Syria

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PAGE LAST UPDATED ON NOVEMBER 29, 2011
Flag of Syria
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Location of Syria
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OF SYRIA
 

Introduction

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Following World War I, France acquired a mandate over the northern portion of the former Ottoman Empire province of Syria. The French administered the area as Syria until granting it independence in 1946. The new country lacked political stability, however, and experienced a series of military coups during its first decades. Syria united with Egypt in February 1958 to form the United Arab Republic. In September 1961, the two entities separated, and the Syrian Arab Republic was reestablished. In November 1970, Hafiz al-ASAD, a member of the Socialist Ba'th Party and the minority Alawi sect, seized power in a bloodless coup and brought political stability to the country. In the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, Syria lost the Golan Heights to Israel. During the 1990s, Syria and Israel held occasional peace talks over its return. Following the death of President al-ASAD, his son, Bashar al-ASAD, was approved as president by popular referendum in July 2000. Syrian troops - stationed in Lebanon since 1976 in an ostensible peacekeeping role - were withdrawn in April 2005. During the July-August 2006 conflict between Israel and Hizballah, Syria placed its military forces on alert but did not intervene directly on behalf of its ally Hizballah. In May 2007 Bashar al-ASAD was elected to his second term as president. Influenced by major uprisings that began elsewhere in the region, antigovernment protests broke out in the southern province of Da'ra in March 2011 with protesters calling for the repeal of the restrictive Emergency Law allowing arrests without charge, the legalization of political parties, and the removal of corrupt local officials. Since then demonstrations and unrest have spread to nearly every city in Syria, but the size and intensity of protests have fluctuated over time, and Aleppo and Damascus have remained relatively calm. The government has responded to unrest with a mix of concessions - including the repeal of the Emergency Law and approving new laws permitting new political parties and liberalizing local and national elections - and force. However, the government's response has failed to meet opposition demands for ASAD to step down, and the government's ongoing security operations to quell unrest and a rise in armed opposition activity had led to violent clashes between government forces and oppositionists. In November 2011,the UN Human Rights Council reported that at least 3,500 people had been killed since the onset of Syrian protests, and the 22-nation Arab League voted to impose economic sanctions.
 
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Geography

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Middle East, bordering the Mediterranean Sea, between Lebanon and Turkey
 
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35 00 N, 38 00 E
 
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total: 185,180 sq km
country comparison to the world: 89
land: 183,630 sq km
water: 1,550 sq km
note: includes 1,295 sq km of Israeli-occupied territory
 
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slightly larger than North Dakota
 
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total: 2,253 km
border countries: Iraq 605 km, Israel 76 km, Jordan 375 km, Lebanon 375 km, Turkey 822 km
 
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193 km
 
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territorial sea: 12 nm
contiguous zone: 24 nm
 
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mostly desert; hot, dry, sunny summers (June to August) and mild, rainy winters (December to February) along coast; cold weather with snow or sleet periodically in Damascus
 
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primarily semiarid and desert plateau; narrow coastal plain; mountains in west
 
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lowest point: unnamed location near Lake Tiberias -200 m
highest point: Mount Hermon 2,814 m
 
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petroleum, phosphates, chrome and manganese ores, asphalt, iron ore, rock salt, marble, gypsum, hydropower
 
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arable land: 24.8%
permanent crops: 4.47%
other: 70.73% (2005)
 
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13,560 sq km (2008)
 
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46.1 cu km (1997)
 
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total: 19.95 cu km/yr (3%/2%/95%)
per capita: 1,048 cu m/yr (2000)
 
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dust storms, sandstorms
volcanism: Syria's two historically active volcanoes, Es Safa and an unnamed volcano near the Turkish border have not erupted in centuries
 
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deforestation; overgrazing; soil erosion; desertification; water pollution from raw sewage and petroleum refining wastes; inadequate potable water
 
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party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: Environmental Modification
 
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there are 41 Israeli settlements and civilian land use sites in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights (2010 est.)
 
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People and Society

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noun: Syrian(s)
adjective: Syrian
 
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Arab 90.3%, Kurds, Armenians, and other 9.7%
 
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Arabic (official), Kurdish, Armenian, Aramaic, Circassian (widely understood); French, English (somewhat understood)
 
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Sunni Muslim 74%, other Muslim (includes Alawite, Druze) 16%, Christian (various denominations) 10%, Jewish (tiny communities in Damascus, Al Qamishli, and Aleppo)
 
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22,517,750 (July 2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 52
note: approximately 19,100 Israeli settlers live in the Golan Heights (2008 est.)
 
