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Coordinates: 35°N 38°E / 35°N 38°E / 35; 38
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Syrian Arab Republic
ٱلْجُمْهُورِيَّةُ ٱلْعَرَبِيَّة ٱلْسُوْرِيَّة (Arabic)
al-Jumhūriyya al-ʿArabiyya al-Sūriya
Motto: وَحْدَةٌ، حُرِّيَّةٌ، اِشْتِرَاكِيَّةٌ
Waḥda, Ḥurriyya, Ishtirākiyya
"Unity, Freedom, Socialism"
Anthem: حُمَاةَ الدِّيَارِ
Ḥumāt ad-Diyār
"Guardians of the Homeland"

Syria proper shown in dark green; Syria's territorial claims over the Turkish Hatay Province and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights shown in light green
and largest city
33°30′N 36°18′E / 33.500°N 36.300°E / 33.500; 36.300
Official languagesArabic[1]
Ethnic groups
74–75% Arabs
9.5–10% Kurds
15–16.5% Others (including Turkomans, Assyrians, Circassians, Armenians and others)[2][3]
GovernmentUnitary presidential republic[4] under a totalitarian[5] hereditary dictatorship
• President
Bashar al-Assad
Najah al-Attar
Hussein Arnous
Hammouda Sabbagh
LegislaturePeople's Assembly
8 March 1920
1 December 1924
14 May 1930
• De jure independence
24 October 1945
• De facto independence
17 April 1946
• Left the United Arab Republic
28 September 1961
8 March 1963
27 February 2012
• Total
185,180[6] km2 (71,500 sq mi) (87th)
• Water (%)
• 2024 estimate
23,865,423[7] (58th)
• Density
118.3/km2 (306.4/sq mi) (70th)
GDP (PPP)2015 estimate
• Total
$50.28 billion[8]
• Per capita
GDP (nominal)2020 estimate
• Total
$11.08 billion[8]
• Per capita
Gini (2014)55.8[9]
HDI (2022)Steady 0.557[10]
medium (157th)
CurrencySyrian pound (SYP)
Time zoneUTC+3 (Arabia Standard Time)
Date formatdd/mm/yyyy (AD)
Driving sideright
Calling code+963
ISO 3166 codeSY
Internet TLD.sy

Syria,[a] officially the Syrian Arab Republic,[b] is a country in West Asia located in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Levant. It is bounded by the Mediterranean Sea to the west, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east and southeast, Jordan to the south, and Israel and Lebanon to the southwest. It is a republic that consists of 14 governorates (subdivisions). A country of fertile plains, high mountains, and deserts, Syria is home to diverse ethnic and religious groups, including the majority Arabs, Kurds, Turkmens, Assyrians, Circassians, Armenians, Albanians, Greeks, and Chechens. Religious groups include Sunnis, Christians, Alawites, and Druze. The capital and largest city is Damascus. Arabs are the largest ethnic group, and Sunni Muslims are the largest religious group. Syria is now the only country that is governed by Ba'athists, who advocate Arab socialism and Arab nationalism.

The name "Syria" historically referred to a wider region, broadly synonymous with the Levant, and known in Arabic as al-Sham. The modern state encompasses the sites of several ancient kingdoms and empires, including the Eblan civilization of the 3rd millennium BC. In the Islamic era, Damascus was the seat of the Umayyad Caliphate and a provincial capital of the Mamluk Sultanate in Egypt. The modern Syrian state was established in the mid-20th century after centuries of Ottoman rule. After a period as a French mandate (1923–1946), the newly created state represented the largest Arab state to emerge from the formerly Ottoman-ruled Syrian provinces. It gained de jure independence as a parliamentary republic on 24 October 1945 when the Republic of 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, with multiple military coup attempts shaking the country between 1949 and 1971. In 1958, Syria entered a brief union with Egypt called the United Arab Republic, which was terminated by the 1961 coup d'état. The republic was renamed as the Arab Republic of Syria in late 1961 after the constitutional referendum of that year. The 1963 coup d'état carried out by the military committee of the Ba'ath Party established a one-party state. It ran Syria under emergency law from 1963 to 2011, effectively suspending constitutional protections for citizens. Internal power-struggles within Ba'athist factions caused further coups in 1966 and 1970, which eventually resulted in the seizure of power by Hafiz al-Assad. He assigned Alawite loyalists to key posts in the armed forces, bureaucracy, Mukhabarat and the ruling elite; effectively establishing an Alawi minority rule to consolidate power within his family. After his death in 2000, his son Bashar al-Assad inherited the presidency. Since July 2011, Syria has been embroiled in a multi-sided civil war, with involvement of different countries.[c] Three political entities – the Syrian Interim Government, Syrian Salvation Government, and Rojava – have emerged in Syrian territory to challenge Assad's rule.

The country is a totalitarian dictatorship with a comprehensive cult of personality around the Assad family. Being ranked 3rd last on the 2022 GPI and 5th highest in the 2023 Fragile States Index,[12][13] Syria is one of the most dangerous places for journalists. Freedom of press in Syria is extremely limited, and the country is ranked 2nd worst in 2024 WPFI.[14][15] Syria is the most corrupt country in the WANA region and was ranked the 2nd lowest globally on the 2022 CPI.[d] The country has also become the epicentre of a state-sponsored multi-billion dollar illicit drug cartel, the largest in the world. The civil war has resulted in more than 600,000 deaths,[16] with pro-Assad forces causing more than 90% of the total civilian casualties.[e] The war led to a refugee crisis, with an estimated 7.6 million internally displaced people (July 2015 UNHCR figure) and over 5 million refugees (July 2017 registered by UNHCR),[25] making population assessment difficult in recent years. The war has also worsened economic conditions, with more than 90% of the population living in poverty and 80% facing food insecurity.[f]


Several sources indicate that the name Syria is derived from the 8th century BC Luwian term "Sura/i", and the derivative ancient Greek name: Σύριοι, Sýrioi, or Σύροι, Sýroi, both of which originally derived from Aššūr (Assyria) in northern Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq).[30][31] However, from the Seleucid Empire (323–150 BC), this term was also applied to the Levant,[32] and from this point the Greeks applied the term without distinction between the Assyrians of Mesopotamia and Arameans of the Levant.[33][34] Mainstream modern academic opinion strongly favors the argument that the Greek word is related to the cognate Ἀσσυρία, Assyria, ultimately derived from the Akkadian Aššur.[35] The Greek name appears to correspond to Phoenician ʾšr "Assur", ʾšrym "Assyrians", recorded in the 8th century BC Çineköy inscription.[36]

The area designated by the word has changed over time. Classically, Syria lies at the eastern end of the Mediterranean, between Arabia to 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 describes as including, from west to east, Commagene, Sophene, and Adiabene.[37]

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 AD 194) corresponding to modern Lebanon, Damascus and Homs regions; Coele-Syria (or "Hollow Syria") and south of the Eleutheris river.[38]


Ancient antiquity

Female figurine, 5000 BC Ancient Orient Museum.

