Demographics of Syria

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Demographics of Syria
Syria single age population pyramid 2020.png
Syria population pyramid in 2020
Population20,384,316 (CIA World Factbook July 2021 est.)
Nationality
Nationalitynoun: Syrian(s) adjective: Syrian
Language
OfficialArabic
SpokenKurdish, Turkish, Aramaic (Syriac, Turoyo, Western Neo-Aramaic, Sureth)

Syria's estimated pre–Syrian Civil War 2011 population was 22 ±.5[1] million permanent inhabitants, which included 21,124,000 Syrians,[2] as well as 1.3 million Iraqi refugees[3] and over 500,000 Palestinians.[3] The war makes an accurate count of the Syrian population difficult, as the numbers of Syrian refugees,[4] internally displaced Syrians and casualty numbers are in flux. The CIA World Factbook showed an estimated 20.4m people as of July 2021.[5] Of the pre-war population, six million are refugees outside the country, seven million are internally displaced, three million live in rebel-held territory, and two million live in the Kurdish-ruled Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria.

Most modern-day Syrians are described as Arabs by virtue of their modern-day language and bonds to Arab culture and history. Genetically, Syrian Arabs are a variety of diverse Semitic-speaking groups indigenous to the region.[6][7][8][9] With around 10% of the population, Kurds are the second biggest ethnic group in Syria, followed by Turkmen.

Human toll of Syrian Civil War[edit]

Human toll of the Syrian civil war
Pre-war population 22 ±.5; Internally displaced 6 ±.5, Refugees 5.5 ±.5, Fatalities 0.5 ±.1 (millions)[citation needed]
Syrian refugees
By countryEgypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey
SettlementsCamps: Jordan
Internally displaced Syrians
Casualties of the war
CrimesHuman rights violations, massacres, rape, Genocide
Return of refugees  · Refugees as weapons  · Prosecution of war criminals

Forced displacement[edit]

More than six million refugees left the country during the civil war,[10] of whom over five million are registered as refugees by the UNHCR as of mid-2019.[11] Most of them fled to neighboring countries such as Turkey,[12][13] Lebanon, Jordan,[14] and Iraq,[15] as well as European nations like Greece, Germany and Sweden. Since 2017, around 49 percent of the Population lives in poverty.[16]

The war resulted in large-scale displacement in the country. The UNHCR estimates internally displaced people (IDPs) at seven million. A further 70,000 people were trapped on the border with Jordan at Rukban in 2016–18,[17][18] with up to 40,000 still there in 2019.[19]

A significant part of the population lives in territory outside government sovereignty. At its peak in 2015, ISIL ruled over ten million people across Syria and Iraq.[20] The Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (NES), commonly referred to as Rojava, has a population of around two million.[21] Areas controlled by the opposition have had a population in the millions. In mid-2017, UN OCHA estimated that around 540,000 persons were trapped in besieged areas as of June 2017, the majority besieged by government forces in Eastern Ghouta.[22] By the time the government retook Ghouta in April 2018, some 140,000 individuals had fled their homes and up to 50,000 were evacuated to Idlib and Aleppo governorates.[23] The latter rebel areas had an estimated population of 3 million (40% of them displaced from defeated rebel areas).[24][25] Fighting in Idlib has led to further displacements, of up to 250,000 people, and generating new refugee outflows to neighbouring Turkey.[26]

Displacement has led to demographic shifts. One example is the area in the North under control by Kurdish-led and US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). Many human rights groups, including Amnesty International[27] and international organizations[28][29] have accused SDF forces of committing ethnic cleansing in Arab areas they were capturing from other war factions.[30] The accusation was repeated on 8 May 2019 by Russia's foreign minister Sergey Lavrov.[31] NGOs and the opposition have also accused the government of using the conflict to affect demographic restructuring.[32][33][34][35]

Birth-death rate[edit]

In April 2016, the UN estimated that 400,000 people had died in the war,[36] and casualties have continued since, with estimates for the total dead by mid-2019 of up to 220,000 civilians, 175,000 government combatants, and 174,000 anti-government combatants (see Casualties of the Syrian Civil War).