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0-14 years: 35.2% (male 4,066,109/female 3,865,817)
15-64 years: 61% (male 6,985,067/female 6,753,619)
65 years and over: 3.8% (male 390,802/female 456,336) (2011 est.)
 
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total: 21.9 years
male: 21.7 years
female: 22.1 years (2011 est.)
 
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0.913% (2011 est.)
country comparison to the world: 125
 
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23.99 births/1,000 population (2011 est.)
country comparison to the world: 69
 
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3.68 deaths/1,000 population (July 2011 est.)
country comparison to the world: 210
 
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-11.18 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2011 est.)
country comparison to the world: 213
 
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urban population: 56% of total population (2010)
rate of urbanization: 2.5% annual rate of change (2010-15 est.)
 
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Aleppo 2.985 million; DAMASCUS (capital) 2.527 million; Hims 1.276 million; Hamah 854,000 (2009)
 
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at birth: 1.06 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.03 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.86 male(s)/female
total population: 1.03 male(s)/female (2011 est.)
 
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46 deaths/100,000 live births (2008)
country comparison to the world: 100
 
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total: 15.62 deaths/1,000 live births
country comparison to the world: 115
male: 17.96 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 13.14 deaths/1,000 live births (2011 est.)
 
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total population: 74.69 years
country comparison to the world: 95
male: 72.31 years
female: 77.21 years (2011 est.)
 
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2.94 children born/woman (2011 est.)
country comparison to the world: 68
 
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2.9% of GDP (2009)
country comparison to the world: 180
 
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1.5 physicians/1,000 population (2008)
country comparison to the world: 80
 
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1.5 beds/1,000 population (2009)
country comparison to the world: 121
 
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improved:
urban: 94% of population
rural: 84% of population
total: 89% of population
unimproved:
urban: 6% of population
rural: 16% of population
total: 11% of population (2008)
 
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improved:
urban: 96% of population
rural: 95% of population
total: 96% of population
unimproved:
urban: 4% of population
rural: 5% of population
total: 4% of population (2008)
 
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less than 0.1% (2001 est.)
country comparison to the world: 159
 
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fewer than 500 (2003 est.)
country comparison to the world: 150
 
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fewer than 200 (2003 est.)
country comparison to the world: 114
 
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10% (2006)
country comparison to the world: 66
 
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4.9% of GDP (2007)
country comparison to the world: 66
 
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definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 79.6%
male: 86%
female: 73.6% (2004 census)
 
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total: 11 years
male: 12 years
female: 11 years (2007)
 
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total: 19.1%
country comparison to the world: 61
male: 13.1%
female: 49.1% (2007)
 
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Government

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conventional long form: Syrian Arab Republic
conventional short form: Syria
local long form: Al Jumhuriyah al Arabiyah as Suriyah
local short form: Suriyah
former: United Arab Republic (with Egypt)
 
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republic under an authoritarian regime
 
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name: Damascus
geographic coordinates: 33 30 N, 36 18 E
time difference: UTC+2 (7 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
daylight saving time: +1hr, begins first Friday in April; ends last Friday in October
 
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14 provinces (muhafazat, singular - muhafazah); Al Hasakah, Al Ladhiqiyah (Latakia), Al Qunaytirah, Ar Raqqah, As Suwayda', Dar'a, Dayr az Zawr, Dimashq (Damascus), Halab, Hamah, Hims, Idlib, Rif Dimashq (Damascus Countryside), Tartus
 
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17 April 1946 (from League of Nations mandate under French administration)
 
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Independence Day, 17 April (1946)
 
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13 March 1973
 
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mixed legal system of civil and Islamic law (for family courts)
 
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has not submitted an ICJ jurisdiction declaration; non-party state to the ICCt
 
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18 years of age; universal
 
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chief of state: President Bashar al-ASAD (since 17 July 2000); Vice President Farouk al-SHARA (since 11 February 2006) oversees foreign policy; Vice President Najah al-ATTAR (since 23 March 2006) oversees cultural policy
head of government: Prime Minister Adil SAFR (since 14 April 2011)
cabinet: Council of Ministers appointed by the president; note - new Council appointed on 14 April 2011
(For more information visit the World Leaders website Opens in New Window)
elections: president approved by popular referendum for a second seven-year term (no term limits); referendum last held on 27 May 2007 (next to be held in May 2014); the president appoints the vice presidents, prime minister, and deputy prime ministers
election results: Bashar al-ASAD approved as president; percent of vote - Bashar al-ASAD 97.6%, other 2.4%
 
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unicameral People's Council or Majlis al-Shaab (250 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms)
elections: last held on 22-23 April 2007 (next to be held in 2011)
election results: percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - NPF 172, independents 78
 
