the Syrian rebels
Syria continues to maintain diplomatic relations
with Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon,
Sudan and Yemen. Syria's violence
against civilians has also seen it suspended from the
Arab League and
Organisation of Islamic Cooperation
Organisation of Islamic Cooperation in 2012.
Syria continues to
foster good relations with its traditional allies,
Iran and Russia,
who are among the few countries which have supported the Syrian
government in its conflict with the Syrian opposition.
Syria is included in the European Union's European Neighbourhood
Policy (ENP) which aims at bringing the EU and its neighbours closer.
In 1939, while
Syria was still a French mandate the French ceded the
Sanjak of Alexandretta
Sanjak of Alexandretta to
Turkey as part of a treaty of friendship in
World War II. In order to facilitate this, a faulty election was done
in which ethnic Turks who were originally from the Sanjak but lived in
Adana and other areas near the border in
Turkey came to vote in the
elections, shifting the election in favor of secession. Through this,
Hatay Province of
Turkey was formed. The move by the French was
very controversial in Syria, and only 5 years later
Israel unilaterally and illegally annexed the western two thirds of
Golan Heights in 1981, although the Syrian government continues to
demand the return of this territory. The only remaining land
in the Golan is a strip of territory which contains the abandoned city
of Quneitra, the governorate's de facto capital
Madinat al-Baath and
many small villages, mostly populated by
Circassians such as Beer Ajam
The Syrian occupation of
Lebanon began in 1976 as a result of the
civil war and ended in April 2006 in response to domestic and
international pressure after the assassination of former Lebanese
Prime Minister, Rafik Hariri.
Another disputed territory is the Shebaa farms, located in the
intersection of the
Lebanese-Syrian border and the Israeli occupied
Golan Heights. The farms, which are 11 km long and about 3
kilometers wide were occupied by
Israel in 1981, along with rest of
the Golan Heights. Yet following Syrian army advances the Israeli
occupation ended and
Syria became the de facto ruling power over the
farms. Yet after Israeli withdrawal from
Lebanon in 2000, Hezbollah
claimed that the withdrawal was not complete because Shebaa was on
Lebanese – not Syrian – territory. After studying 81
different maps, the
United Nations concluded that there is no evidence
of the abandoned farmlands being Lebanese. Nevertheless, Lebanon
has continued to claim ownership of the territory.
Governorates of Syria
Governorates of Syria and Districts of Syria
Syria is divided into 14 governorates, which are sub-divided into 61
districts, which are further divided into sub-districts.
Governorates of Syria
Agrarian reform measures were introduced into
Syria which consisted of
three interrelated programs: Legislation regulation the relationship
between agriculture laborers and landowners: legislation governing the
ownership and use of private and state domain land and directing the
economic organization of peasants; and measures reorganizing
agricultural production under state control. Despite high levels
of inequality in land ownership these reforms allowed for progress in
redistribution of land from 1958 to 1961 than any other reforms in
Syria's history, since independence.
The first law passed (Law 134; passed 4 September 1958) in response to
concern about peasant mobilization and expanding peasants'
rights. This was designed to strengthen the position of
sharecroppers and agricultural laborers in relation to land
owners. This law lead to the creation of the Ministry of Labor
and Social Affairs, which announced the implementation of new laws
that would allow the regulation of working condition especially for
women and adolescents, set hours of work, and introduce the principle
of minimum wage for paid laborers and an equitable division of harvest
for sharecroppers. Furthermore, it obligated landlords to honor
both written and oral contracts, established collective barging,
contained provisions for workers' compensation, health, housing, and
employment services. Law 134 was not designed strictly to protect
workers. It also acknowledged the rights of landlords to form their
Internet and telecommunications
Telecommunications in Syria are overseen by the Ministry of
Communications and Technology. In addition,
Syrian Telecom plays
an integral role in the distribution of government internet
Syrian Electronic Army
Syrian Electronic Army serves as a pro-government
military faction in cyberspace and has been long considered an enemy
of the hacktivist group Anonymous. Because of internet censorship
laws, 13,000 internet activists have been arrested between March 2011
and August 2012.