Since approximately 10,000 BC, Syria was one of the centers of Neolithic culture (known as Pre-Pottery Neolithic A), where agriculture and cattle breeding first began to appear. The Neolithic period (PPNB) is represented by rectangular houses of Mureybet culture. At the time of the pre-pottery Neolithic, people used containers made of stone, gyps and burnt lime (Vaisselle blanche). The discovery of obsidian tools from Anatolia are evidence of early trade. The ancient cities of Hamoukar and Emar played an important role during the late Neolithic and Bronze Age. Archaeologists have demonstrated that civilization in Syria was one of the most ancient on earth, perhaps preceded by only that of Mesopotamia.

The earliest recorded indigenous civilization in the region was the Kingdom of Ebla[39] near present-day Idlib, northern Syria. Ebla appears to have been founded around 3500 BC,[40][41][42][43][44] and gradually built its fortune through trade with the Mesopotamian states of Sumer, Assyria, and Akkad, as well as with the Hurrian and Hattian peoples to the northwest, in Asia Minor.[45] Gifts from Pharaohs, found during excavations, confirm Ebla's contact with Egypt.

Ishqi-Mari, king of the Second Kingdom of Mari, circa 2300 BC

One of the earliest written texts from Syria is a trading agreement between Vizier Ibrium of Ebla and an ambiguous kingdom called Abarsal c. 2300 BC.[46][47] 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 Akkadian language.[48]

Ebla was weakened by a long war with Mari, and the whole of Syria became part of the Mesopotamian 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.[49][50]

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 conquered by 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,[51] 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 Sea Peoples.

Aleppo and the capital city Damascus are among the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world.[52] Yamhad (modern Aleppo) dominated northern Syria for two centuries,[53] although Eastern Syria was occupied in the 19th and 18th centuries BC by the Old Assyrian Empire ruled by the Amorite Dynasty of Shamshi-Adad I, and by the Babylonian Empire which was founded by Amorites. Yamhad was described in the tablets of Mari as the mightiest state in the near east and as having more vassals than Hammurabi of Babylon.[53] Yamhad imposed its authority over Alalakh,[54] Qatna,[55] the Hurrians states and the Euphrates Valley down to the borders with Babylon.[56] The army of Yamhad campaigned as far away as Dēr on the border of Elam (modern Iran).[57] Yamhad was conquered and destroyed, along with Ebla, by the Indo-European Hittites from Asia Minor circa 1600 BC.[58]

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.

Syrians bringing presents to Pharaoh Tuthmosis III, as depicted in the tomb of Rekhmire, circa 1450 BCE (actual painting and interpretational drawing). They are labeled "Chiefs of Retjenu".[59][60]

Around the 14th century BC, various Semitic peoples appeared in the area, such as the semi-nomadic Suteans who came into an unsuccessful conflict with Babylonia to the east, and the West Semitic speaking Arameans who subsumed the earlier Amorites. They too were subjugated by 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.[61][62] The west remained part of the Hittite empire until its destruction c. 1200 BC,[63] while eastern Syria largely became part of the Middle Assyrian Empire,[64] 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 Semitic 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), including Palistin, Carchemish and Sam'al.

Amrit Phoenician Temple

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 Spain and Portugal), and 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 Republic.

Syria and the Western half of Near East 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 colonies of Syria and Lebanon Eber-Nari. Assyrian domination ended after the Assyrians greatly weakened themselves in a series of brutal internal civil wars, followed by attacks from: 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 Egypt.

Classical antiquity

Ancient city of Palmyra before the war

Lands that constitute modern day Syria were part of the Neo-Babylonian Empire and had been annexed by the Achaemenid Empire in 539 BC. Led by Cyrus the Great, the Achaemenid Persians retained Imperial Aramaic as one of the diplomatic languages of their empire (539 BC – 330 BC), as well as the Assyrian name for the new satrapy of Aram/Syria Eber-Nari.

Syria was later conquered by the Macedonian Empire which was ruled by Alexander the Great c. 330 BC, and consequently became Coele-Syria province of the Seleucid Empire (323 BC – 64 BC), with the Seleucid kings styling themselves 'King of Syria' and the city of Antioch being 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 Mesopotamia (Iraq), the 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.[65] Thus in the Greco-Roman world both the Arameans of Syria and the Assyrians of Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq) 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 by the Jewish Hasmoneans dynasty upon the slow disintegration of the Hellenistic Empire.

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 and captured Antioch, its capital, and turned Syria into a Roman province in 64 BC, thus ending 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 Persians.

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.

The northern Mesopotamian Assyrian kingdom of Adiabene controlled areas of north east Syria between 10 AD and 117 AD, before it was conquered by Rome.[66]

The Aramaic language has been found as far afield as Hadrian's Wall in Ancient Britain,[67] with an inscription written by a Palmyrene emigrant at the site of Fort Arbeia.[68]

Control of Syria eventually passed from the Romans to the Byzantines, with the split in the Roman Empire.[45]

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 Arab 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 were also extant in major cities, with Nabateans and pre-Islamic Arabs such as the Lakhmids and Ghassanids dwelling in the deserts of southern Syria. Syriac Christianity had taken hold as the major religion, although others still followed Judaism, Mithraism, Manicheanism, Greco-Roman Religion, Canaanite Religion and Mesopotamian Religion. 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).[69]

The ancient city of Apamea, an important commercial center and one of Syria's most prosperous cities in classical antiquity

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 Arabs from 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,[69] 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 at Antioch in ancient Syria, from which he left on many of his missionary journeys. (Acts 9:1–43[inappropriate external link?])

Middle Ages

Muhammad's first interaction with the people and tribes of Syria was during the Invasion of Dumatul Jandal in July 626[70] where he ordered his followers to invade Duma, because Muhammad received intelligence that some tribes there were involved in highway robbery and preparing to attack Medina itself.[71] William Montgomery Watt claims that this was the most significant expedition 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 communications to Syria and supplies to Medina would be 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 of it".[72] 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.[70]

Umayyad fresco from Qasr al-Hayr al-Gharbî, built in the early 7th century

By AD 640, Syria was conquered by the Arab 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[73] – became the dominant language, replacing Greek and Aramaic of the Byzantine era. In 887, the Egypt-based Tulunids annexed 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.[74]

The 1299 Battle of Wadi al-Khazandar. The Mongols under Ghazan defeated the Mamluks.

