Middle East :: Syria

Introduction ::Syria

    Following World War I, France acquired a mandate over the northern portion of the former Ottoman Empire province of Syria. The French administered the area as Syria until granting it independence in 1946. The new country lacked political stability, however, and experienced a series of military coups during its first decades. Syria united with Egypt in February 1958 to form the United Arab Republic. In September 1961, the two entities separated, and the Syrian Arab Republic was reestablished. In November 1970, Hafiz al-ASAD, a member of the socialist Ba'th Party and the minority Alawi sect, seized power in a bloodless coup and brought political stability to the country. In the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, Syria lost the Golan Heights to Israel. During the 1990s, Syria and Israel held occasional peace talks over its return. Following the death of President al-ASAD, his son, Bashar al-ASAD, was approved as president by popular referendum in July 2000. Syrian troops - stationed in Lebanon since 1976 in an ostensible peacekeeping role - were withdrawn in April 2005. During the July-August 2006 conflict between Israel and Hizballah, Syria placed its military forces on alert but did not intervene directly on behalf of its ally Hizballah. In May 2007 Bashar al-ASAD's second term as president was approved by popular referendum. Influenced by major uprisings that began elsewhere in the region, antigovernment protests broke out in the southern province of Dar'a in March 2011 with protesters calling for the repeal of the restrictive Emergency Law allowing arrests without charge, the legalization of political parties, and the removal of corrupt local officials. Since then demonstrations and unrest have spread to nearly every city in Syria, but the size and intensity of protests have fluctuated over time. The government responded to unrest with a mix of concessions - including the repeal of the Emergency Law and approving new laws permitting new political parties and liberalizing local and national elections - and force. However, the government's response has failed to meet opposition demands for ASAD to step down, and the government's ongoing security operations to quell unrest and widespread armed opposition activity have led to extended violent clashes between government forces and oppositionists. International pressure on the ASAD regime has intensified since late 2011, as the Arab League, EU, Turkey, and the United States have expanded economic sanctions against the regime. Lakhdar BRAHIMI, current Joint Special Representative of the United Nations and the League of Arab States on the Syrian crisis, in October 2012 began meeting with regional heads of state to assist in brokering a cease-fire. In December 2012, the National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces was recognized by more than 130 countries as the sole legitimate representative of the Syrian people. Unrest persists in 2013, and the death toll among Syrian Government forces, opposition forces, and civilians has topped 100,000.

Geography ::Syria

    Middle East, bordering the Mediterranean Sea, between Lebanon and Turkey
    35 00 N, 38 00 E
    total: 185,180 sq km
    country comparison to the world: 89
    land: 183,630 sq km
    water: 1,550 sq km
    note: includes 1,295 sq km of Israeli-occupied territory
    slightly larger than North Dakota
    total: 2,253 km
    border countries: Iraq 605 km, Israel 76 km, Jordan 375 km, Lebanon 375 km, Turkey 822 km
    193 km
    territorial sea: 12 nm
    contiguous zone: 24 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
    lowest point: unnamed location near Lake Tiberias -200 m
    highest point: Mount Hermon 2,814 m
    petroleum, phosphates, chrome and manganese ores, asphalt, iron ore, rock salt, marble, gypsum, hydropower
    arable land: 24.9%
    permanent crops: 5.69%
    other: 69.41% (2011)
    13,410 sq km (2010)
    16.8 cu km (2011)
    total: 16.76 cu km/yr (9%/4%/88%)
    per capita: 867.4 cu m/yr (2005)
    dust storms, sandstorms
    volcanism: Syria's two historically active volcanoes, Es Safa and an unnamed volcano near the Turkish border have not erupted in centuries
    deforestation; overgrazing; soil erosion; desertification; water pollution from raw sewage and petroleum refining wastes; inadequate potable water
    party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands
    signed, but not ratified: Environmental Modification
    the capital of Damascus - located at an oasis fed by the Barada River - is thought to be one of the world's oldest continuously inhabited cities; there are 41 Israeli settlements and civilian land use sites in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights (2010 est.)