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Supreme Judicial Council (appoints and dismisses judges; headed by the president); national level - Supreme Constitutional Court (adjudicates electoral disputes and rules on constitutionality of laws and decrees; justices appointed for four-year terms by the president); Court of Cassation; Appeals Courts (Appeals Courts represent an intermediate level between the Court of Cassation and local level courts); local level - Magistrate Courts; Courts of First Instance; Juvenile Courts; Customs Courts; specialized courts - Economic Security Courts (hear cases related to economic crimes); Supreme State Security Court (hear cases related to national security); Personal Status Courts (religious; hear cases related to marriage and divorce)
 
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legal parties: National Progressive Front or NPF [President Bashar al-ASAD, Dr. Suleiman QADDAH] (includes Arab Socialist Renaissance (Ba'th) Party [President Bashar al-ASAD]; Socialist Unionist Democratic Party [Fadlallah Nasr Al-DIN]; Syrian Arab Socialist Union or ASU [Safwan al-QUDSI]; Syrian Communist Party (two branches) [Wissal Farha BAKDASH, Yusuf Rashid FAYSAL]; Syrian Social Nationalist Party [As'ad HARDAN]; Unionist Socialist Party [Fayez ISMAIL])
opposition parties not legally recognized: Communist Action Party [Fateh al-JAMOUS]; National Democratic Rally [Hasan ABDUL-AZIM, spokesman] (includes five parties - Arab Democratic Socialist Union Party [Hasan ABDUL-AZIM], Arab Socialist Movement, Democratic Ba'th Party [Ibrahim MAKHOS], Democratic People's Party [Riad al TURK], Revolutionary Workers' Party [Abdul Hafez al HAFEZ])
Kurdish parties (considered illegal): Azadi Party [Kheirudin MURAD]; Future Party [Masha'l TAMMO]; Kurdish Democratic Alliance (includes four parties); Kurdish Democratic Front (includes three parties); Yekiti Party [Fu'ad ALEYKO]
other parties: Syrian Democratic Party [Mustafa QALAAJI]
 
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Arab Human Rights Organization in Syria or AHRO; Damascus Declaration Group (a broad alliance of secular, religious, and Kurdish opposition groups); National Salvation Front (alliance between former Vice President Abd al-Halim KHADDAM and other small opposition groups in exile; formerly included the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood); Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression [Mazin DARWISH]; Syrian Human Rights Organization [Muhanad al-HASANI]; Syrian Human Rights Society or HRAS [Fayez FAWAZ]; Syrian Muslim Brotherhood or SMB [Muhammad Riyad al-SHAQFAH] (operates in exile in London)
 
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ABEDA, AFESD, AMF, CAEU, FAO, G-24, G-77, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICRM, IDA, IDB, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, Interpol, IOC, IPU, ISO, ITSO, ITU, LAS, MIGA, NAM, OAPEC, OIC, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNRWA, UNWTO, UPU, WCO, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO (observer)
 
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chief of mission: Ambassador Imad MOUSTAPHA
chancery: 2215 Wyoming Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008
telephone: [1] (202) 232-6313
FAX: [1] (202) 265-4585
 
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chief of mission: Ambassador Robert S. FORD
embassy: Abou Roumaneh, Al-Mansour Street, No. 2, Damascus
mailing address: P. O. Box 29, Damascus
telephone: [963] (11) 3391-4444
FAX: [963] (11) 3391-3999
 
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three equal horizontal bands of red (top), white, and black; two small, green, five-pointed stars in a horizontal line centered in the white band; the band colors derive from the Arab Liberation flag and represent oppression (black), overcome through bloody struggle (red), to be replaced by a bright future (white); identical to the former flag of the United Arab Republic (1958-1961) where the two stars represented the constituent states of Syria and Egypt; the current design dates to 1980
note: similar to the flag of Yemen, which has a plain white band, Iraq, which has an Arabic inscription centered in the white band, and that of Egypt, which has a gold Eagle of Saladin centered in the white band
 
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hawk
 
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name: "Humat ad-Diyar" (Guardians of the Homeland)
lyrics/music: Khalil Mardam BEY/Mohammad Salim FLAYFEL and Ahmad Salim FLAYFEL
note: adopted 1936, restored 1961; between 1958 and 1961, while Syria was a member of the United Arab Republic with Egypt, the country had a different anthem
 
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Economy

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Syrian economic growth remained in the 4-5% range in 2008-10 even though the global economic crisis affected oil prices and the economies of Syria's key export partners and sources of investment. Damascus has implemented modest economic reforms in the past few years, including cutting lending interest rates, opening private banks, consolidating all of the multiple exchange rates, raising prices on some subsidized items, most notably gasoline and cement, and establishing the Damascus Stock Exchange - which began operations in 2009. In addition, President ASAD signed legislative decrees to encourage corporate ownership reform, and to allow the Central Bank to issue Treasury bills and bonds for government debt. Nevertheless, the economy remains highly controlled by the government. Long-run economic constraints include 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.
 