Main article: Economy of Syria
See also: Tourism in Syria
Syria Export Treemap
Syria Export Treemap by Product (2014) from Harvard Atlas of Economic
As of 2015[update], the Syrian economy relies upon inherently
unreliable revenue sources such as dwindling customs and income taxes
which are heavily bolstered by lines of credit from Iran.
believed to spend between $6 billion and $20 billion USD a year on
Syria during the Syrian Civil War. The Syrian economy has
contracted 60% and the
Syrian pound has lost 80% of its value, with
the economy becoming part state-owned and part war economy. At
the outset of the ongoing Syrian Civil War,
Syria was classified by
World Bank as a "lower middle income country." In 2010, Syria
remained dependent on the oil and agriculture sectors. The oil
sector provided about 40% of export earnings. Proven offshore
expeditions have indicated that large sums of oil exist on the
Mediterranean Sea floor between
Syria and Cyprus. The agriculture
sector contributes to about 20% of GDP and 20% of employment. Oil
reserves are expected to decrease in the coming years and
already become a net oil importer. Since the civil war began, the
economy shrank by 35%, and the
Syrian pound has fallen to one-sixth of
its prewar value. The government increasingly relies on credit
Russia and China.
Olive groves in Western-Syria,
The economy is highly regulated by the government, which has increased
subsidies and tightened trade controls to assuage protesters and
protect foreign currency reserves. Long-run economic constraints
include foreign trade barriers, declining oil production, high
unemployment, rising budget deficits, and increasing pressure on water
supplies caused by heavy use in agriculture, rapid population growth,
industrial expansion, and water pollution. The
UNDP announced in
2005 that 30% of the Syrian population lives in poverty and 11.4% live
below the subsistence level.
Syria's share in global exports has eroded gradually since 2001.
The real per capita GDP growth was just 2.5% per year in the
2000–2008 period. Unemployment is high at above 10%. Poverty
rates have increased from 11% in 2004 to 12.3% in 2007. In 2007,
Syria's main exports include crude oil, refined products, raw cotton,
clothing, fruits, and grains. The bulk of Syrian imports are raw
materials essential for industry, vehicles, agricultural equipment,
and heavy machinery. Earnings from oil exports as well as remittances
from Syrian workers are the government's most important sources of
Al-Hamidiyah Souq in
Damascus in 2010
A beach in
Latakia in 2014
Political instability poses a significant threat to future economic
development. Foreign investment is constrained by violence,
government restrictions, economic sanctions, and international
isolation. Syria's economy also remains hobbled by state bureaucracy,
falling oil production, rising budget deficits, and inflation.
Prior to the civil war in 2011, the government hoped to attract new
investment in the tourism, natural gas, and service sectors to
diversify its economy and reduce its dependence on oil and
agriculture. The government began to institute economic reforms aimed
at liberalizing most markets, but those reforms were slow and ad hoc,
and have been completely reversed since the outbreak of conflict in
As of 2012[update], because of the ongoing Syrian civil war, the value
of Syria's overall exports has been slashed by two-thirds, from the
figure of US$12 billion in 2010 to only US$4 billion in 2012.
Syria's GDP declined by over 3% in 2011, and is expected to
further decline by 20% in 2012.
As of 2012[update], Syria's oil and tourism industries in particular
have been devastated, with US$5 billion lost to the ongoing conflict
of the civil war. Reconstruction needed because of the ongoing
civil war will cost as much as US$10 billion. Sanctions have
sapped the government's finance. US and European Union bans on oil
imports, which went into effect in 2012, are estimated to cost Syria
about $400 million a month.
Revenues from tourism have dropped dramatically, with hotel occupancy
rates falling from 90% before the war to less than 15% in May
2012. Around 40% of all employees in the tourism sector have lost
their jobs since the beginning of the war.
