Syria

Syrian Arab Republic

الجمهورية العربية السورية
Al-Jumhūrīyah Al-ʻArabīyah As-Sūrīyah
Flag Coat of arms
Anthem: Homat el Diyar
Guardians of the Land
Capital Damascus
33°30′N 36°18′E / 33.5°N 36.3°E / 33.5; 36.3
Largest city Aleppo
Official languages Arabica
Demonym Syrian
Government unitary semi-presidential constitutional republic[1]
 -  President Bashar al Assad
 -  Prime Minister Wael Nader al-Halqi
Legislature People’s Council
Establishment
 -  Ottoman Empire 1 September 1918 
 -  France 17 April 1946 
 -  United Arab Republic 28 September 1961 
Area
 -  Total 185,180 km2 (89th)
71,479 sq mi 
 -  Water (%) 1.1
Population
 -  July 2012 estimate 22,530,74653rd)
 -  Density 118.3/km2 (101st)
306.5/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2012 estimate
 -  Total $107.831 billion[2] 
 -  Per capita $5,100 [2] 
GDP (nominal) 2010 estimate
 -  Total $59.957 billion[2] 
 -  Per capita $2,802[2] 
HDI (2011) Decrease 0.632119th)
Currency SYP)
Time zone UTC+2)
 -  Summer (DST) EEST (UTC+3)
Drives on the right
Internet TLD .sy
Calling code 963b
a. Arabic is the official language; spoken languages and varieties are: Syrian Arabic, North Mesopotamian Arabic, Kurmanji Kurdish, Armenian, Aramaic, Circassian, Turkish and Russian.[4]
b. 02 from Lebanon.

Syria (/ˈsɪriə/ ( listen) SIRR-ee-ə ; Arabic: سوريا‎ / ALA-LC: Sūriyā, or سورية / Sūrīyah; Syriac: ܣܘܪܝܐ; Kurdish: سوریه‌), officially the Syrian Arab Republic (Arabic: الجمهورية العربية السورية‎ / al-Jumhūrīyah al-‘Arabīyah as-Sūrīyah About this sound Arabic pronunciation), is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south and Israel to the southwest.

In English, the name Syria was formerly synonymous with the Levant, known in Arabic as al-Sham, while the modern state encompasses the sites of several ancient kingdoms and empires, including the Eblan civilization of the third millennium BC. In the Islamic era, its capital city, Damascus, the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world,[5] was the seat of the Umayyad Caliphate, and a provincial capital of the Mamluk Sultanate of Egypt.

The modern Syrian state was established after the [7]

Syria is a member of one International organization other than the [10]

Since March 2011, Syria has been embroiled in [20]

In November 2012, [24]

Contents

Etymology

The name Syria is derived from the Çineköy inscription in 2000 seems to support the theory that the term Syria derives from Assyria.

The area designated by the word has changed over time. Classically, Syria lies at the eastern end of the Mediterranean, between Egypt and Arabia to the south and Cilicia 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.[29]

By Pliny’s time, however, this larger Syria had been divided into a number of provinces under the [30]

Geography

Syria lies between latitudes [32]

The climate in Syria is dry and hot, and winters are mild. Because of the country’s elevation, snowfall does occasionally occur during winter.[33]

History

Female figurine, Syria, 5000 BC. Ancient Orient Museum.

Since approximately 10,000 BC Syria was one of centers of Archaeologists have demonstrated that civilization in Syria was one of the most ancient on earth.

Ebla civilization

Clay tablet from Ebla’s archive

Around the excavated city of Ebla near Idlib in northern Syria, discovered in 1975, a great Semitic empire spread from the [34]

However, more recent classifications of the Eblaite language has shown that it was an [36]

Antiquity and early Christian era

Philippus Arabs, Roman Emperor

During the second millennium BC, Syria was occupied successively by Canaanites, Phoenicians, and Arameans as part of the general disruptions and exchanges associated with the Sea Peoples. The Phoenicians settled along the coast of Northern Canaan (Lebanon), which was already known for its towering cedars. Egyptians, Sumerians, Assyrians, Babylonians and Hittites variously occupied the strategic ground of Syria during this period; the land between their various empires being marsh.[34]

Eventually, the Persians took Syria as part of their hegemony of Southwest Asia; this dominion was transferred to the Ancient Macedonians and Greeks after Alexander the Great‘s conquests and the Seleucid Empire. The capital of this Empire (founded in 312 BC) was situated at Antioch, part of historical Syria, but just inside the Turkish border today. Pompey the Great captured Antioch in 64 BC, turning Syria into a Roman province. Thus control of this region passed to the Romans and then the Byzantines.[34]