People and Society ::Syria

Government ::Syria

    conventional long form: Syrian Arab Republic
    conventional short form: Syria
    local long form: Al Jumhuriyah al Arabiyah as Suriyah
    local short form: Suriyah
    former: United Arab Republic (with Egypt)
    republic under an authoritarian regime
    name: Damascus
    geographic coordinates: 33 30 N, 36 18 E
    time difference: UTC+2 (7 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
    daylight saving time: +1hr, begins midnight on the last Friday in March; ends at midnight on the first Friday in November
    14 provinces (muhafazat, singular - muhafazah); Al Hasakah, Al Ladhiqiyah (Latakia), Al Qunaytirah, Ar Raqqah, As Suwayda', Dar'a, Dayr az Zawr, Dimashq (Damascus), Halab, Hamah, Hims (Homs), Idlib, Rif Dimashq (Damascus Countryside), Tartus
    17 April 1946 (from League of Nations mandate under French administration)
    Independence Day, 17 April (1946)
    13 March 1973; amended February 2012
    mixed legal system of civil and Islamic law (for family courts)
    has not submitted an ICJ jurisdiction declaration; non-party state to the ICCt
    18 years of age; universal
    chief of state: President Bashar al-ASAD (since 17 July 2000); Vice President Farouk al-SHARA (since 21 February 2006); Vice President Najah al-ATTAR (since 23 March 2006)
    head of government: Prime Minister Wael al-HALQI (since 9 August 2012); Deputy Prime Ministers Fahd Jasim al-FURAYJ, Lt. Gen., Walid al-MUALEM
    cabinet: Council of Ministers appointed by the president; note - new Council appointed on 14 April 2011
    (For more information visit the World Leaders website Opens in New Window)
    elections: president approved by popular referendum for a second seven-year term (no term limits); referendum last held on 27 May 2007 (next to be held in May 2014); the president appoints the vice presidents, prime minister, and deputy prime ministers
    election results: Bashar al-ASAD approved as president; percent of vote - Bashar al-ASAD 97.6%, other 2.4%
    unicameral People's Assembly or Majlis al-Shaab (250 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms)
    elections: last held on 7 May 2012 (next to be held in 2016)
    election results: percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - NA
    highest court(s): Court of Cassation (organized into civil, criminal, religious, and military divisions, each with 3 judges); Supreme Constitutional Court (consists of 4 members)
    judge selection and term of office: Court of Cassation judges appointed by the Supreme Judicial Council or SJC, a judicial management body headed by the minister of justice with 7 members including the national president; judge tenure NA; Supreme Constitutional Court judges nominated by the president and appointed by the SJC; judges appointed for 4-year renewable terms
    subordinate courts: courts of first instance; magistrates' courts; religious and military courts; Economic Security Court
