::: Levant Research Institute :::

:: 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 Syrian troops – stationed in Lebanon since 1976 in an ostensible peacekeeping role – were withdrawn in April 2005.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 ::

Middle East, bordering the Mediterranean Sea, between Lebanon and Turkey

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

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:
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

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

Land use:
arable land: 24.9%
permanent crops: 5.69%
other: 69.41% (2011)

Irrigated land:
13,410 sq km (2010)

People and Society ::

noun: Syrian(s)
adjective: Syrian
Ethnic groups:

Arab 90.3%, Kurds, Armenians, and other 9.7%

Arabic (official), Kurdish, Armenian, Aramaic, Circassian (widely understood); French, English (somewhat understood)

Sunni Muslim (Islam – official) 74%, other Muslim (includes Alawite, Druze) 16%, Christian (various denominations) 10%, Jewish (tiny communities in Damascus, Al Qamishli, and Aleppo)

22,457,336 (July 2013 est.)
country comparison to the world: 53
note: approximately 18,700 Israeli settlers live in the Golan Heights (2011)
Age structure:

0-14 years: 33.9% (male 3,900,073/female 3,707,117)
15-24 years: 20.8% (male 2,387,006/female 2,285,496)
25-54 years: 36.9% (male 4,214,621/female 4,075,181)
55-64 years: 4.6% (male 504,422/female 517,413)
65 years and over: 3.9% (male 395,806/female 470,201) (2013 est.)
population pyramid:
Dependency ratios:

total dependency ratio: 64.3 %
youth dependency ratio: 57.7 %
elderly dependency ratio: 6.7 %
potential support ratio: 15 (2013)
Median age:

total: 22.7 years
male: 22.5 years
female: 22.9 years (2013 est.)
Population growth rate:

0.15% (2013 est.)
country comparison to the world: 181
Birth rate:

23.01 births/1,000 population (2013 est.)
country comparison to the world: 73
Death rate:

3.67 deaths/1,000 population (2013 est.)
country comparison to the world: 211
Net migration rate:

-17.89 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2013 est.)
country comparison to the world: 219

urban population: 56.1% of total population (2011)
rate of urbanization: 2.36% annual rate of change (2010-15 est.)
Major urban areas – population:

Aleppo 2.985 million; DAMASCUS (capital) 2.527 million; Hims 1.276 million; Hamah 854,000 (2009)
Sex ratio:

at birth: 1.06 male(s)/female
0-14 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
15-24 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
25-54 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
55-64 years: 0.97 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.85 male(s)/female
total population: 1.03 male(s)/female (2013 est.)
Maternal mortality rate:

70 deaths/100,000 live births (2010)
country comparison to the world: 88
Infant mortality rate:

total: 14.63 deaths/1,000 live births
country comparison to the world: 114
male: 16.83 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 12.31 deaths/1,000 live births (2013 est.)
Life expectancy at birth:

total population: 75.14 years
country comparison to the world: 97
male: 72.74 years
female: 77.69 years (2013 est.)
Total fertility rate:

2.77 children born/woman (2013 est.)
country comparison to the world: 72
Contraceptive prevalence rate:

58.3% (2006)
Health expenditures:

3.4% of GDP (2010)
country comparison to the world: 178
Physicians density:

1.5 physicians/1,000 population (2008)
Hospital bed density:

1.5 beds/1,000 population (2010)
Drinking water source:

urban: 93% of population
rural: 86% of population
total: 90% of population
urban: 7% of population
rural: 14% of population
total: 10% of population (2010 est.)
Sanitation facility access:

urban: 96% of population
rural: 93% of population
total: 95% of population
urban: 4% of population
rural: 7% of population
total: 5% of population (2010 est.)
HIV/AIDS – adult prevalence rate:

less than 0.1% (2001 est.)
country comparison to the world: 134
HIV/AIDS – people living with HIV/AIDS:

fewer than 500 (2003 est.)
country comparison to the world: 150
HIV/AIDS – deaths:

fewer than 200 (2003 est.)
country comparison to the world: 111
Obesity – adult prevalence rate:

27.1% (2008)
country comparison to the world: 41
Children under the age of 5 years underweight:

10.1% (2009)
country comparison to the world: 69
Education expenditures:

5.1% of GDP (2009)
country comparison to the world: 73

definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 84.1%
male: 90.3%
female: 77.7% (2011 est.)
School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education):

total: 11 years
male: 12 years
female: 11 years (2007)
Child labor – children ages 5-14:

total number: 192,915
percentage: 4 % (2006 est.)
Unemployment, youth ages 15-24:

total: 19.2%
country comparison to the world: 62
male: 15.3%
female: 40.2% (2010)


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.

GDP – per capita (PPP):
$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

GDP – composition, by sector of origin:
agriculture: 16.5%
industry: 22.8%
Services: 60.7% (2012 est.)

Agriculture – products:
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

Labor force – by occupation:
agriculture: 17%
industry: 16%
Services: 67% (2008 est.)

revenues: $5.222 billion
Expenditures: $12.59 billion (2012 est.)

$3.876 billion (2012 est.)
country comparison to the world: 123
$10.29 billion (2011 est.)

Exports – commodities:
crude oil, minerals, petroleum products, fruits and vegetables, cotton fiber,
textiles, clothing, meat and live animals, wheat

Exports – partners:
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.)

Imports – commodities:
machinery and transport equipment, electric power machinery,
food and livestock, metal and metal products, chemicals and chemical products,
plastics, yarn, paper

Imports – partners:
Saudi Arabia 21.2%, UAE 10.4%, Iran 7.7%, China 7%, Iraq 6.3%,
Ukraine 6.3%, Egypt 4.3% (2012)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold:
$4.774 billion (31 December 2012 est.)
country comparison to the world: 94
$14.83 billion (31 December 2011 est.)

Mark Giusti
British Airways

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