In the Roman Empire period, the city of Antioch was the third largest city in the empire after Rome and Alexandria. With an estimated population of 500,000 at its peak, Antioch was one of the major centers of trade and industry in the ancient world. The population of Syria during the heyday of the empire was probably not exceeded again until the 19th century. Syria’s large and prosperous population made Syria one of the most important of the Roman provinces, particularly during the 2nd and 3rd centuries (AD).[37]

The Roman Emperor Alexander Severus, who was emperor from 222 to 235, was Syrian. His cousin Elagabalus, who was emperor from 218 to 222, was also Syrian and his family held hereditary rights to the high priesthood of the sun god El-Gabal at Emesa (modern Homs) in Syria. Another Roman emperor who was a Syrian was Philip the Arab (Marcus Julius Philippus), emperor from 244 to 249.[37]

Syria is significant in the Acts 9:1–43 )

The desert city of World Heritage Site, grew large in the Syrian desert in the 1st and 2nd centuries (A.D.).


Islamic era

Church of Saint Simeon Stylites near Aleppo is considered to be one of the oldest surviving churches in the world

By AD 640, Syria was conquered by the Rashidun army led by Khalid ibn al-Walid, resulting in the area’s becoming part of the Islamic empire. In the mid-7th century, the Umayyad dynasty, then rulers of the empire, placed the capital of the empire in Damascus. Syria was divided into four districts: Damascus, Homs, Palestine and Jordan. The Islamic empire stretched from Spain and Morocco to India and parts of Central Asia; thus Syria prospered economically, being the capital of the empire. Early Ummayad rulers such as Abd al-Malik and Al-Walid I constructed several splendid palaces and mosques throughout Syria, particularly in Damascus, Aleppo and Homs.

There was great toleration of Christians in this era and several held governmental posts. The country’s power dramatically declined during later Ummayad rule; mainly due to the totalitarianism and corruption spread among the empire’s leaderships, conflict between its general staff, and the successive revolutions by the oppressed and miserable groups. As one Ummayad chieftain responded to a question about the reasons of the decline of their empire: “Rather visiting what needed to be visited, we were more interested in the pleasure and enjoyment of life; we oppressed our people until they gave up and sought relief from us…we trusted our ministers who favoured their own interests and kept secrets from us, and we unhurriedly rewarded our soldiers that we lost their obedience to our enemies.”[citation needed]

The Ummayad dynasty was then overthrown by the Abbasid dynasty in 750, who moved the capital of empire to Baghdad. Arabic — made official under Ummayad rule — became the dominant language, replacing Greek and Aramaic in the Abbasid era. In 887, the Egypt-based Tulunids annexed Syria from the Abbasids, and were later replaced by once the Egypt-based Ikhshidids and later by the Hamdanids originating in Aleppo founded by Sayf al-Dawla.[38]

Krak des Chevaliers from the South-West

Sections of the coastline of Syria were briefly held by Frankish overlords during the Crusades of the 12th century, and were known as the Crusader state of the Principality of Antioch. The area was also threatened by Shi’a extremists known as Assassins (Hassassin). In 1260, the Mongols arrived, led by Hulegu with an army 100,000 strong, destroying cities and irrigation works. Aleppo fell in January 1260, and Damascus in March, but then Hulegu needed to break off his attack to return to China to deal with a succession dispute.

The command of the remaining Mongol troops was placed under 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.

Citadel of Aleppo is considered to be one of the oldest and largest castles in the world.

Al-Ashqar, who had married a Mongol woman, appealed for help from the Mongols, and in 1281, they arrived with an army of 50,000 Mongols, and 30,000 Armenian, Georgian, and Turkish auxiliaries, along with Al-Ashqar’s rebel force. The Mongols of the Ilkhanate took the city, but Qalawun arrived with a Mamluk force, persuaded Al-Ashqar to switch sides and join him, and they fought against the Mongols on 29 October 1281, in the Second Battle of Homs, a close battle that resulted in the death of the majority of the combatants but was finally won by the Mamluks.[39]

In 1400, [41] It was during the conquests of Timur that the indigenous Christian population of Syria began to suffer under greater persecutions.

By the end of the 15th century, the discovery of a sea route from Europe to the Far East ended the need for an Ottoman Empire invaded the Mamluk Sultanate of Egypt, conquering Syria, and incorporating it into its empire, before conquering Egypt itself the following year. From that time until the 20th century, Syria found itself largely apart from, and ignored by, world affairs.

Ottoman era

Ottoman-Syrian dress in the 19th century.