In May 2015,
ISIS captured Syria's phosphate mines, one of the Syrian
governments last chief sources of income. The following month,
ISIS blew up a gas pipeline to
Damascus that was used to generate
heating and electricity in
Damascus and Homs; "the name of its game
for now is denial of key resources to the regime" an analyst
stated. In addition,
ISIS is closing in on Shaer gas field and
three other facilities in the area—Hayan, Jihar and Ebla—with the
loss of these western gas fields having the potential to cause
further subsidize the Syrian government.
Oil refinery in Homs
Syria's petroleum industry has been subject to sharp decline. In
ISIS was producing more oil than the government at
80,000 bbl/d (13,000 m3/d) compared to the government's
17,000 bbl/d (2,700 m3/d) with the Syrian Oil Ministry
stating that by the end of 2014, oil production had plunged further to
9,329 bbl/d (1,483.2 m3/d);
ISIS has since captured a
further oil field, leading to a projected oil production of
6,829 bbl/d (1,085.7 m3/d). In the third year of the
Syrian Civil War, the deputy economy minister Salman Hayan stated that
Syria's two main oil refineries were operating at less than 10%
Historically, the country produced heavy-grade oil from fields located
in the northeast since the late 1960s. In the early 1980s,
light-grade, low-sulphur oil was discovered near
Deir ez-Zor in
eastern Syria. Syria's rate of oil production has decreased
dramatically from a peak close to 600,000 barrels per day
(95,000 m3/d) (bpd) in 1995 down to less than 182,500 bbl/d
(29,020 m3/d) in 2012. Since 2012 the production has
decreased even more, reaching in 2014 32,000 barrels per day
(5,100 m3/d) (bpd). Official figures quantity the production in
2015 at 27,000 barrels per day (4,300 m3/d), but those figures
have to be taken with precaution because it is difficult to estimate
the oil that is currently produced in the rebel held areas.
Prior to the uprising, more than 90% of Syrian oil exports were to EU
countries, with the remainder going to Turkey. Oil and gas
revenues constituted in 2012 around 20% of total GDP and 25% of total
Expressway M5 near Al-Rastan
Main article: Transport in Syria
Syria has four international airports (Damascus, Aleppo, Lattakia and
Kamishly), which serve as hubs for
Syrian Air and are also served by a
variety of foreign carriers.
The majority of Syrian cargo is carried by
Syrian Railways (the Syrian
railway company), which links up with
Turkish State Railways
Turkish State Railways (the
Turkish counterpart). For a relatively underdeveloped country, Syria's
railway infrastructure is well maintained with many express services
and modern trains.
The road network in
Syria is 69,873 kilometres (43,417 miles) long,
including 1,103 kilometres (685 miles) of expressways. The country
also has 900 kilometres (560 miles) of navigable but not economically
Water supply and sanitation
Main article: Water supply and sanitation in Syria
Syria is a semiarid country with scarce water resources. The largest
water consuming sector in
Syria is agriculture. Domestic water use
stands at only about 9% of total water use. A big challenge for
Syria is its high population growth with a rapidly increasing demand
for urban and industrial water. In 2006 the population of
19.4 million with a growth rate of 2.7%.
Main article: Demographics of Syria
Historical populations (in thousands)
Source: Central Bureau of Statistics of the Syrian
Most people live in the
Euphrates River valley and along the coastal
plain, a fertile strip between the coastal mountains and the desert.
Overall population density in
Syria is about 99 per square kilometre
(258 per square mile). According to the World
Refugee Survey 2008,
published by the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, Syria
hosted a population of refugees and asylum seekers numbering
approximately 1,852,300. The vast majority of this population was from
Iraq (1,300,000), but sizeable populations from Palestine (543,400)
Somalia (5,200) also lived in the country.
In what the UN has described as "the biggest humanitarian emergency of
our era", about 9.5 million Syrians, half the population, have
been displaced since the outbreak of the
Syrian Civil War
Syrian Civil War in March
2011; 4 million are outside the country as refugees.
Main article: Syrians
Children in Aleppo
Damascus, traditional clothing
Syrians are an overall indigenous Levantine people, closely related to
their immediate neighbours, such as the Lebanese, Palestinian,
Jordanian and Maltese peoples.