    legal parties:
    National Progressive Front or NPF [President Bashar al-ASAD, Dr. Suleiman QADDAH] (includes Arab Socialist Renaissance (Ba'th) Party [President Bashar al-ASAD]
    Socialist Unionist Democratic Party [Fadlallah Nasr al-DIN]
    Syrian Arab Socialist Union or ASU [Safwan al-QUDSI]
    Syrian Communist Party (two branches) [Wissal Farha BAKDASH, Yusuf Rashid FAYSAL]
    Syrian Social Nationalist Party [As'ad HARDAN]
    Unionist Socialist Party [Fayez ISMAIL])
    Kurdish parties (considered illegal):
    Kurdish Azadi Party
    Kurdish Democratic Accord Party (al Wifaq)
    Kurdish Democratic Party (al Parti-Ibrahim wing)
    Kurdish Democratic Party (al Parti-Mustafa wing)
    Kurdish Democratic Party in Syria or KDP-S
    Kurdish Democratic Patriotic/National Party
    Kurdish Democratic Progressive Party or KDPP-Darwish
    Kurdish Democratic Progressive Party or KDPP-Muhammad
    Kurdish Democratic Union Party or PYD [Salih Muslim MOHAMMAD]
    Kurdish Democratic Unity Party
    Kurdish Democratic Yekiti Party
    Kurdish Future Party or KFP
    Kurdish Future Party [Rezan HASSAN]
    Kurdish Left Party
    Kurdish Yekiti (Union) Party
    Syrian Kurdish Democratic Party
    other parties: Syrian Democratic Party [Mustafa QALAAJI]
    Free Syrian Army
    National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Oppositon Forces or Syrian Oppositon Coalition [Mu'aaz al-KHATIB] (operates in exile in Cairo)
    Syrian Muslim Brotherhood or SMB [Muhammad Riyad al-SHAQFAH] (operates in exile in London)
    note: there are also hundreds of local groups that organize protests and stage armed attacks
    chief of mission: Ambassador (vacant); Charge d'Affaires Mounir KOUDMANI
    chancery: 2215 Wyoming Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008
    telephone: [1] (202) 232-6313
    FAX: [1] (202) 265-4585
    chief of mission: Ambassador Robert S. FORD; note - on 6 February 2012, the US closed its embassy in Damascus
    embassy: Abou Roumaneh, Al-Mansour Street, No. 2, Damascus
    mailing address: P. O. Box 29, Damascus
    telephone: [963] (11) 3391-4444
    FAX: [963] (11) 3391-3999
    three equal horizontal bands of red (top), white, and black; two small, green, five-pointed stars in a horizontal line centered in the white band; the band colors derive from the Arab Liberation flag and represent oppression (black), overcome through bloody struggle (red), to be replaced by a bright future (white); identical to the former flag of the United Arab Republic (1958-1961) where the two stars represented the constituent states of Syria and Egypt; the current design dates to 1980
    note: similar to the flag of Yemen, which has a plain white band, Iraq, which has an Arabic inscription centered in the white band, and that of Egypt, which has a gold Eagle of Saladin centered in the white band
    name: "Humat ad-Diyar" (Guardians of the Homeland)