Sections of 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 Ayyubids."[75] After a century of Seljuk rule, Syria was largely conquered (1175–1185) by the Kurdish liberator Salah ad-Din, founder of the Ayyubid dynasty of Egypt. Aleppo fell to the Mongols of Hulegu in January 1260, and 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 Egypt and defeated the Mongols in the 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 defeated by Qalawun on 21 June 1280, and fled to northern Syria. Al-Ashqar, who had married a Mongol woman, appealed for help from the Mongols. The Mongols of the Ilkhanate took Aleppo in October 1280, 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 Mamluks.[76] In 1400, the Muslim Turco-Mongol conqueror Tamurlane invaded Syria, in which he sacked Aleppo,[77] and captured Damascus after defeating the Mamluk army. The city's inhabitants were massacred, except for the artisans, who were deported to Samarkand.[78] Tamurlane also conducted specific massacres of the Aramean and Assyrian Christian populations, greatly reducing their numbers.[79] 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.

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.[80]

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, Kurds and Jews—constituted a millet.[81] The religious heads of each community administered all personal status laws and performed certain civil functions as well.[80] 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, rebuilt 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. From 1864, Tanzimat reforms were applied on Ottoman Syria, carving out the provinces (vilayets) of Aleppo, Zor, Beirut and Damascus Vilayet; Mutasarrifate of Mount Lebanon was created, as well, and soon after the Mutasarrifate of Jerusalem was given a separate status.

Armenian deportees near Aleppo during the Armenian genocide, 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.[82] 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 the British zone of influence, which was to become Iraq. The fate of the intermediate province of Zor was left unclear; its occupation by Arab nationalists resulted in its attachment to Syria. This border was recognized internationally when Syria became a League of Nations mandate in 1920[83] and has not changed to date.

French Mandate

The inauguration of President Hashim al-Atassi in 1936

In 1920, a short-lived independent Kingdom of Syria was established under 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 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 arbitration that these divisions give". De Caix added "I must say only the second option interests me". This is what Gouraud did.[84][85]

In 1925, 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 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 returned to Syria in 1937 after the signing of the Syrian-French Treaty.

Syrian rebels in Ghouta during the Great Syrian Revolt against French colonial rule in the 1920s

Syria and France negotiated a treaty of independence in September 1936, and 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.[86]

Independent Syrian Republic

Upheaval dominated Syrian politics from independence through the late 1960s. In May 1948, Syrian forces invaded Palestine, together with other Arab states, and immediately attacked Jewish settlements.[87] Their president Shukri al-Quwwatli instructed his troops in the front, "to destroy the Zionists".[88][89] The Invasion purpose was to prevent the establishment of the State of Israel.[90] Toward this end, the Syrian government engaged in an active process of recruiting former Nazis, including several former members of the Schutzstaffel, to build up their armed forces and military intelligence capabilities.[91] 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[90] 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.[90]

Shishakli eventually abolished multipartyism altogether, but was himself overthrown in a 1954 coup and the parliamentary system was restored.[90] However, by this time, power was increasingly concentrated in the military and security establishment.[90] 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 Arab nationalist, Syrian nationalist, and socialist movements, which represented disaffected elements of society. Notably included were religious minorities, who demanded radical reform.[90]

Aleppo in 1961

In November 1956, as a direct result of the Suez Crisis,[92] Syria signed a pact with the Soviet Union. This gave a foothold for Communist influence within the government in exchange for military equipment.[90] 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.[93]

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.[86] 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 Hafiz al-Assad. Syria seceded from the union with Egypt on 28 September 1961, after a coup.

Ba'athist Syria

Ba'athist military officers celebrating overthrowal of President Nazim al-Qudsi after the 1963 coup

The instability which followed the 1961 coup culminated in the 8 March 1963 Ba'athist coup. The takeover was engineered by members of the Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party, led by Michel Aflaq and Salah al-Din al-Bitar. The new Syrian cabinet was dominated by Ba'ath members.[86][90] Since the 1963 seizure of power by its Military Committee, the Ba'ath party has ruled Syria as a totalitarian state. Ba'athists took control over country's politics, education, culture, religion and surveilled all aspects of civil society through its powerful Mukhabarat (secret police). Syrian Arab Armed forces and secret police were integrated with the Ba'ath party apparatus; after the purging of traditional civilian and military elites by the new regime.[94] The 1963 Ba'athist coup marked a "radical break" in modern Syrian history, after which Ba'ath party monopolised power in the country to establish a one-party state and shaped a new socio-political order by enforcing its state ideology.[95]

On 23 February 1966, the neo-Ba'athist Military Committee carried out an intra-party rebellion against the Ba'athist Old Guard (Aflaq and Bitar), imprisoned President Amin al-Hafiz and designated a regionalist, civilian Ba'ath government on 1 March.[90] Although Nureddin al-Atassi became the formal head of state, Salah Jadid was Syria's effective ruler from 1966 until November 1970,[96] when he was deposed by Hafiz al-Assad, who at the time was Minister of Defense.[97] The coup led to the schism 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.[98] When the Six-Day War broke out between Egypt and Israel, 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.[99] The defeat caused a split between Jadid and Assad over what steps to take next.[100]

Reign of Assad family

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 Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) led by Yasser Arafat during the "Black September (also known as the Jordan Civil War of 1970)" hostilities with Jordan reflected this disagreement.[101]

Hafez al-Assad, president of Syria (1970—2000)

The power struggle culminated in the November 1970 Syrian Corrective movement, a bloodless military coup that installed Hafiz al-Assad as the strongman of the government.[97] General Hafiz al-Assad transformed a Ba'athist party state into a totalitarian dictatorship marked by his pervasive grip on the party, armed forces, secret police, media, education sector, religious and cultural spheres and all aspects of civil society. A cult of personality revolving around Hafiz and his family became a core tenet of Ba'athist ideology,[102] which espoused that Assad dynasty was destined to rule perennially.[103]

Quneitra village, largely destroyed before the Israeli withdrawal in June 1974
The ruins of Hama after the army perpetrated a massacre in 1982

On 6 October 1973, Syria and Egypt initiated the Yom Kippur War against Israel. The Israel Defense Forces reversed the initial Syrian gains and pushed deeper into Syrian territory.[104] 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,[105] when some 10,000 – 40,000 people were killed by regular Syrian Army troops.[106][107] It has been described as the "single deadliest act" of violence perpetrated by any state upon its own population in modern Arab history[106][108]

In a major shift in relations with both other Arab states and the Western world, Syria participated in the US-led Gulf War against Saddam Hussein. 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 Hafiz al-Assad's meeting with then President Bill Clinton in Geneva in March 2000.[109]