Syria has a population of
approximately 17,065,000 (2014 estimate). Syrian Arabs, together
with some 600,000 Palestinian not including the 6 million refugees
outside the county.
Arabs make up roughly 74% of the population.
The indigenous Assyrians and Western Aramaic-speakers number around
400,000 people, with the Western Aramaic-speakers living mainly
in the villages of Ma'loula,
Jubb'adin and Bakh'a, while the Assyrians
mainly reside in the north and northeast (Homs, Aleppo, Qamishli,
Hasakah). Many (particularly the Assyrian group) still retain several
Aramaic dialects as spoken and written languages.
The second largest ethnic group in
Syria are the Kurds. They
constitute about 9% to 10% of the population, or
approximately 1.6 million people (including 40,000 Yazidis). Most
Kurds reside in the northeastern corner of
Syria and most speak the
Kurmanji variant of the Kurdish language.
The third largest ethnic group are the Turkish-speaking Syrian
Turkmen/Turkoman, with estimates suggesting they constitute
approximately 4–5% of the population of Syria. However, their
population is significantly higher if
Arabized Turkmen were also taken
into account. There are no reliable estimates of their total
population, with estimates ranging from several hundred thousand to
The fourth largest ethnic group are the Assyrians (3–4%),
followed by the
Circassians (1.5%) and the
most of which are the descendants of refugees who arrived in Syria
during the Armenian Genocide.
Syria holds the 7th largest Armenian
population in the world. They are mainly gathered in Aleppo, Qamishli,
Damascus and Kesab.
The ethno-religious composition of Syria
There are also smaller ethnic minority groups, such as the Albanians,
Bosnians, Georgians, Greeks, Persians,
Pashtuns and Russians.
However, most of these ethnic minorities have become
Arabized to some
degree, particularly those who practice the
Syria was once home to a substantial population of Jews, with large
communities in Damascus, Aleppo, and Qamishii. Due to a combination of
Syria and opportunities elsewhere, the
Jews began to
emigrate in the second half of the 19th century to Great Britain, the
United States, and Israel. The process was completed with the
establishment of the State of
Israel in 1948. Today only a few Jews
remain in Syria.
The largest concentration of the
Syrian diaspora outside the Arab
world is in Brazil, which has millions of people of
Arab and other
Near Eastern ancestries.
Brazil is the first country in the
Americas to offer humanitarian visas to Syrian refugees. The
Arab Argentines are from either Lebanese or Syrian
Religion in Syria
Religion in Syria and
Islam in Syria
Religion in Syria
Religion in Syria (est. 2006)
Great Mosque of Aleppo, Aleppo
Coat of arms of the
Syriac Orthodox Church
Sunni Muslims make up between 69–74% of Syria's population and
Arabs account for 59–60% of the population. Most Kurds
(8.5%) and most Turkoman (3%) are
Sunni and account for the
difference between Sunnis and
Sunni Arabs, while 13% of
Shia Muslims (particularly Alawite, Twelvers, and
Ismailis but there
are also Arabs,
Kurds and Turkoman), 10% Christian (the majority
are Antiochian Greek Orthodox, the rest are Syrian Orthodox, Greek
Catholic and other Catholic Rites, Assyrian Church of the East,
Armenian Orthodox, Protestants and other denominations), and 3%
Druze number around 500,000, and concentrate mainly in the
southern area of Jabal al-Druze. Michael Izadi in a study of 2000
(population estimate 18 million) put the
Sunni percentage at 68.4%,
Shi'a Twelver 3.2% Christian at 11.2% and the remainder at 17.2% gulf
President Bashar al-Assad's family is
the government of
Syria and hold key military positions. In May
2013, SOHR stated that out of 94,000 killed during the Syrian Civil
War, at least 41,000 were Alawites.