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$107.4 billion (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 67
$104 billion (2009 est.)
$98.13 billion (2008 est.)
note: data are in 2010 US dollars
 
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$59.33 billion (2010 est.)
 
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3.2% (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 116
6% (2009 est.)
4.5% (2008 est.)
 
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$4,800 (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 152
$4,800 (2009 est.)
$4,600 (2008 est.)
note: data are in 2010 US dollars
 
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agriculture: 17.1%
industry: 27.3%
services: 55.7% (2010 est.)
 
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5.529 million (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 68
 
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agriculture: 17%
industry: 16%
services: 67% (2008 est.)
 
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8.3% (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 96
8.5% (2009 est.)
 
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11.9% (2006 est.)
 
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lowest 10%: NA%
highest 10%: NA%
 
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18.4% of GDP (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 139
 
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revenues: $12.48 billion
expenditures: $14.97 billion (2010 est.)
 
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21% of GDP (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 148
 
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-4.2% of GDP (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 129
 
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27.8% of GDP (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 95
25.9% of GDP (2009 est.)
 
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4.4% (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 140
2.6% (2009 est.)
 
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0.75% (31 December 2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 73
5% (31 December 2009 est.)
 
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10% (31 December 2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 109
10% (31 December 2009 est.)
 
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$24.28 billion (31 December 2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 62
$19.96 billion (31 December 2009 est.)
 
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$161 billion (31 December 2009)
country comparison to the world: 44
$147.5 billion (31 December 2008)
 
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$27.68 billion (31 December 2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 70
$24.1 billion (31 December 2009 est.)
 
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$NA
 
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wheat, barley, cotton, lentils, chickpeas, olives, sugar beets; beef, mutton, eggs, poultry, milk
 
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petroleum, textiles, food processing, beverages, tobacco, phosphate rock mining, cement, oil seeds crushing, car assembly
 
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6% (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 72
 
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38.71 billion kWh (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 56
 
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28.99 billion kWh (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 61
 
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0 kWh (2009 est.)
 
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0 kWh (2009 est.)
 
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401,000 bbl/day (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 34
 
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292,000 bbl/day (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 45
 
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263,000 bbl/day (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 46
 
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55,280 bbl/day (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 85
 
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2.5 billion bbl (1 January 2011 est.)
country comparison to the world: 33
 
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6.19 billion cu m (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 48
 
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7.1 billion cu m (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 53
 
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0 cu m (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 184
 
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910 million cu m (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 59
 
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240.7 billion cu m (1 January 2011 est.)
country comparison to the world: 42
 
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-$1.379 billion (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 149
-$1.162 billion (2009 est.)
 
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$14.03 billion (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 76
$10.88 billion (2009 est.)
 
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crude oil, minerals, petroleum products, fruits and vegetables, cotton fiber, textiles, clothing, meat and live animals, wheat
 
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Iraq 30%, Lebanon 11.7%, Germany 8.8%, Italy 8.8%, Saudi Arabia 5% (2010)
 
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$16.98 billion (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 77
$13.93 billion (2009 est.)
 
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machinery and transport equipment, electric power machinery, food and livestock, metal and metal products, chemicals and chemical products, plastics, yarn, paper
 
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Saudi Arabia 11.2%, China 10.1%, Turkey 7.6%, UAE 5.5%, Italy 5.5%, Russia 4.6%, Lebanon 4.4%, Egypt 4.3%, Iran 4%, South Korea 4% (2010)
 
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$20.57 billion (31 December 2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 58
$17.44 billion (31 December 2009 est.)
 
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$7.636 billion (31 December 2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 100
$7.246 billion (31 December 2009 est.)
 