Population[edit]

Historical population
YearPop.±%
02,110,000—    
5002,430,000+15.2%
10001,060,000−56.4%
15001,060,000+0.0%
17001,250,000+17.9%
18001,250,000+0.0%
19001,720,000+37.6%
19372,368,000+37.7%
19503,252,000+37.3%
19604,565,000+40.4%
19706,305,000+38.1%
19808,704,000+38.0%
199012,116,000+39.2%
199514,186,000+17.1%
200417,921,000+26.3%
201121,124,000+17.9%
201617,185,000−18.6%
201718,029,549+4.9%
Source:[37][38] 2016 estimate[39]
Population history of Syria

Since 1960, censuses have been conducted in 1960, 1970, 1981, 1994 and 2004.[40]

In 2014, 17,951,639, a massive decline due to nearly 4 million Syrian refugees leaving the country because of the Syrian Civil War and furthermore because of the death in the war. This is a drop of 9.7% from the previous year.[41]

In 2017, the head of the Syrian Commission for Family Affairs, Mohammad Akram al-Qash, said that the Syrian population was 28 million, of which, 21 million were living in Syria and that 7 million were refugees.[42]

In 2018, 19,454,263 estimated.[43]

Age structure[edit]

CIA World Factbook (2018 est.)[43]
Population pyramid Male Female
0–14
3,132,619
2,974,394
15–24
1,933,185
1,863,991
25–54
3,807,664
3,829,150
55–64
531,455
542,738
65+
379,360
379,360
UN inc Palestinian refugees 2011-07-01 est.[44]
Population pyramid Male Female
0–14
4,044,000
6,281,000
15–64
6,281,000
6,126,000
65+
469,000
389,000
(2011-07-01) (Estimates, including Palestinian refugees)[44]
Age Group Male Female Total %
Total 10 794 000 10 330 000 21 124 000 100
0-4 1 428 000 1 347 000 2 775 000 13.14
5-9 1 384 000 1 270 000 2 654 000 12.56
10-14 1 232 000 1 198 000 2 430 000 11.50
15-19 1 191 000 1 088 000 2 279 000 10.79
20-24 1 035 000 944 000 1 979 000 9.37
25-29 864 000 873 000 1 737 000 8.22
30-34 674 000 697 000 1 371 000 6.49
35-39 601 000 628 000 1 229 000 5.82
40-44 545 000 551 000 1 096 000 5.19
45-49 437 000 433 000 870 000 4.12
50-54 387 000 405 000 792 000 3.75
55-59 293 000 280 000 573 000 2.71
60-64 254 000 227 000 481 000 2.28
65+ 469 000 389 000 858 000 4.06
Age group Male Female Total Percent
0–14 4 044 000 3 815 000 7 859 000 37.20
15–64 6 281 000 6 126 000 12 407 000 58.73
65+ 469 000 389 000 858 000 4.06

Median age[edit]

This data is from CIA World Factbook:[43]

total: 24.5 years
male: 24 years
female: 25 years (2018 est.)

Population decline rate[edit]

This data is from CIA World Factbook:[43]

0.797% (2012 est.)

Birth rate[edit]

This data is from CIA World Factbook:[43]

20.7 births/1,000 population (2018 est.)

Death rate[edit]

This data is from CIA World Factbook:[43]

4 deaths/1,000 population (2018 est.)

Net migration rate[edit]

This data is from CIA World Factbook:[43]

57 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2018 est.)

Sex ratio[edit]

This data is from CIA World Factbook:[43]

at birth: 1.06 male(s)/female
0–14 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
15–24 years: 1.03 male(s)/female
25–54 years: 0.99 male(s)/female
55–64 years: 0.98 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.82 male(s)/female
total population: 1.01 male(s)/female (2017 est.)