Christians (2.5 million), a sizable number of whom are found among
Syria's population of Palestinian refugees, are divided into several
sects: Chalcedonian Antiochian Orthodox make up 45.7% of the Christian
population; the Catholics (Melkite, Armenian Catholic, Syriac
Catholic, Maronite, Chaldean Catholic and Latin) make up 16.2%; the
Armenian Apostolic Church
Armenian Apostolic Church 10.9%, the
Syriac Orthodox make up 22.4%;
Assyrian Church of the East
Assyrian Church of the East and several smaller Christian
denominations account for the remainder. Many Christian monasteries
also exist. Many Christian
Syrians belong to a high socio-economic
Main article: Languages of Syria
Arabic is the official language. Several modern Arabic dialects are
used in everyday life, most notably Levantine in the west and
Mesopotamian in the northeast. Kurdish (in its
Kurmanji form) is
widely spoken in the Kurdish regions of Syria. Armenian and Turkmen
(South Azerbaijani dialect) are spoken among the Armenian and Turkmen
Aramaic was the lingua franca of the region before the advent of
Arabic, and is still spoken among Assyrians, and Classical Syriac is
still used as the liturgical language of various Syriac Christian
denominations. Most remarkably, Western Neo-
Aramaic is still spoken in
the village of
Ma'loula as well as two neighboring villages,
56 km (35 mi) northeast of Damascus.
English and French are widely spoken as a second language, but English
is more often used.
Largest cities or towns in Syria
2004 official census
Deir ez-Zor Governorate
Rif Dimashq Governorate
Main article: Culture of Syria
Dabke combines circle dance and line dancing and is widely performed
at weddings and other joyous occasions.
Syria is a traditional society with a long cultural history.
Importance is placed on family, religion, education, self-discipline
and respect. Syrians' taste for the traditional arts is expressed in
dances such as the al-Samah, the
Dabkeh in all their variations, and
the sword dance. Marriage ceremonies and the births of children are
occasions for the lively demonstration of folk customs.
The literature of
Syria has contributed to
Arabic literature and has a
proud tradition of oral and written poetry. Syrian writers, many of
whom migrated to Egypt, played a crucial role in the nahda or Arab
literary and cultural revival of the 19th century. Prominent
contemporary Syrian writers include, among others, Adonis, Muhammad
Maghout, Haidar Haidar, Ghada al-Samman,
Nizar Qabbani and Zakariyya
Ba'ath Party rule, since the 1966 coup, has brought about renewed
censorship. In this context, the genre of the historical novel,
spearheaded by Nabil Sulayman, Fawwaz Haddad, Khyri al-Dhahabi and
Nihad Siris, is sometimes used as a means of expressing dissent,
critiquing the present through a depiction of the past. Syrian folk
narrative, as a subgenre of historical fiction, is imbued with magical
realism, and is also used as a means of veiled criticism of the
present. Salim Barakat, a Syrian émigré living in Sweden, is one of
the leading figures of the genre. Contemporary Syrian literature also
encompasses science fiction and futuristic utopiae (Nuhad Sharif,
Talib Umran), which may also serve as media of dissent.
The Syrian music scene, in particular that of Damascus, has long been
Arab world's most important, especially in the field of
Syria has produced several pan-
Farid al-Atrash and singer Lena Chamamyan. The city
Aleppo is known for its muwashshah, a form of
Andalous sung poetry
popularized by Sabri Moudallal, as well as for popular stars like
Television was first introduced to
Syria in 1960, when
Syria and Egypt
(which adopted television that same year) were part of the United Arab
Republic. It broadcast in black and white until 1976. Syrian soap
operas have considerable market penetration throughout the eastern
Nearly all of Syria's media outlets are state-owned, and the Ba'ath
Party controls nearly all newspapers. The authorities operate
several intelligence agencies, among them Shu'bat al-Mukhabarat
al-'Askariyya, employing a large number of operatives. Since the
Syrian Civil War
Syrian Civil War many of Syria's artists, poets, writers and activists
have remained incarcerated, including famed cartoonist Akram
Aleppo International Stadium
The most popular sports in
Syria are football, basketball, swimming,
Damascus was home to the fifth and seventh Pan
Many popular football teams are based in Damascus, Aleppo, Homs,
Abbasiyyin Stadium in
Damascus is home to the Syrian national
football team. The team enjoyed some success, having qualified for
Asian Cup competitions. The team had its first international on
20 November 1949, losing to
Turkey 7–0. The team was ranked 76th in
the world by FIFA as of January 2018.