Hafiz al-Assad died on 10 June 2000. His son, Bashar al-Assad, was elected president in an election in which he ran unopposed.[86] 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.[110] Instead, reforms have been limited to some market reforms.[102][111][112]

On 5 October 2003, Israel bombed a site near Damascus, claiming it was a terrorist training facility for members of Islamic Jihad.[113] In March 2004, Syrian Kurds and Arabs clashed in the northeastern city of al-Qamishli. Signs of rioting were seen in the cities of Qamishli and Hasakeh.[114] In 2005, Syria ended its military presence in Lebanon.[115] Assassination of Rafic Hariri in 2005 led to international condemnation and triggered a popular Intifada in Lebanon, known as "the Cedar Revolution" which forced the Assad regime to end its 29-year old of military occupation in Lebanon.[116] On 6 September 2007, foreign jet fighters, suspected as Israeli, reportedly carried out Operation Orchard against a suspected nuclear reactor under construction by North Korean technicians.[117]

Current political situation: Syrian Civil War

The Syrian civil war is an ongoing internal violent conflict in Syria. It is a part of the wider Arab Spring, a wave of upheaval throughout the Arab World. Public demonstrations across Syria began on 26 January 2011 and developed into a nationwide uprising. Protesters demanded the resignation of President Bashar al-Assad, the overthrow of his government, and an end to nearly five decades of Ba’ath Party rule. Since spring 2011, the Syrian government deployed the Syrian Army to quell the uprising, and several cities were besieged,[118][119] though the unrest continued. According to some witnesses, soldiers, who refused to open fire on civilians, were summarily executed by the Syrian Army.[120] The Syrian government denied reports of defections, and blamed armed gangs for causing trouble.[121] Since early autumn 2011, civilians and army defectors began forming fighting units, which began an insurgency campaign against the Syrian Army. The insurgents unified under the banner of the Free Syrian Army and fought in an increasingly organized fashion; however, the civilian component of the armed opposition lacked an organized leadership.[122]

Pro-Assad demonstration in the capital Damascus after US-led missile strikes in April 2018

The uprising has sectarian undertones, though neither faction in the conflict has described sectarianism as playing a major role. The opposition is dominated by Sunni Muslims, whereas the leading government figures are Alawites,[122] affiliated with the Shia Islam. As a result, the opposition is winning support from the Sunni Muslim states, whereas the government is publicly supported by the Shia dominated Iran and the Lebanese Hizbullah.

According to various sources, including the United Nations, up to 13,470–19,220 people have been killed, of which about half were civilians, but also including 6,035–6,570 armed combatants from both sides[123][124][125][126] and up to 1,400 opposition protesters.[127] Many more have been injured, and tens of thousands of protesters have been imprisoned. According to the Syrian government, 9,815–10,146 people, including 3,430 members of the security forces, 2,805–3,140 insurgents and up to 3,600 civilians, have been killed in fighting with what they characterize as "armed terrorist groups."[128] To escape the violence, tens of thousands of Syrian refugees have fled the country to neighboring Jordan, Iraq and [129] Lebanon, as well to Turkey.[130] The total official UN numbers of Syrian refugees reached 42,000 at the time,[131] while unofficial number stood at as many as 130,000.

Aerial view of Damascus in 2020

UNICEF reported that over 500 children have been killed,[132][133] Another 400 children have been reportedly arrested and tortured in Syrian prisons.[134][135] Both claims have been contested by the Syrian government.[136] Additionally, over 600 detainees and political prisoners have died under torture.[137] Human Rights Watch accused the government and Shabiha of using civilians as human shields when they advanced on opposition held-areas.[138] Anti-government rebels have been accused of human rights abuses as well, including torture, kidnapping, unlawful detention and execution of civilians, Shabiha and soldiers.[122] HRW also expressed concern at the kidnapping of Iranian nationals.[139] The UN Commission of Inquiry has also documented abuses of this nature in its February 2012 report, which also includes documentation that indicates rebel forces have been responsible for displacement of civilians.[140]

The Arab League, US, EU states, GCC states, and other countries have condemned the use of violence against the protesters.[122] China and Russia have avoided condemning the government or applying sanctions, saying that such methods could escalate into foreign intervention. However, military intervention has been ruled out by most countries.[141][142][143] The Arab League suspended Syria's membership over the government's response to the crisis,[144] but sent an observer mission in December 2011, as part of its proposal for peaceful resolution of the crisis.[143] The latest attempts to resolve the crisis has been made through the appointment of Kofi Annan, as a special envoy to resolve the Syrian crisis in the Middle East.[122] Some analysts however have posited the partitioning the region into a Sunnite east, Kurdish north and Shiite/Alawite west.[145] Twelve years into Syria's devastating civil war, the conflict appears to have settled into a frozen state.[146] Although roughly 30% of the country is controlled by opposition forces, heavy fighting has largely ceased and there is a growing regional trend toward normalizing relations with the regime of Bashar al-Assad.[146]


Syria is the twelfth most water stressed country in the world.

Syria lies between latitudes 32° and 38° N, and longitudes 35° and 43° E. The climate varies from the humid Mediterranean coast, through a semiarid steppe zone, to arid desert in the east. The country consists mostly of arid plateau, although the northwest part bordering the Mediterranean is fairly green. Al-Jazira in the northeast and Hawran in the south are important agricultural areas. The Euphrates, Syria's most important river, crosses the country in the east. Syria is one of the fifteen states that comprise the so-called "cradle of civilization".[147] Its land straddles the "northwest of the Arabian plate".[148]

Petroleum in commercial quantities was first discovered in the northeast in 1956. The most important oil fields are those of al-Suwaydiyah, Karatchok, Rmelan near al-Hasakah, as well as al-Omar and al-Taym fields near Dayr az–Zawr. The fields are a natural extension of the Iraqi fields of Mosul and Kirkuk. Petroleum became Syria's leading natural resource and chief export after 1974. Natural gas was discovered at the field of Jbessa in 1940.[86]


Syria contains four terrestrial ecoregions: Syrian xeric grasslands and shrublands, Eastern Mediterranean conifer-sclerophyllous-broadleaf forests, Southern Anatolian montane conifer and deciduous forests, and Mesopotamian shrub desert.[149] The country had a 2019 Forest Landscape Integrity Index mean score of 3.64/10, ranking it 144th globally out of 172 countries.[150]