The Ottoman system was not burdensome to Syrians because the Turks respected Arabic as the language of the Koran, 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 baraka (spiritual force or blessing) of the countless pilgrims who passed through on the hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca.[42]

Ottoman administration followed a unique system that lead to a peaceful coexistence for centuries. Each religious minority—Shia Muslim, Greek Orthodox, Maronite, Armenian, and Jewish—constituted a millet. The religious heads of each community administered all personal status law and performed certain civil functions as well.[42]

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 ‘Zone B’, or the British zone of influence.[citation needed] This border was later recognized internationally when Syria became a League of Nations mandate in 1920[43] and has not changed to this date.

French Mandate

The States of the French Mandate

In 1920, a short-lived independent Kingdom of Syria was established under Faisal I of the Hashemite family, who later became the King of Iraq. However, his rule over Syria ended after only a few months, following the clash between his Syrian Arab forces and regular French forces at 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.[44]

In 1925, Druze Mountain and spread to engulf the whole of Syria and parts of Lebanon. This is considered one of the most important revolutions against the French mandate, as it encompassed the whole of Syria and witnessed fierce battles between rebel and French forces.

On 23 August 1925, Sultan Pasha al-Atrash officially declared revolution against France, and soon fighting erupted in Damascus, Homs and Hama. Al-Atrash won several battles against the French at the beginning of revolution, notably the Battle of al-Mazraa on 2–3 August 1925, and the battles of Salkhad, al-Musayfirah and Suwayda.

The inauguration of President Hashim al-Atassi in 1936

After resistance victories against the French, France sent thousands of troops to Syria and Lebanon from Morocco and Senegal, equipped with modern weapons; the rebels were lightly armed. This dramatically altered the results and allowed 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. He was met with a huge public reception.

Syria and France negotiated a treaty of independence in September 1936, and Hashim al-Atassi, who was Prime Minister under King Faisal’s brief reign, was the first president to be elected under a new constitution, effectively 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. Syria proclaimed its independence again in 1941, but it was not until 1 January 1944 that it was recognised as an independent republic. Continuing pressure from Syrian nationalist groups and British pressure 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.[33]

Independence, instability and economic growth

Although rapid economic development followed the declaration of independence, Syrian politics from independence through the late 1960s were marked by upheaval. Between 1946 and 1956, Syria had 20 different cabinets and drafted four separate constitutions. In 1948, Syria was involved in the Arab-Israeli War, aligning with the other local Arab states who were attempting to prevent the establishment of the State of Israel.[45] The Syrian army was pressed out of most of Israel, but fortified their strongholds on the Golan Heights and managed to keep their old borders and some additional territory (this was converted into “supposed” demilitarized zones under UN supervision; the status of these territories have proved a stumbling-block for Syrian-Israeli negotiations). It was during this period that many Syrian Jews, who faced growing discrimination, emigrated from the country as part of Jewish exodus from Arab countries, many of whom ended up as refugees in Israel, and are now Israeli citizens.

President Adib Shishakli

The humiliating defeat suffered by the army was one of several trigger factors for the March 1949 Syrian coup d’état by Col. Husni al-Za’im, in what has been described as the first military overthrow of the Arab World[45] 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.[45]

After exercising influence behind the scenes for some time, dominating the ravaged parliamentary scene, Shishakli launched a second overthrow in 1951, entrenching his rule and eventually abolishing multipartyism altogether. Only when President Shishakli was himself overthrown in a 1954 overthrow was the parliamentary system restored, but it was fundamentally undermined by continued political maneuvering supported by competing factions in the military.[45]

By this time, civilian politics had been largely gutted of meaning, and power was increasingly concentrated in the military and security establishment, which had now proved itself to be the only force capable of seizing and, perhaps, keeping power.[45]

During the Suez Crisis of 1956, after the invasion of Egypt by Israel, Britain and France, martial law was declared in Syria. The November 1956 attacks on Iraqi pipelines were in retaliation for Iraq’s joining of the Baghdad Pact. In early 1957 Iraq advised Egypt and Syria against a conceivable takeover of Jordan.[46]

In November 1956, as a direct result of the Suez Crisis,[48]

Syria’s political instability during the years after the 1954 overthrow, the parallelism of Syrian and [33]

The union was not a success, however.[45]

The Ba’ath takeover in Syria followed a Ba’ath overthrow in Iraq the previous month. The new Syrian Government explored the possibility of federation with Egypt and with Ba’ath-controlled Iraq.[45] An agreement was concluded in Cairo on 17 April 1963, for a referendum on unity to be held in September 1963. However, serious disagreements among the parties soon developed, and the tripartite federation failed to materialize. Thereafter, the Ba’ath government in Syria and Iraq began to work for bilateral unity. These plans foundered in November 1963, when the Ba’ath government in Iraq was overthrown.

In May 1964, President Syrian-led ba’ath movement was established.