Main article: Syrian cuisine
Fattoush, an example of Syrian cuisine
Linked to the regions of
Syria where a specific dish has originated,
Syrian cuisine is rich and varied in its ingredients. Syrian food
mostly consists of Southern Mediterranean, Greek, and Southwest Asian
dishes. Some Syrian dishes also evolved from Turkish and French
cooking: dishes like shish kebab, stuffed zucchini/courgette, yabra'
(stuffed grape leaves, the word yapra' derıves from the Turkish word
'yaprak' meaning leaf).
The main dishes that form
Syrian cuisine are kibbeh, hummus,
tabbouleh, fattoush, labneh, shawarma, mujaddara, shanklish,
pastırma, sujuk and baklava.
Baklava is made of filo pastry filled
with chopped nuts and soaked in honey.
Syrians often serve selections
of appetizers, known as meze, before the main course. Za'atar, minced
beef, and cheese manakish are popular hors d'œuvres. The Arabic
flatbread khubz is always eaten together with meze.
Syria vary, depending on the time of day and the occasion.
Arabic coffee, also known as Turkish coffee, is the most well-known
hot drink, usually prepared in the morning at breakfast or in the
evening. It is usually served for guests or after food. Arak, an
alcoholic drink, is also a well-known beverage served mostly on
special occasions. More examples of Syrian beverages include Ayran,
Jallab, White coffee, and a locally manufactured beer called Al
Main article: Education in Syria
Damascus University headquarters in Baramkeh
Education is free and compulsory from ages 6 to 12. Schooling consists
of 6 years of primary education followed by a 3-year general or
vocational training period and a 3-year academic or vocational
program. The second 3-year period of academic training is required for
university admission. Total enrollment at post-secondary schools is
over 150,000. The literacy rate of
Syrians aged 15 and older is 90.7%
for males and 82.2% for females.
UIS adult literacy rate of Syria
Since 1967, all schools, colleges, and universities have been under
close government supervision by the Ba'ath Party.
There are 6 state universities in Syria and 15 private
universities. The top two state universities are University of
Damascus (180,000 students) and University of Aleppo. The
top private universities in
Syria are: Syrian Private University, Arab
University of Kalamoon
University of Kalamoon and International
University for Science and Technology. There are also many higher
institutes in Syria, like the Higher Institute of Business
Administration, which offer undergraduate and graduate programs in
According to the Webometrics Ranking of World Universities, the
top-ranking universities in the country are
(3540th worldwide), the University of
Aleppo (7176th) and Tishreen
Main article: Health in Syria
In 2010, spending on healthcare accounted for 3.4% of the country's
GDP. In 2008, there were 14.9 physicians and 18.5 nurses per 10,000
inhabitants. The life expectancy at birth was 75.7 years in 2010,
or 74.2 years for males and 77.3 years for females.
Democratic Federation of Northern Syria
Democratic Federation of Northern Syria (Rojava)
Index of Syria-related articles
International recognition of the Syrian National Council
Outline of Syria
Refugees of the Syrian Civil War
Syrian Civil War
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Kurds are the second largest ethnic group in Syria, making up around
10% of the Syrian population and distributed among four regions...with
a Yazidi minority that numbers around 40,000...
Turkmen are the third largest ethnic group in Syria, making up around
4–5% of the population. Some estimations indicate that they are the
second biggest group, outnumbering Kurds, drawing on the fact that
Turkmen are divided into two groups: the rural Turkmen who make up 30%
of the Turkmen in
Syria and who have kept their mother tongue, and the
urban Turkmen who have become Arabised and no longer speak their
Assyrians are the fourth largest ethnic group in Syria. They represent
the original and oldest inhabitants of Syria, today making up around
3–4% of the Syrian population...
Circassians are the fifth largest ethnic group in Syria, making up
around 1.5% of the population...
Armenians are sixth largest ethnic group in Syria, making up around 1%
of the population...
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