Government and politics

President Bashar al-Assad
Prime Minister Hussein Arnous

Syria is a presidential state[151] that nominally permits the candidacy of individuals who do not form part of the Ba'ath-controlled National Progressive Front.[152][153] Despite this, Syria remains a one-party state with an extensive secret police apparatus that curtails any independent political activity.[154][155] The new constitution introduced single-handedly by the Assad regime, without participation of the Syrian opposition, has bolstered its authoritarian character by bestowing extraordinary powers on the Presidency and a Ba'athist political committee continues to be responsible for authorization of political parties.[156] The ruling Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party governs Syria as a totalitarian police state,[157] through its control of the Syrian military and security apparatus.[g] 50th edition of Freedom in the World, the annual report published by Freedom House in 2023, designates Syria as "Worst of the Worst" among the "Not Free" countries and gives it the lowest score (1/100) alongside South Sudan.[158][159]

The President is Head of State, and the Prime Minister is nominally the Head of Government,[160] although real power in the system lies with the Presidency.[161] The legislature, the Peoples Council, is the body responsible for passing laws, approving government appropriations and debating policy.[162] 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 President.[163] Since the rule of Hafez al-Asad, the Syrian Ba'athist political system has been centered around a comprehensive cult of personality focused on the al-Assad family;[164][165][166][167] with Alawite loyalists of the Ba'ath party dominating key positions in the military apparatus, secret police and political establishment.[168]

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[169] but does not make Islam the state religion. On 31 January 1973, Hafiz 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, Homs and Aleppo organized by the Muslim Brotherhood and the traditional ulama. They labelled Assad the "enemy of Allah" and called for a jihad against his rule.[170] The government survived a series of armed revolts led mostly by Islamists of the Muslim Brotherhood, between 1976 and 1982, through a series of repressions and massacres. 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.[171] According to the 2012 constitution, the president is elected by Syrian citizens in a direct election.

Syria's legislative branch is the unicameral People's Council. Under the previous constitution, Syria did not hold multi-party elections for the legislature,[171] with two-thirds of the seats automatically allocated to the ruling coalition.[172] 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 which Popular Front for Change and Liberation was the largest opposition party. The anti-government Syrian opposition coalition, however, chose not to field candidates and called on their supporters to boycott the elections. The People's Council primarily serves as an institution to validate Syria's one-party system and re-affirm the legislative proceedings of the Arab Socialist Ba'ath party.[173] As of 2008, the President is the Regional Secretary of the Ba'ath party in Syria and leader of the National Progressive Front governing coalition. Ethnic minorities like Kurds have no cultural or linguistic rights and activities of Kurdish political parties are banned.[174]

There is no independent judiciary in Syria, since all judges and prosecutors are required to be Ba'athist appointees.[175] Syria's judicial branches include the Supreme Constitutional Court, the High Judicial Council, the Court of Cassation, and the State Security Courts. Islamic jurisprudence is a main source of legislation and Syria's judicial system has elements of Ottoman, French, and Islamic laws. 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.[171] The Supreme State Security Court (SSSC) was abolished by President Bashar al-Assad by legislative decree No. 53 on 21 April 2011.[176] The Personal Status Law 59 of 1953 (amended by Law 34 of 1975) is essentially a codified sharia.[177] Article 3(2) of the 1973 constitution declares Islamic jurisprudence a main source of legislation. The Code of Personal Status is applied to Muslims by sharia courts.[178] As a result of the ongoing civil war, various alternative governments were formed, including the Syrian Interim Government, the Democratic Union Party and localized 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[179] was recognised as the "sole representative of the Syrian people" by several nations including the United States, United Kingdom and France.[180][181][182]

Syria's elections are conducted through a sham process; characterised by wide-scale rigging, repetitive voting and absence of voter registration and verification systems.[183][184][185] 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.[186] 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."[187] However, representatives of the Russian Federation have voiced their support of this election's results. Various independent observers and international organizations have denounced the Assad regime's electoral conduct as a scam; with the United Nations condemning it as illegitimate elections with “no mandate”.[188][189][190][191] Electoral Integrity Project's 2022 Global report designates Syrian elections as a "facade" with the worst electoral integrity in the world alongside Comoros and Central African Republic.[192][193] Three alternative governments formed during the Syrian Civil War, the Syrian Interim Government (formed in 2013), Rojava (formed in 2016) and the Syrian Salvation Government (formed in 2017), control northern of the country and operate independently of the Syrian Arab Republic.

Administrative divisions

Syria is divided into 14 governorates, which are sub-divided into 61 districts, which are further divided into sub-districts. The Democratic Federation of Northern Syria, while de facto autonomous, is not recognized by the country as such.

No. Governorate Capital
Governorates of Syria
1 Latakia Latakia
2 Idlib Idlib
3 Aleppo Aleppo
4 Raqqa Raqqa
5 Al-Hasakah Al-Hasakah
6 Tartus Tartus
7 Hama Hama
8 Deir ez-Zor Deir ez-Zor
9 Homs Homs
10 Damascus Damascus
11 Rif Dimashq Douma
12 Quneitra Quneitra
13 Daraa Daraa
14 Al-Suwayda Al-Suwayda

Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria

The Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES), also known as Rojava,[h] is a de facto autonomous region in northeastern Syria.[197][198] It consists of self-governing sub-regions in the areas of Afrin, Jazira, Euphrates, Raqqa, Tabqa, Manbij and Deir Ez-Zor.[199][200] The region gained its de facto autonomy in 2012 in the context of the ongoing Rojava conflict and the wider Syrian civil war, in which its official military force, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), has taken part.[201][202]

While entertaining some foreign relations, the region is not officially recognized as autonomous by the government of Syria or any state[203] though it has been recognized by the regional Catalan Parliament.[204][205] The AANES has widespread support for its universal democratic, sustainable, autonomous pluralist, equal, and feminist policies in dialogues with other parties and organizations.[206][207][208][209] Northeastern Syria is polyethnic and home to sizeable ethnic Kurdish, Arab and Assyrian populations, with smaller communities of ethnic Turkmen, Armenians, Circassians,[210] and Yazidis.[211][212][213]

The supporters of the region's administration state that it is an officially secular polity[214][215] with direct democratic ambitions based on an anarchistic, feminist, and libertarian socialist ideology promoting decentralization, gender equality,[216][217] environmental sustainability, social ecology and pluralistic tolerance for religious, cultural and political diversity, and that these values are mirrored in its constitution, society, and politics, stating it to be a model for a federalized Syria as a whole, rather than outright independence.[218][219][220][221] The region's administration has also been accused by some partisan and non-partisan sources of authoritarianism, support of the Syrian government,[222] Kurdification, and displacement.[citation needed] However, despite this the AANES has been the most democratic system in Syria, with direct open elections, universal equality, respecting human rights within the region, as well as defense of minority and religious rights within Syria.[223][224][225][206][226][227][228]

On 13 October 2019, the SDF announced that it had reached an agreement with the Syrian Army which allowed the latter to enter the SDF-held cities of Manbij and Kobani in order to dissuade a Turkish attack on those cities as part of the cross-border offensive by Turkish and Turkish-backed Syrian rebels.[229] The Syrian Army also deployed in the north of Syria together with the SDF along the Syrian-Turkish border and entered into several SDF-held cities such as Ayn Issa and Tell Tamer.[230][231] Following the creation of the Second Northern Syria Buffer Zone the SDF stated that it was ready to work cooperatively with the Syrian Army if a political settlement between the Syrian government and the SDF was achieved.[232]

Foreign relations

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 history, 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 Civil War.