    lyrics/music: Khalil Mardam BEY/Mohammad Salim FLAYFEL and Ahmad Salim FLAYFEL
    note: adopted 1936, restored 1961; between 1958 and 1961, while Syria was a member of the United Arab Republic with Egypt, the country had a different anthem

Economy ::Syria

    Despite modest economic growth and reform prior to the outbreak of unrest, Syria's economy continues to suffer the effects of the ongoing conflict that began in 2011. The economy further contracted in 2012 because of international sanctions and reduced domestic consumption and production, and inflation has risen sharply. The government has struggled to address the effects of economic decline, which include dwindling foreign exchange reserves, rising budget and trade deficits, and the decreasing value of the Syrian pound. Prior to the unrest, Damascus began liberalizing economic policies, including cutting lending interest rates, opening private banks, consolidating multiple exchange rates, raising prices on some subsidized items, and establishing the Damascus Stock Exchange. The economy remains highly regulated by the government. 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.
    $107.6 billion (2011 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 69
    $110.1 billion (2010 est.)
    $113.9 billion (2010 est.)
    note: data are in 2011 US dollars
    $64.7 billion (2011 est.)
    NA% (2012 est.)
    -2.3% (2011 est.)
    3.4% (2010 est.)
    $5,100 (2011 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 159
    $5,100 (2010 est.)
    $5,300 (2010 est.)
    note: data are in 2011 US dollars
    12.5% of GDP (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 116
    15% of GDP (2011 est.)
    26.1% of GDP (2010 est.)
    household consumption: 69.4%
    government consumption: 17.2%
    investment in fixed capital: 20.5%
    investment in inventories: 8.4%
    exports of goods and services: 13.9%
    imports of goods and services: -29.4%
    (2012 est.)
    agriculture: 16.5%
    industry: 22.8%
    services: 60.7% (2012 est.)
    wheat, barley, cotton, lentils, chickpeas, olives, sugar beets; beef, mutton, eggs, poultry, milk
    petroleum, textiles, food processing, beverages, tobacco, phosphate rock mining, cement, oil seeds crushing, car assembly
    -36% (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 172
    5.327 million (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 72
    agriculture: 17%
    industry: 16%
    services: 67% (2008 est.)
    18% (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 156
    14.9% (2011 est.)
    11.9% (2006 est.)
    lowest 10%: NA%
    highest 10%: NA%
    revenues: $5.222 billion
    expenditures: $12.59 billion (2012 est.)
    8.1% of GDP (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 211
    -11.4% of GDP (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 207
    52.2% of GDP (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 59
    35.2% of GDP (2011 est.)
    calendar year
    37% (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 222
    4.8% (2011 est.)
    0.75% (31 December 2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 69
    5% (31 December 2011 est.)
    11.7% (31 December 2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 84
    10.5% (31 December 2011 est.)
    $18.1 billion (31 December 2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 65
    $22.37 billion (31 December 2011 est.)
    $30.17 billion (31 December 2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 76
    $39.36 billion (31 December 2011 est.)
    $18.1 billion (31 December 2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 87
    $27.8 billion (31 December 2011 est.)
    -$5.103 billion (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 166
    -$7.726 billion (2011 est.)
    $3.876 billion (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 123
    $10.29 billion (2011 est.)
    crude oil, minerals, petroleum products, fruits and vegetables, cotton fiber, textiles, clothing, meat and live animals, wheat
    Iraq 55.9%, Saudi Arabia 9.3%, Kuwait 6.1%, UAE 5.3%, Lebanon 4.2% (2012)
    $10.78 billion (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 94
    $17.6 billion (2011 est.)
    machinery and transport equipment, electric power machinery, food and livestock, metal and metal products, chemicals and chemical products, plastics, yarn, paper
    Saudi Arabia 21.2%, UAE 10.4%, Iran 7.7%, China 7%, Iraq 6.3%, Ukraine 6.3%, Egypt 4.3% (2012)
    $4.774 billion (31 December 2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 94
    $14.83 billion (31 December 2011 est.)
    $8.33 billion (31 December 2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 103
    $8.196 billion (31 December 2011 est.)
    Syrian pounds (SYP) per US dollar -
    64.3919 (2012 est.)
    48.371 (2011 est.)
    11.225 (2010 est.)
    46.708 (2009)
    46.5281 (2008)

Energy ::Syria

Communications ::Syria

    4.345 million (2011)
    country comparison to the world: 37
    13.117 million (2011)
    country comparison to the world: 59
    general assessment: fair system currently undergoing significant improvement and digital upgrades, including fiber-optic technology and expansion of the network to rural areas; the armed insurgency that began in 2011 has led to major disruptions to the network and has caused telephone and Internet outages throughout the country
    domestic: the number of fixed-line connections has increased markedly since 2000; mobile-cellular service growing with telephone subscribership nearly 60 per 100 persons in 2011
    international: country code - 963; submarine cable connection to Egypt, Lebanon, and Cyprus; satellite earth stations - 1 Intelsat (Indian Ocean) and 1 Intersputnik (Atlantic Ocean region); coaxial cable and microwave radio relay to Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey; participant in Medarabtel (2011)
    state-run TV and radio broadcast networks; state operates 2 TV networks and a satellite channel; roughly two-thirds of Syrian homes have a satellite dish providing access to foreign TV broadcasts; 3 state-run radio channels; first private radio station launched in 2005; private radio broadcasters prohibited from transmitting news or political content (2007)
    416 (2012)
    country comparison to the world: 187
    4.469 million (2009)
    country comparison to the world: 52