Demographic statistics[edit]

UN estimates[45]

Period Population Live births Deaths Natural change Birth rate
(per 1000)
Death rate
(per 1000)
Natural change
(per 1000)
Total Fertility rate Infant mortality (1000 births) Life expectancy (years)
1950 3 544 000   167 000   92 000   75 000 47.0 25.9 21.1 7.60 179.6 44.14
1951   3 621 000   171 000   92 000   80 000 47.3 25.4 22.0 7.60 177.5 44.45
1952   3 703 000   176 000   91 000   85 000 47.6 24.7 23.0 7.61 173.3 44.99
1953   3 791 000   182 000   90 000   91 000 47.9 23.9 24.0 7.61 169.1 45.70
1954   3 886 000   187 000   88 000   99 000 48.0 22.6 25.5 7.62 160.2 46.97
1955   3 989 000   192 000   85 000   107 000 48.2 21.3 26.8 7.62 151.7 48.31
1956   4 099 000   197 000   83 000   114 000 48.0 20.3 27.7 7.59 143.9 49.39
1957   4 217 000   202 000   81 000   121 000 47.8 19.1 28.7 7.57 136.6 50.58
1958   4 341 000   207 000   79 000   128 000 47.6 18.2 29.4 7.54 129.9 51.57
1959   4 473 000   212 000   77 000   135 000 47.3 17.2 30.1 7.51 123.7 52.61
1960   4 611 000   217 000   75 000   142 000 47.0 16.3 30.7 7.49 118.0 53.55
1961   4 752 000   221 000   74 000   147 000 46.5 15.5 31.0 7.43 113.0 54.44
1962   4 895 000   227 000   73 000   154 000 46.4 14.8 31.5 7.44 108.4 55.09
1963   5 045 000   233 000   72 000   162 000 46.2 14.2 32.0 7.44 104.2 55.78
1964   5 203 000   241 000   71 000   170 000 46.2 13.6 32.6 7.47 100.3 56.50
1965   5 368 000   249 000   70 000   179 000 46.3 13.1 33.3 7.51 96.5 57.11
1966   5 542 000   258 000   70 000   188 000 46.5 12.6 33.8 7.55 92.7 57.60
1967   5 723 000   267 000   70 000   197 000 46.6 12.2 34.4 7.58 88.9 58.10
1968   5 913 000   276 000   68 000   208 000 46.6 11.5 35.1 7.60 85.0 59.07
1969   6 111 000   288 000   67 000   220 000 47.0 11.0 36.0 7.67 81.1 59.88
1970   6 319 000   298 000   67 000   231 000 47.1 10.5 36.5 7.69 77.2 60.53
1971   6 539 000   305 000   65 000   240 000 46.7 10.0 36.7 7.65 73.5 61.37
1972   6 769 000   314 000   65 000   249 000 46.3 9.6 36.7 7.61 70.1 61.90
1973   7 003 000   322 000   69 000   253 000 45.9 9.8 36.1 7.56 66.9 60.69
1974   7 245 000   331 000   63 000   267 000 45.6 8.7 36.9 7.51 63.8 63.12
1975   7 497 000   341 000   63 000   278 000 45.4 8.4 37.0 7.47 60.9 63.54
1976   7 759 000   352 000   63 000   289 000 45.3 8.1 37.2 7.44 58.0 63.92
1977   8 029 000   364 000   65 000   299 000 45.2 8.1 37.2 7.41 55.2 63.76
1978   8 310 000   373 000   60 000   314 000 44.8 7.2 37.7 7.35 52.4 65.81
1979   8 601 000   382 000   60 000   322 000 44.3 6.9 37.4 7.27 49.7 66.14
1980   8 899 000   390 000   60 000   330 000 43.8 6.7 37.1 7.16 47.2 66.35
1981   9 204 000   396 000   68 000   328 000 43.0 7.4 35.6 7.01 47.0 64.37
1982   9 511 000   404 000   83 000   321 000 42.4 8.7 33.7 6.88 48.6 61.12
1983   9 835 000   413 000   58 000   355 000 41.9 5.9 36.0 6.74 40.3 67.83
1984   10 183 000   422 000   55 000   366 000 41.4 5.4 35.9 6.61 38.3 68.92
1985   10 541 000   432 000   57 000   375 000 41.0 5.4 35.5 6.48 36.6 68.76
1986   10 908 000   441 000   57 000   384 000 40.4 5.2 35.2 6.33 35.0 69.21