Since the ongoing civil war of 2011, and associated killings and human rights abuses, 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.[233]

Map of world and Syria (red) with military involvement.
  Countries that support the Syrian government
  Countries that support the Syrian rebels

From the Arab league, Syria continues to maintain diplomatic relations with Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Sudan and Yemen. Following its violent suppression of the Arab Spring protests of the 2011 Syrian Revolution, the Syrian government was suspended from the Arab League in November 2011 for over 11 years, until its reinstatement in 2023.[234] Syria also quit the Union for the Mediterranean.[235] After 11 years, the Arab League readmitted Syria.[236] The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation suspended Syria in August 2012 citing "deep concern at the massacres and inhuman acts" perpetrated by forces loyal to Bashar al-Assad.[i]

International disputes

In 1939, while Syria was still a French mandate the French allowed a plebiscite regarding the Sanjak of Alexandretta joining 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, the Hatay Province of Turkey was formed. The move by the French was very controversial in Syria, and only five years later Syria became independent.[237] Despite the Turkish annexation of the Sanjak of Alexandretta, the Syrian government has refused to recognize Turkish sovereignty over the region since Independence, except for a short period during the year of 1949.[238]

Golan Heights was occupied by Israel since the Six-Day War

The western two-thirds of Syria's Golan Heights region are since 1967 occupied by Israel and were in 1981 effectively annexed by Israel,[239][240] 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 recognized 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.[241] The Syrian government continues to demand the return of this territory.[242] The only remaining land Syria has 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 and Hader.[dubiousdiscuss] In March 2019, U.S. President Donald Trump announced that the United States will recognize Israel's annexation of the Golan Heights.[243]

In early 1976, Syria entered Lebanon, beginning their twenty-nine-year military presence. Syria entered on the invitation of Suleiman Franjieh, the Maronite Christian president at the time to help aid the Lebanese Christian militias against the Palestinian militias.[244][245] Over the following 15 years of civil war, Syria fought for control over Lebanon. The Syrian military remained in Lebanon until 26 April 2005 in response to domestic and international pressure after the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister, Rafik Hariri.[246]

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.[247] 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.[248] After studying 81 different maps, the United Nations concluded that there is no evidence of the abandoned farmlands being Lebanese.[249] Nevertheless, Lebanon has continued to claim ownership of the territory.


A Syrian Army soldier manning a checkpoint outside of Damascus shortly after the outbreak of the Syrian Civil War, 2012

The 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.[citation needed] 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.[250] 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.[citation needed]

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.[251]

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.

Human rights

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."[252] The 2011 Freedom House report[253] ranked Syria "Not Free" in its annual Freedom in the World survey.[254] The Ba'ath regime is a totalitarian dictatorship that has been internationally condemned for its domestic and political repression, including summary executions, massive censorship,[255][256] forced disappearances,[257][258] etc. as well as numerous crimes against Syrian civilians perpetrated during the civil war, such as massacres, barrel-bombings, chemical attacks, etc.[259][260]

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.[261][262][263] 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'.[263] 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 two years old, and that boys as young as 11 years old have been gang-raped by security services officers.[264][265] People opposing President Assad's rule claim that more than 200, mostly civilians, were massacred and about 300 injured in Hama in shelling by the Government forces on 12 July 2012.[266]

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".[267] The Emergency Law, effectively suspending most constitutional protections, was in effect from 1963 until 21 April 2011.[176] 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 conflict. Minority Alawites and Christians are being increasingly targeted by Islamists and other groups fighting in the Syrian civil war.[268][269][270][271] Three years later in April 2017, the U.S. Navy carried out a missile attack against a Syrian air base[272] which had allegedly been used to conduct a chemical weapons attack on Syrian civilians, according to the US government.[273] In November 2021, the US Central Command called a 2019 airstrike that killed civilians in Syria "legitimate". The acknowledgement came after a New York Times investigation said the military had concealed the death of dozens of non-combatants.[274]


Historical development of real GDP per capita in Syria, since 1820
Bank Al-Sharq and the Blue Tower Hotel in Damascus

As of 2015, 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.[275] Iran is believed to spend between $6 billion and US$20 billion a year on Syria during the Syrian Civil War.[276] 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.[277] At the outset of the ongoing Syrian Civil War, Syria was classified by the World Bank as a "lower middle income country."[278] In 2010, Syria remained dependent on the oil and agriculture sectors.[279] The oil sector provided about 40% of export earnings.[279] Proven offshore expeditions have indicated that large sums of oil exist on the Mediterranean Sea floor between Syria and Cyprus.[280] The agriculture sector contributes to about 20% of GDP and 20% of employment. Oil reserves are expected to decrease in the coming years and Syria has already become a net oil importer.[279] Since the civil war began, the economy shrank by 35%, and the Syrian pound has fallen to one-sixth of its prewar value.[281] The government increasingly relies on credit from Iran, Russia and China.[281]

Al-Hamidiyah Souq in Damascus in 2010

The economy is highly regulated by the government, which has increased subsidies and tightened trade controls to assuage protesters and protect foreign currency reserves.[8] 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.[8] The UNDP announced in 2005 that 30% of the Syrian population lives in poverty and 11.4% live below the subsistence level.[86]

Syria's share in global exports has eroded gradually since 2001.[282] The real per capita GDP growth was just 2.5% per year in the 2000–2008 period.[282] Unemployment is high at above 10%. Poverty rates have increased from 11% in 2004 to 12.3% in 2007.[282] In 2007, Syria's main exports included fenethylline pills (an illegal drug commonly known as captagon), 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 foreign exchange.[86]

Political instability poses a significant threat to future economic development.[283] 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.[283] 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 2011.[284]

