Facts about Syria

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Palmyra, SyriaFollowing the breakup of the Ottoman Empire during World War I, France administered Syria until its independence in 1946. The country lacked political stability, however, and experienced a series of military coups during its first decades. Syria united with Egypt in February 1958 to form the United Arab Republic. In September 1961, the two entities separated, and the Syrian Arab Republic was reestablished. In November 1970, Hafiz al-ASAD, a member of the Socialist Ba'th Party and the minority Alawite sect, seized power in a bloodless coup and brought political stability to the country. In the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, Syria lost the Golan Heights to Israel. During the 1990s, Syria and Israel held occasional peace talks over its return. Following the death of President al-ASAD, his son, Bashar al-ASAD, was approved as president by popular referendum in July 2000. Syrian troops - stationed in Lebanon since 1976 in an ostensible peacekeeping role - were withdrawn in April 2005. During the July-August 2006 conflict between Israel and Hizballah, Syria placed its military forces on alert but did not intervene directly on behalf of its ally Hizballah.

Geography of Syria

Middle East, bordering the Mediterranean Sea, between Lebanon and Turkey
35 00 N, 38 00 E
total: 185,180 sq km
note: includes 1,295 sq km of Israeli-occupied territory
water: 1,130 sq km
land: 184,050 sq km
Area comparative:
slightly larger than North Dakota
Land boundaries:
total: 2,253 km
border countries: Iraq 605 km, Israel 76 km, Jordan 375 km, Lebanon 375 km, Turkey 822 km
193 km
Maritime claims:
contiguous zone: 41 NM
territorial sea: 35 NM
mostly desert; hot, dry, sunny summers (June to August) and mild, rainy winters (December to February) along coast; cold weather with snow or sleet periodically in Damascus
primarily semiarid and desert plateau; narrow coastal plain; mountains in west
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: unnamed location near Lake Tiberias -200 m
highest point: Mount Hermon 2,814 m
Natural resources:
petroleum, phosphates, chrome and manganese ores, asphalt, iron ore, rock salt, marble, gypsum, hydropower
Natural hazards:
dust storms, sandstorms
Environment current issues:
deforestation; overgrazing; soil erosion; desertification; water pollution from raw sewage and petroleum refining wastes; inadequate potable water
Geography - note:
there are 42 Israeli settlements and civilian land use sites in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights (February 2002 est.)

Population of Syria

19,747,586 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 37% (male 3,592,915/female 3,384,722)
15-64 years: 59.7% (male 5,779,257/female 5,500,887)
65 years and over: 3.3% (male 296,070/female 327,510)
Median age:
20.7 years
Growth rate:
Infant mortality:
28.61 deaths/1,000 live births
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 70.32 years
male: 69.01 years
female: 71.7 years
Fertility rate:
3.4 children born/woman
noun: Syrian(s)
adjective: Syrian
Ethnic groups:
Arab 90.3%, Kurds, Armenians, and other 9.7%
Sunni Muslim 74%, Alawite, Druze, and other Muslim sects 16%, Christian (various sects) 10%, Jewish (tiny communities in Damascus, Al Qamishli, and Aleppo)
Arabic (official); Kurdish, Armenian, Aramaic, Circassian widely understood; French, English somewhat understood
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 76.9%
male: 89.7%
female: 64% 


Country name:
conventional long form: Syrian Arab Republic
local short form: Suriyah
former: United Arab Republic (with Egypt)
local long form: Al Jumhuriyah al Arabiyah as Suriyah
Government type:
republic under military regime since March 1963
Administrative divisions:
14 provinces (muhafazat, singular - muhafazah); Al Hasakah, Al Ladhiqiyah, Al Qunaytirah, Ar Raqqah, As Suwayda', Dar'a, Dayr az Zawr, Dimashq, Halab, Hamah, Hims, Idlib, Rif Dimashq, Tartus
17 April 1946 (from League of Nations mandate under French administration)
National holiday:
Independence Day, 17 April (1946)
13 March 1973
Legal system:
based on Islamic law and civil law system; special religious courts; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
18 years of age; universal
Executive branch:
chief of state: President Bashar al-ASAD (since 17 July 2000); Vice President Farouk al-SHARA (since 11 February 2006) oversees foreign policy; Vice President Najah al-ATTAR (since 23 March 2006) oversees cultural policy
head of government: Prime Minister Muhammad Naji al-UTRI (since 10 September 2003); Deputy Prime Minister for Economic Affairs Abdallah al-DARDARI (since 14 June 2005)
cabinet: Council of Ministers appointed by the president
elections: president approved by popular referendum for a second seven-year term (no term limits); the president appoints the vice presidents, prime minister, and deputy prime ministers
Legislative branch:
unicameral People's Council or Majlis al-Shaab (250 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms)
Judicial branch:
Supreme Constitutional Court (adjudicates electoral disputes and rules on constitutionality of laws and decrees; justices appointed for four-year terms by the President); High Judicial Council (appoints and dismisses judges; headed by the President); Court of Cassation (national level); State Security Courts (hear cases related to national security); Personal Status Courts (religious; hear cases related to marriage and divorce); Courts of First Instance (local level; include magistrate, summary, and peace courts)


The Syrian economy grew by an estimated 3.3% in real terms in 2007 led by the petroleum and agricultural sectors, which together account for about one-half of GDP. Higher crude oil prices countered declining oil production and led to higher budgetary and export receipts. Damascus has implemented modest economic reforms in the past few years, including cutting lending interest rates, opening private banks, consolidating all of the multiple exchange rates, raising prices on some subsidized items, most notably gasoline and cement, and establishing the Damascus Stock Exchange - which is set to begin operations in 2009. In October 2007, for example, Damascus raised the price of subsidized gasoline by 20%, and may institute a rationing system in 2008. In addition, President ASAD signed legislative decrees to encourage corporate ownership reform, and to allow the Central Bank to issue Treasury bills and bonds for government debt. Nevertheless, the economy remains highly controlled by the government. Long-run economic constraints include declining oil production, high unemployment and inflation, rising budget deficits, and increasing pressure on water supplies caused by heavy use in agriculture, rapid population growth, industrial expansion, and water pollution.

$90.37 billion (2007 est.)
GDP growth rate:
GDP per capita:
GDP composition by sector:
agriculture: 24.9%
industry: 23%
services: 51.9%
Inflation rate:
Labor force:
5.12 million
Labor force - by occupation:
agriculture: 30%
industry: 27%
services: 43%
revenues: $6.392 billion
expenditures: $7.613 billion
Electricity production by source:
fossil fuel: 57.6%
hydro: 42.4%
other: 0%
petroleum, textiles, food processing, beverages, tobacco, phosphate rock mining
wheat, barley, cotton, lentils, chickpeas, olives, sugar beets; beef, mutton, eggs, poultry, milk
crude oil, petroleum products, fruits and vegetables, cotton fiber, clothing, meat and live animals, wheat
Export partners:
Iraq 17.1%, Turkey 14.9%, Saudi Arabia 11.8%, Italy 9.3%, Lebanon 6.6%, Germany 6.1% 
machinery and transport equipment, electric power machinery, food and livestock, metal and metal products, chemicals and chemical products, plastics, yarn, paper
Import partners:
Ukraine 11%, Turkey 8.7%, Saudi Arabia 6.9%, South Korea 5.9% 
Syrian pound (SYP)

SOURCES: The CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State, Area Handbook of the US Library of Congress

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