1987   11 281 000   447 000   58 000   389 000 39.6 5.1 34.5 6.13 33.5 69.30
1988   11 658 000   448 000   58 000   390 000 38.4 4.9 33.4 5.89 32.3 69.67
1989   12 034 000   446 000   58 000   388 000 37.1 4.9 32.2 5.63 31.1 69.76
1990   12 409 000   446 000   59 000   387 000 35.9 4.8 31.1 5.38 29.9 69.82
1991   12 782 000   444 000   60 000   384 000 34.7 4.7 30.0 5.12 28.8 70.04
1992   13 156 000   448 000   60 000   387 000 34.0 4.6 29.4 4.95 27.7 70.26
1993   13 537 000   459 000   62 000   397 000 33.9 4.6 29.3 4.83 26.5 70.19
1994   13 923 000   468 000   64 000   404 000 33.6 4.6 29.0 4.72 25.4 70.14
1995   14 313 000   474 000   64 000   409 000 33.1 4.5 28.6 4.57 24.2 70.42
1996   14 709 000   478 000   67 000   411 000 32.5 4.5 28.0 4.43 23.1 70.35
1997   15 104 000   481 000   69 000   412 000 31.8 4.5 27.3 4.28 22.0 70.28
1998   15 501 000   487 000   71 000   416 000 31.4 4.6 26.8 4.18 21.0 70.20
1999   15 901 000   493 000   72 000   421 000 31.0 4.5 26.5 4.08 20.1 70.43
2000   16 308 000   500 000   72 000   428 000 30.6 4.4 26.2 4.00 19.3 70.76
2001   16 728 000   519 000   70 000   449 000 31.0 4.2 26.8 4.01 18.6 71.64
2002   17 164 000   529 000   70 000   459 000 30.8 4.1 26.7 3.95 18.0 71.94
2003   17 611 000   541 000   70 000   471 000 30.7 4.0 26.7 3.90 17.4 72.41
2004   18 084 000   553 000   72 000   481 000 30.6 4.0 26.6 3.86 17.0 72.48
2005   18 584 000   567 000   73 000   494 000 30.5 3.9 26.6 3.81 16.6 72.77
2006   19 432 000   579 000   72 000   507 000 30.3 3.8 26.5 3.76 16.3 73.35
2007   20 703 000   625 000   75 000   551 000 30.8 3.7 27.1 3.70 16.1 73.71
2008   21 474 000   673 000   81 000   592 000 31.0 3.7 27.3 3.61 16.0 73.55
2009   21 827 000   650 000   80 000   569 000 29.7 3.7 26.1 3.51 15.9 73.85
2010   22 338 000   641 000   83 000   558 000 28.7 3.7 25.0 3.40 15.9 73.88
2011   22 731 000   629 000   90 000   539 000 27.5 3.9 23.6 3.28 16.4 73.31
2012   22 606 000   615 000   148 000   467 000 26.6 6.4 20.2 3.22 23.0 66.77
2013   21 496 000   568 000   173 000   394 000 25.2 7.7 17.5 3.17 26.3 63.83
2014   20 072 000   465 000   168 000   297 000 22.4 8.1 14.3 3.10 27.1 63.15
2015   19 205 000   397 000   143 000   254 000 20.2 7.3 12.9 3.05 25.1 65.12
2016   18 964 000   359 000   133 000   226 000 18.9 7.0 11.9 2.99 24.5 65.99
2017   18 983 000   355 000   115 000   240 000 18.6 6.0 12.5 2.94 18.5 68.48
2018   19 333 000   346 000   106 000   240 000 18.2 5.6 12.6 2.89 18.6 70.15
2019   20 098 000   375 000   100 000   275 000 18.9 5.0 13.9 2.84 18.1 71.82
2020   20 773 000   406 000   103 000   303 000 19.7 5.0 14.7 2.80 18.1 72.14
2021   21 324 000   427 000   109 000   318 000 20.1 5.1 15.0 2.75 17.8 72.06
Fertility[46]
Name TFR (2009)
Aleppo 3.2
Damascus 2.6
Daraa 5.2
Deir ez-Zor 6.9
Hama 3.3
Al-Hasakah 3.5
Homs 3.1
Idlib 4.8
Latakia 2.2
Quneitra 3.8
Raqqa 5
Rif Dimashq 3.3
Al-Suwayda 2.1
Tartus 2.3
Syria 3.5
Marital fertility rate[46]
Name MFR (2009)
Aleppo 5.4
Damascus 4.7
Daraa 7.3
Deir ez-Zor 10.2
Hama 6.6
Al-Hasakah 6.8
Homs 5.9
Idlib 7.7
Latakia 4.5
Quneitra 6.5
Raqqa 7.9
Rif Dimashq 5.4
Al-Suwayda 4
Tartus 4.8
Syria 6