Transportation ::Syria

    90 (2013)
    country comparison to the world: 62
    total: 29
    over 3,047 m: 5
    2,438 to 3,047 m: 16
    914 to 1,523 m: 3
    under 914 m: 5 (2013)
    total: 61
    1,524 to 2,437 m: 1
    914 to 1,523 m: 12
    under 914 m:
    48 (2013)
    6 (2013)
    gas 3,170 km; oil 2,029 km (2013)
    total: 2,052 km
    country comparison to the world: 72
    standard gauge: 1,801 km 1.435-m gauge
    narrow gauge: 251 km 1.050-m gauge (2008)
    total: 68,157 km
    country comparison to the world: 69
    paved: 61,514 km (includes 1,103 km of expressways)
    unpaved: 6,643 km (2006)
    900 km (navigable but not economically significant) (2011)
    country comparison to the world: 69
    total: 19
    country comparison to the world: 95
    by type: bulk carrier 4, cargo 14, carrier 1
    registered in other countries: 166 (Barbados 1, Belize 4, Bolivia 4, Cambodia 22, Comoros 5, Dominica 4, Georgia 24, Lebanon 2, Liberia 1, Malta 4, Moldova 5, North Korea 4, Panama 34, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 9, Sierra Leone 13, Tanzania 23, Togo 6, unknown 1) (2010)
    Baniyas, Latakia, Tartus

Military ::Syria

Transnational Issues ::Syria

    Golan Heights is Israeli-occupied with the almost 1,000-strong UN Disengagement Observer Force patrolling a buffer zone since 1964; lacking a treaty or other documentation describing the boundary, portions of the Lebanon-Syria boundary are unclear with several sections in dispute; since 2000, Lebanon has claimed Shab'a Farms in the Golan Heights; 2004 Agreement and pending demarcation settles border dispute with Jordan
    refugees (country of origin): 486,946 (Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA)); 87,741 (Iraq) (2012)
    IDPs: 4.25 million (ongoing civil war since 2011) (2012)
    stateless persons: 221,000 (2012); note - Syria's stateless population is composed of Kurds and Palestinians; stateless persons are prevented from voting, owning land, holding certain jobs, receiving food subsidies or public healthcare, enrolling in public schools, or being legally married to Syrian citizens; in 1962, some 120,000 Syrian Kurds were stripped of their Syrian citizenship, rendering them and their descendants stateless; in 2011, the Syrian government granted citizenship to thousands of Syrian Kurds as a means of appeasement; however, resolving the question of statelessness is not a priority given Syria's ongoing civil war
    current situation: due to Syria's political uprising and violent unrest, hundreds of thousands of Syrians, foreign migrant workers, and refugees have fled the country and are vulnerable to human trafficking; the lack of security and inaccessibility of the majority of the country makes it impossible to conduct a thorough analysis of the ongoing conflict and the scope and magnitude of Syria's human trafficking situation; prior to the uprising, Syria was principally a destination country for women and children subjected to forced labor or sex trafficking; thousands of women - the majority from Indonesia, the Philippines, Somalia, and Ethiopia - were recruited to work as domestic servants but were subsequently subjected to forced labor; Filipina domestic workers continue to be sent to Syria and are vulnerable to forced labor; the Syrian armed forces and opposition forces are using Syrian children in combat and support roles and as human shields; Iraqi women and girls continue to be sexually exploited, and Syrian children still face conditions of forced labor
    tier rating: Tier 3 - the government does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so; the government does not demonstrate evidence of increasing efforts to investigate and punish trafficking offenses, provide protective services to victims, inform the public about human trafficking, or provide much-needed anti-trafficking training to law enforcement and social welfare officials; the government does not refer any victims to NGO-operated shelters and has failed to institute procedures for the identification, interview, and referral of trafficking victims; the status of the national plan of action against trafficking is unknown (2013)
    a transit point for opiates, hashish, and cocaine bound for regional and Western markets; weak anti-money-laundering controls and bank privatization may leave it vulnerable to money laundering