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Syrian pounds (SYP) per US dollar -
46.456 (2010)
46.708 (2009)
46.5281 (2008)
50.0085 (2007)
51.689 (2006)
 
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Communications

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4.069 million (2010)
country comparison to the world: 41
 
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11.696 million (2010)
country comparison to the world: 61
 
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general assessment: fair system currently undergoing significant improvement and digital upgrades, including fiber-optic technology and expansion of the network to rural areas
domestic: the number of fixed-line connections has increased markedly since 2000; mobile-cellular service growing with telephone subscribership reaching nearly 50 per 100 persons in 2009
international: country code - 963; submarine cable connection to Egypt, Lebanon, and Cyprus; satellite earth stations - 1 Intelsat (Indian Ocean) and 1 Intersputnik (Atlantic Ocean region); coaxial cable and microwave radio relay to Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey; participant in Medarabtel
 
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state-run television and radio broadcast networks; state operates 2 TV networks and a satellite channel; roughly two-thirds of Syrian homes have a satellite dish providing access to foreign TV broadcasts; 3 state-run radio channels; first private radio station launched in 2005; private radio broadcasters prohibited from transmitting news or political content (2007)
 
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.sy
 
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8,114 (2010)
country comparison to the world: 133
 
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4.469 million (2009)
country comparison to the world: 52
 
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Transportation

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104 (2010)
country comparison to the world: 57
 
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total: 29
over 3,047 m: 5
2,438 to 3,047 m: 15
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 3
under 914 m: 5 (2010)
 
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total: 75
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 15
under 914 m: 59 (2010)
 
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7 (2010)
 
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gas 3,161 km; oil 1,997 km (2010)
 
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total: 2,052 km
country comparison to the world: 72
standard gauge: 1,801 km 1.435-m gauge
narrow gauge: 251 km 1.050-m gauge (2010)
 
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total: 68,157 km
country comparison to the world: 68
paved: 61,514 km (includes 1,103 km of expressways)
unpaved: 6,643 km (2009)
 
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900 km (navigable but not economically significant) (2010)
country comparison to the world: 69
 
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total: 41
country comparison to the world: 77
by type: bulk carrier 7, cargo 30, carrier 3, container 1
foreign-owned: 5 (Jordan 2, Lebanon 2, Romania 1)
registered in other countries: 199 (Barbados 1, Belize 2, Bolivia 4, Cambodia 22, Comoros 6, Cyprus 1, Dominica 2, Georgia 35, Lebanon 3, Liberia 1, Libya 2, Malta 5, Moldova 3, North Korea 6, Panama 42, Saint Kitts and Nevis 5, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 13, Sierra Leone 20, Togo 5, unknown 8) (2010)
 
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Baniyas, Latakia, Tartus
 
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Military

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Syrian Armed Forces: Syrian Arab Army, Syrian Arab Navy, Syrian Arab Air and Air Defense Forces (includes Air Defense Command) (2008)
 
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18 years of age for compulsory military service; conscript service obligation - 21 months (18 months in the Syrian Arab Navy); women are not conscripted but may volunteer to serve (2010)
 
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males age 16-49: 5,889,837
females age 16-49: 5,660,751 (2010 est.)
 
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males age 16-49: 5,055,510
females age 16-49: 4,884,151 (2010 est.)
 
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male: 256,698
female: 244,712 (2010 est.)
 
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5.9% of GDP (2005 est.)
country comparison to the world: 10
 
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Transnational Issues

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Golan Heights is Israeli-occupied with the almost 1,000-strong UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) patrolling a buffer zone since 1964; lacking a treaty or other documentation describing the boundary, portions of the Lebanon-Syria boundary are unclear with several sections in dispute; since 2000, Lebanon has claimed Shab'a Farms in the Golan Heights; 2004 Agreement and pending demarcation settles border dispute with Jordan; approximately two million Iraqis have fled the conflict in Iraq with the majority taking refuge in Syria and Jordan
 
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refugees (country of origin): 1-1.4 million (Iraq); 522,100 (Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA))
IDPs: 305,000 (most displaced from Golan Heights during 1967 Arab-Israeli War) (2007)
 
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current situation: Syria is principally a destination country for women and children subjected to forced labor or sex trafficking; women from Indonesia, the Philippines, Somalia, and Ethiopia are recruited by employment agencies to work in Syria as domestic servants, but are subsequently subjected to conditions of forced labor; some economically desperate Syrian children are subjected to conditions of forced labor within the country, particularly by organized street begging rings; some Syrian women in Lebanon may be forced to engage in street prostitution and small numbers of Syrian girls are reportedly brought to Lebanon for the purpose of prostitution
tier rating: Tier 2 Watch List - the government made modest anti-trafficking efforts, however, it did not demonstrate evidence of increasing efforts to investigate and punish trafficking offenses, inform the public about the practice of human trafficking, or provide much-needed anti-trafficking training to law enforcement and social welfare officials (2011)
 
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a transit point for opiates, hashish, and cocaine bound for regional and Western markets; weak anti-money-laundering controls and bank privatization may leave it vulnerable to money laundering
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