Life expectancy at birth

This data is from CIA World Factbook:[43]

total: 75.2 years
male: 72.8 years
female: 77.8 years (2018 est.)

Population centers[edit]

Demographics of Syria is located in Syria
Aleppo 2,132,100
Aleppo 2,132,100
Damascus 1,711,000
Damascus 1,711,000
Homs 652,609
Homs 652,609
Latakia 383,786
Latakia 383,786
Hama 312,994
Hama 312,994
Raqqa 220,488
Raqqa 220,488
Deir ez-Zor 211,857
Deir ez-Zor 211,857
Al-Hasakah 188,160
Al-Hasakah 188,160
Qamishli 184,231
Qamishli 184,231
Population centers as of 2004[47] 6,133,652 Syrians among 17,921,000 total population live in the first 10: (1) Aleppo 2,132,100 (2) Damascus 1,711,000 (3) Homs 652,609 (4) Latakia 383,786 (5) Hama 312,994 (6) Raqqa 220,488 (7) Deir ez-Zor 211,857 (8) Al-Hasakah 188,160 (9) Qamishli 184,231 (10) Sayyidah Zaynab 136,427

60% of the population lives in the Aleppo Governorate, the Euphrates valley or along the coastal plain; a fertile strip between the coastal mountains and the desert. Overall population density is about 118.3 inhabitants per square kilometre (306/sq mi).

Urbanization[edit]

This data is from CIA World Factbook:[43]

Urban population: 54.2% of total population (2018)

Rate of urbanization: 1.43% annual rate of change (2015-20 est.)

Major urban areas[edit]

Population density, 1993

As of 2018; this data is from CIA World Factbook:[43]

Damascus (capital): 2.32 million

Aleppo: 1.754 million

Homs: 1.295 million

Hama: 894,000

Race and ethnicity[edit]

On 1 January 2011, Syria was estimated to have a population of 24 million people, distributed over its 14 governorates.[48] Arabs represent 80-85% of the population, with the rest being a mixture of many ethnic and religious sects, as shown in the table below:

Ethnic and religious groups % of Syrian population[48] Notes[48]
Syrian Arabs 80–85% The Arabs form the majority in all districts except for the Al-Hasakah Governorate.
Kurds 10% The majority of Kurds are Sunni Muslims, with a Yazidi minority; concentrated in Syrian Kurdistan region and major urban centres outside that region.
Turkmen/Turkoman 4–5% Descendants of ethnic Turks, rather than Turkmens. These figures exclude the Arabic-speaking Turks. Only approximately 30% of Turkmen speak a Turkic language. The majority are Sunni Muslims.
Assyrians 3–4% Most Assyrians are Christians
Circassians 1.5% The majority of Circassians are Sunni Muslims.
Armenians 1% The majority of Armenians are Christians.
Smaller groups of Albanians, Greeks, Persians and Chechens, among others <0.9% (combined) A significant number of these ethnic groups are Arabized, particularly those that adhere to Islam.

