Ethnic groups in Syria

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Syria is a multi-ethnic country, made up of several ethnic groups.

Ethno-religious makeup of Syria, 1976.
Map from Joseph Holliday, The Struggle for Syria in 2011, Institute for the Study of War
Ethno-religious makeup of Syria, 1935.
Map from La cartothèque de l'Ifpo (Institut français du Proche-Orient)

Ethnicity, religion and national/ideological identities[edit]

Ethnicity and religion are intertwined in Syria as in other countries in the region, but there are also nondenominational, supraethnic and suprareligious political identities, like Syrian nationalism.

Counting the ethnic or religious groups[edit]

Since the 1960 census there has been no counting of Syrians by religion, and there has never been any official counting by ethnicity or language. In the 1943 and 1953 censuses the various subcreeds were counted separately, e.g. for every Christian denomination. In 1960 Christians were counted as a whole but Muslims were still counted separately between Sunnis, Alawis and Druzes.[1] [2] [3]

Syrians and "foreigners"[edit]

Before the Civil War began in 2011, the Syrian population was estimated at roughly 23 million permanent inhabitants, including between 1,000,000 and 1,500,000 Iraqi refugees of various ethnicities and creeds, 580,000 Palestinian refugees, mostly Sunni Arabs, and an unknown number of Lebanese or Lebanese-Syrian dual citizens, mostly Shia Arabs and Christian Arabs of various subcreeds. Palestinians and Lebanese had been living in Syria sometimes since several generations. More than four million refugees, Syrians as well as "Non-Syrians" have left the country during the course of the Civil War.

Ethnoreligious groups[edit]

Most Syrians speak Arabic, most are Sunni Muslims, but there are no accurate numbers or percentages of the various "majority" and "minority" groups. Sunni Arab Syrians could be anywhere between 60% and 69% as non-Arabic-speaking groups (mostly Kurds) are usually estimated at about 4%, non-Sunni Muslim groups (mostly Alawis) at more than 20% and Arabic-speaking Christians are 10%, but these are only indicative percentages.

(probably none or a handful in 2016)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hourani, Albert Habib (1947). Minorities in the Arab World. London: Oxford University Press. p. 76. 
  2. ^ French: Etienne de Vaumas, "La population de la Syrie", Annales de géographie, Année 1955, Vol. 64, n° 341, p.74
  3. ^ French: Mouna Liliane Samman, La population de la Syrie: étude géo-démographique, IRD Editions, Paris, 1978, ISBN 9782709905008 table p.9
  4. ^ "Syrian Alawites, referred to by AKP officials as Nusayris — a derogatory term not accepted by most Alevis in Turkey or Alawites in Syria — indeed can briefly be explained as follows. Some are Turkmen. They speak Turkish (...)" cf. Pinar Tremblay, "Syrian Alawites hope for change in Turkey", Al-Monitor, November 15, 2013

External links[edit]