A cove in Latakia in 2014

As of 2012, 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.[285] Syria's GDP declined by over 3% in 2011,[286] and is expected to further decline by 20% in 2012.[287] As of 2012, Syria's oil and tourism industries in particular have been devastated, with US$5 billion lost to the ongoing conflict of the civil war.[285] Reconstruction needed because of the ongoing civil war will cost as much as US$10 billion.[285] Sanctions have sapped the government's finances. US and European Union bans on oil imports, which went into effect in 2012, are estimated to cost Syria about $400 million a month.[288] Revenues from tourism have dropped dramatically, with hotel occupancy rates falling from 90% before the war to less than 15% in May 2012.[289] Around 40% of all employees in the tourism sector have lost their jobs since the beginning of the war.[289] In May 2015, ISIS captured Syria's phosphate mines, one of the Syrian government's last chief sources of income.[290] 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.[291] In addition, ISIS was 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 Iran to further subsidize the Syrian government.[292] Aleppo soap is a popular product 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.[293] 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.[294] This was designed to strengthen the position of sharecroppers and agricultural laborers in relation to land owners.[294] This law led 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.[295] Furthermore, it obligated landlords to honor both written and oral contracts, established collective bargaining, contained provisions for workers' compensation, health, housing, and employment services.[294] Law 134 was not designed strictly to protect workers. It also acknowledged the rights of landlords to form their own syndicates.[294]

Drug industry

Syria is home to a burgeoning illegal drugs industry run by associates and relatives of the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad.[296] It mainly produces captagon, an addictive amphetamine popular in the Arab world. As of 2021, the export of illegal drugs eclipsed the country's legal exports, leading the New York Times to call Syria "the world's newest narcostate".[296] The drug exports allow the Syrian government to generate hard currency and bypass international sanctions.[296][297][298] Captagon is Syria's primary export, valued at a minimum of US$3.4 billion annually, surpassing the country's largest legal export, olive oil, which is valued at around US$122 million dollars a year, as per estimates.[299]

Petroleum industry

Oil refinery in Homs

Syria's petroleum industry has been subject to a sharp decline. In September 2014, 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).[275] 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% capacity.[300]

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.[301] Since 2012 the production has decreased even more, reaching 32,000 barrels per day (5,100 m3/d) (bpd) in 2014. 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.[289] Oil and gas revenues constituted in 2012 around 20% of total GDP and 25% of total government revenue.[289]

Expressway M5 near Al-Rastan


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.[302]

The majority of Syrian cargo is carried by Syrian Railways (the Syrian railway company), which links up with 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.[303]

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 significant waterways.[8]

Internet and telecommunications

Telecommunications in Syria are overseen by the Ministry of Communications and Technology.[304] In addition, Syrian Telecom plays an integral role in the distribution of government internet access.[305] The Syrian Electronic Army serves as a pro-government military faction in cyberspace and has been long considered an enemy of the hacktivist group Anonymous.[306] Because of internet censorship laws, 13,000 internet activists were arrested between March 2011 and August 2012.[307]

Water supply and sanitation

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.[308] A big challenge for Syria before the civil war was its high population growth (in 2006 the growth rate was 2.7%[309]), leading to rapidly increasing demand for urban and industrial water.[310]


Historical populations
YearPop.±% p.a.
1960 4,565,000—    
1970 6,305,000+3.28%
1981 9,046,000+3.34%
1994 13,782,000+3.29%
2004 17,921,000+2.66%
2011 21,124,000+2.38%
2015 18,734,987−2.96%
2019 18,528,105−0.28%
2019 estimate[311]
Source: Central Bureau of Statistics of the Syrian Arab Republic, 2011[312]

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 before the Civil War was about 99 per square kilometre (258 per square mile).[313] 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) and Somalia (5,200) also lived in the country.[314]

In what the UN has described as "the biggest humanitarian emergency of our era",[315] by 2014 about 9.5 million Syrians, half the population, had been displaced since the outbreak of the Syrian Civil War in March 2011;[316] 4 million were outside the country as refugees.[317] By 2020, the UN estimated that over 5.5 million Syrians were living as refugees in the region, and 6.1 million others were internally displaced.[318]

Largest cities

Largest cities or towns in Syria
Syria Central Bureau of Statistics (2004 Census)
Rank Name Province Pop. Rank Name Province Pop.
1 Aleppo Aleppo Governorate 2,132,100 11 Tartus Tartus Governorate 115,769 Homs
2 Damascus Damascus 1,552,161 12 Jaramana Rif Dimashq Governorate 114,363
3 Homs Homs Governorate 652,609 13 Douma, Syria Rif Dimashq Governorate 110,893
4 Latakia Latakia Governorate 383,786 14 Manbij Aleppo Governorate 99,497
5 Hama Hama Governorate 312,994 15 Idlib Idlib Governorate 98,791
6 Raqqa Raqqa Governorate 220,488 16 Daraa Daraa Governorate 97,969
7 Deir ez-Zor Deir ez-Zor Governorate 211,857 17 Al-Hajar al-Aswad Rif Dimashq Governorate 84,948
8 Hasakah Al-Hasakah Governorate 188,160 18 Darayya Rif Dimashq Governorate 78,763
9 Qamishli Al-Hasakah Governorate 184,231 19 Suwayda As-Suwayda Governorate 73,641
10 Sayyidah Zaynab Rif Dimashq Governorate 136,427 20 Al-Thawrah Raqqa Governorate 69,425

Ethnic groups

Damascus, traditional clothing

Syrians are an overall indigenous Levantine people, closely related to their immediate neighbors, such as Lebanese, Palestinians, Jordanians and Jews.[319][320] Syria has a population of approximately 18,500,000 (2019 estimate). Syrian Arabs, together with some 600,000 Palestinian not including the 6 million refugees outside the country. Arabs make up roughly 74% of the population.[8] The indigenous Assyrians and Western Aramaic-speakers number around 400,000 people,[321] 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 Neo-Aramaic dialects as spoken and written languages.[322]

The second-largest ethnic group in Syria are the Kurds. They constitute about 9%[323] to 10%[324] of the population, or approximately 2 million people (including 40,000 Yazidis[324]). Most Kurds reside in the northeastern corner of Syria and most speak the Kurmanji variant of the Kurdish language.[323] The third largest ethnic group are the Turkish-speaking Syrian Turkmen/Turkoman. There are no reliable estimates of their total population, with estimates ranging from several hundred thousand to 3.5 million.[325][326][327] The fourth largest ethnic group are the Assyrians (3–4%),[324] followed by the Circassians (1.5%)[324] and the Armenians (1%),[324] 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.[324] However, most of these ethnic minorities have become Arabized to some degree, particularly those who practice the Muslim faith.[324] 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.[328] Brazil is the first country in the Americas to offer humanitarian visas to Syrian refugees.[329] The majority of Arab Argentines are from either Lebanese or Syrian background.[330]