The CIA World Factbook cites the following figures for ethnic groups as at July 2018: approximately Arab 50%, Alawite 15%, Kurd 10%, Levantine 10%, other 15% (includes Druze, Ismaili, Imami, Nusairi, Assyrians, Turkmen, Armenian and Chechens).[5] However, Professor John A. Shoup said in 2018 that Kurds made 9% of the population, followed by Turkish-speaking Turkmen comprising 4-5% , Assyrians 4%, Armenians 2%, and Circassians about 1% of the total population.[49]

Religion in Syria (est. 2021)[50]

  Sunni Islam (74%)
  Christianity (10%)
  Druze (3%)

There has been no Syrian census including a question about religion since 1960, these are thus the last official statistics available:[51]

In 1991 Professor Alasdair Drysdale and Professor Raymond Hinnebusch said that some 85% of Syrians were Muslims and that the remainder were almost all Christians, however, both religious groups were subdivided into many ethnic sects.[52] Among the former, approximately 75% of Syrians were Sunni Muslim, of whom, 60% were Arabic-speaking and the remainder of Sunnis included Kurds 8.5%, Turkmen/Turkoman 3%, and Circassians (less than 1%).[52] In addition, Alawis formed 5.5%, Druze 3% and Ismailis 1.5% of the population. In regards to the Christians, they were subdivided into the Greek Orthodox 4.7%, Armenians 4% and Assyrians 1%.[52]

According to Pierre Beckouche, before 2011, Sunni Muslims accounted for 78% of Syria's population, which included 500,000 Palestinian refugees and the non-Arab Sunni Muslims, namely the Kurds 9-10% and the Turkmen/Turkoman 4%.[53] Other Muslims included Shias and Alawites 11%-16%, whilst the Christians made up 6% of the population.[53] There were also a few Jewish communities in Aleppo and Damascus.[53]

The CIA World Factbook cites the following figures for religious groups: religions - Muslim 87% (official; includes Sunni 74% and Alawi, Ismaili, and Shia 13%), Christian 10% (mainly of the Greek Orthodox and Greek Catholic churches[54] - may be smaller as a result of Christians fleeing the country), Druze 3%.[5]

The first census which focused on the sectarian distribution was carried out in 1932 under the French mandate, however, this census was only carried out in the lands under the short-lived Government of Latakia (the Alawite State established by the French) which covered only 7,000 km2 (2,700 sq mi) out of modern Syria's total area of 185,000 km2 (71,000 sq mi).[55] A general census of Syria in 1943 gave details of religious groups of the population and the rate of growth of each and estimates of the population in 1953 from an unnamed source were as follows:

1943 census[55][56] 1953 census[55] Growth[55]
Sunnis 1,971,053 (68.91%) 2,578,810 (70.54%) 31%
Shi'ites 12,742 (0.45%) 14,887 (0.41%) 17%
Alawites 325,311 (11.37%) 398,445 (10.90%) 22%
Ismailis 28,527 (1.00%) 36,745 (1.01%) 29%
Druze 87,184 (3.05%) 113,318 (3.10%) 30%
Yezidi 2,788 (0.10%) 3,082 (0.08%) 11%
Total Muslims 2,427,605 (84.87%) 3,145,287 (86.03%) 30%
Jews 29,770 (1.04%) 31,647 (0.87%) 6%
Christians 403,036 (14.09%) 478,970 (13.10%) 19%

Literacy rate[edit]

Education is free and compulsory from ages 6 to 11. 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 86.0% for males and 73.6% for females.[57]

Languages[edit]

Arabic is the official, and most widely spoken, language. Arabic speakers make up 85% of the population. Several modern Arabic dialects are used in everyday life, most notably Levantine in the west and Mesopotamian in the northeast. A report published by the UNHCR points out that "while the majority of Syrians are considered Arabs, this is a term based on spoken language (Arabic), not ethnicity."[58]

According to The Encyclopedia of Arabic Language and Linguistics, in addition to Arabic, the following languages are spoken in the country, in order of the number of speakers: Kurdish,[59] Turkish,[59] Neo-Aramaic (four dialects),[59] Circassian,[59] Chechen,[59] Armenian,[59] and finally Greek.[59] None of these languages have official status.[59]

Many educated Syrians also speak English and French.[60][61]

References[edit]

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