Arabic is the official language of the country.[1] Several modern Arabic dialects are used in everyday life, most notably Levantine in the west and Mesopotamian in the northeast. 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,[331] Turkish,[331] Neo-Aramaic (four dialects),[331] Circassian,[331] Chechen,[331] Armenian,[331] and finally Greek.[331] However, none of these minority languages have official status.[331]

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 second languages, but English is more often used.[332]


Great Mosque of Aleppo, Aleppo

Sunni Muslims make up around 74% of Syria's population[8] and Sunni Arabs account for 59–60% of the population. Most Kurds (8.5%)[333] and most Turkmens (3%)[333] are Sunni and account for the difference between Sunnis and Sunni Arabs, while 3% of Syrians are Shia Muslims (particularly Ismailis, and Twelvers but there are also Arabs, Kurds and Turkmens), 10% Alawites, 10% Christians[8] (the majority are Antiochian Greek Orthodox, the rest are Syriac Orthodox, Greek Catholic and other Catholic Rites, Armenian Orthodox, Assyrian Church of the East, Protestants and other denominations), and 3% Druzes.[8] Druze number around 500,000, and concentrate mainly in the southern area of Jabal al-Druze.[334]

President Bashar al-Assad's family is Alawite and Alawites dominate the government of Syria and hold key military positions.[102][335][336] In May 2013, SOHR stated that out of 94,000 killed during the Syrian Civil War, at least 41,000 were Alawites.[337]

Christians (1.2 million), a sizable number of whom are found among Syria's population of Palestinian and Iraqi refugees, are divided into several sects: Greek Orthodox make up 45.7% of the Christian population; the Syriac Orthodox make up 22.4%; the Armenian Orthodox make up 10.9%; the Catholics (including Greek Catholic, Syriac Catholic, Armenian Catholic, Maronite, Chaldean Catholic and Latin) make up 16.2%; 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 class.[338] As per one estimate, the count of Christians affiliated with established denominations in Syria has dropped from approximately 2.5 million before the civil war, to about 500,000 in 2023.[339]

Syria was once home to a substantial population of Jews, with large communities in Damascus, Aleppo, and Qamishii. Due to a combination of persecution in 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. In 2021 there were no Jews left in Syria.[340]


Faculty of Arts and Humanities in Aleppo University

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.[341][342]

UIS adult literacy rate of Syria

Since 1967, all schools, colleges, and universities have been under close government supervision by the Ba'ath Party.[343]

There are 6 state universities in Syria[344] and 15 private universities.[345] The top two state universities are Damascus University (210,000 students as of 2014)[346] and University of Aleppo.[347] The top private universities in Syria are: Syrian Private University, Arab International University, 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 business.[348]

According to the Webometrics Ranking of World Universities, the top-ranking universities in the country are Damascus University (3540th worldwide), the University of Aleppo (7176th) and Tishreen University (7968th).[349]


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.[350] The life expectancy at birth was 75.7 years in 2010, or 74.2 years for males and 77.3 years for females.[351]


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.[352] 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.[353]



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 Tamer.

Ba'ath Party rule, since the 1966 coup, has brought about renewed censorship.[354][355] 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 among the Arab world's most important, especially in the field of classical Arab music. Syria has produced several pan-Arab stars, including Asmahan, Farid al-Atrash and singer Lena Chamamyan. The city of Aleppo is known for its muwashshah, a form of Andalous sung poetry popularized by Sabri Moudallal, as well as for popular stars like Sabah Fakhri.


Suzan Najm Aldeen – a popular Syrian actress in the Arab world

Television was introduced to Syria and Egypt in 1960, when both 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 Arab world.[356]

Nearly all of Syria's media outlets are state-owned, and the Ba'ath Party controls nearly all newspapers.[357] The authorities operate several intelligence agencies,[358] among them Shu'bat al-Mukhabarat al-'Askariyya, employing many operatives.[359] During the Syrian Civil War many of Syria's artists, poets, writers and activists have been incarcerated, and some have been killed, including famed cartoonist Akram Raslan.[360]


Fattoush, a Syrian bread salad

Syrian cuisine is rich and varied in its ingredients, linked to the regions of Syria where a specific dish has originated. 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, and yabraʾ (stuffed grape leaves, the word yabraʾ deriving 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.

Drinks in Syria vary, depending on the time of day and the occasion. Arabic 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 a well-known beverage, served mostly on special occasions. Other Syrian beverages include ayran, jallab, white coffee, and a locally manufactured beer called Al Shark.[361]

See also



  1. ^ Arabic: سُورِيَا, romanizedSūriyā, or سُورِيَة, Sūriya.
  2. ^ Arabic: الجمهورية العربية السورية, romanized: al-Jumhūriyya al-ʿArabiyya as-Sūriyya.
  3. ^ Sources:
    • [11]
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    • "Islamic bloc suspends Syria membership over crisis". DW News. 16 August 2012. Archived from the original on 27 June 2018.
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    • "OIC Suspends Syria Over Crackdown". RFE/RL. 16 August 2012. Archived from the original on 8 February 2023.
  4. ^ Sources:
  5. ^ Sources:[17][18][19][20][21][22][23][24]
  6. ^ [26][27][28][29]
  7. ^ Sources describing Syria as a totalitarian state:
    • Khamis, B. Gold, Vaughn, Sahar, Paul, Katherine (2013). "22. Propaganda in Egypt and Syria's "Cyberwars": Contexts, Actors, Tools, and Tactics". In Auerbach, Castronovo, Jonathan, Russ (ed.). The Oxford Handbook of Propaganda Studies. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 422. ISBN 978-0-19-976441-9.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
    • Wieland, Carsten (2018). "6: De-neutralizing Aid: All Roads Lead to Damascus". Syria and the Neutrality Trap: The Dilemmas of Delivering Humanitarian Aid Through Violent Regimes. London: I. B. Tauris. p. 68. ISBN 978-0-7556-4138-3.
    • Meininghaus, Esther (2016). "Introduction". Creating Consent in Ba'thist Syria: Women and Welfare in a Totalitarian State. I. B. Tauris. pp. 1–33. ISBN 978-1-78453-115-7.
    • Sadiki, Larbi; Fares, Obaida (2014). "12: The Arab Spring Comes to Syria: Internal Mobilization for Democratic Change, Militarization and Internationalization". Routledge Handbook of the Arab Spring: Rethinking Democratization. Routledge. p. 147. ISBN 978-0-415-52391-2.
  8. ^ The name "Rojava" ("The West") was initially used by the region's PYD-led government, before its usage was dropped in 2016.[194][195][196] Since then, the name is still used by locals and international observers.
  9. ^ Sources:


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General references

Further reading

External links

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