We shall never call for nor accept peace. We shall only accept war. We have resolved to drench this land with your blood. To oust you aggressors, to throw you into the sea.[49]
Hafez al-Assad, then Syrian Defence Minister, 24 May 1966

When Nasser closed the [52]

Conflicts also arose over different interpretations of the legal status of the [54]

Conflict over the cultivation of disputed lands sparked into [58]

Conflict developed between an extremist military wing and a more moderate civilian wing of the Ba’ath Party. The 1970 retreat of Syrian forces sent to aid the PLO during the “Black September” hostilities with Jordan reflected this political disagreement within the ruling Ba’ath leadership.[59] By 13 November 1970, Minister of Defense Hafez al-Assad was solidly established as the strongman of the government, when he effected a bloodless military overthrow (“The Corrective Movement“).[60]

Ba’ath Party rule, 1970 on

Under Hafez al-Assad, 1970–2000

Hafez al-Assad, president of Syria 1970-2000

Upon assuming power, Hafez al-Assad moved quickly to create an organizational infrastructure for his government and to consolidate control. The Provisional Regional Command of Assad’s Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party nominated a 173-member legislature, the People’s Council, in which the Ba’ath Party took 87 seats. The remaining seats were divided among “popular organizations” and other minor parties. In March 1971, the party held its regional congress and elected a new 21-member Regional Command headed by Assad.

In the same month, a national referendum was held to confirm Assad as President for a 7-year term. In March 1972, to broaden the base of his government, Assad formed the National Progressive Front, a coalition of parties led by the Ba’ath Party, and elections were held to establish local councils in each of Syria’s 14 governorates. In March 1973, a new Syrian constitution went into effect followed shortly thereafter by parliamentary elections for the People’s Council, the first such elections since 1962.[33] The 1973 Constitution defines Syria officially as a secular socialist state with Islam recognised as the majority religion.

On 6 October 1973, Syria and Egypt initiated the Yom Kippur War by launching a multi-front surprise attack against Israeli forces stationed in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights and Sinai Peninsula. After intense fighting the Israel Defense Forces blunted the Syrians and reversed the initial Syrian gains, ejecting the Syrian army from the Golan and pushing deeper into Syrian territory beyond the 1967 boundary. As a result, Israel continues to occupy the Golan Heights as part of the Israeli-occupied territories.[61]

In early 1976, the [64]

Hafez al-Assad greets Richard Nixon on his arrival at Damascus airport in 1974

About one million Syrian workers came into Lebanon after the war ended to find jobs in the reconstruction of the country.Demographics of Lebanon)

The authoritarian government was not without its critics, though open dissent was repressed. A serious challenge arose in the late 1970s, however, from fundamentalist Sunni Muslims, who reject the basic values of the secular Ba’ath program and object to rule by the Alawis, whom they consider heretical. From 1976 until its suppression in 1982, the arch-conservative [33]

Syria’s 1990 participation in the U.S.-led multinational coalition aligned against Saddam Hussein marked a dramatic watershed in Syria’s relations both with other Arab states and with the Western world. Syria participated in the multilateral Southwest Asia Peace Conference in Madrid in October 1991, and during the 1990s engaged in direct, face-to-face negotiations with Israel. These negotiations failed, and there have been no further direct Syrian-Israeli talks since President Hafez al-Assad‘s meeting with then President Bill Clinton in Geneva in March 2000.[69]

Under Bashar al-Assad

Syrian president Bashar al-Assad (left) with Brazilian then-president Lula da Silva (right), 2010

Hafez al-Assad died on 10 June 2000, after 30 years in power. Immediately following al-Assad’s death, the Parliament amended the constitution, reducing the mandatory minimum age of the President from 40 to 34. This allowed his son, Bashar al-Assad, to become legally eligible for nomination by the ruling Ba’ath party. On 10 July 2000, Bashar al-Assad was elected President by referendum in which he ran unopposed, garnering 97.29% of the vote, according to Syrian Government statistics.[33]

Bashar al-Assad’s election in the summer of 2000 saw the birth of the Damascus Spring and hopes of reform. The period was characterized by the emergence of numerous political forums or salons where groups of like-minded people met in private houses to debate political and social issues. The phenomenon of salons spread rapidly in Damascus and to a lesser extent in other cities. Political activists, such as Riad Seif, Haitham al-Maleh, Kamal al-Labwani, Riyad al-Turk, and Aref Dalila were important in mobilizing the movement.[70] The most famous of the forums were the Riad Seif Forum and the Jamal al-Atassi Forum. Pro-democracy activists mobilized around a number of political demands, expressed in the “Manifesto of the 99”. However, by autumn 2001, the authorities had suppressed the movement, imprisoning some of the leading intellectuals who had called for democratic elections and a campaign of civil disobedience.[71] Renewed opposition activity occurred in October 2005 when activist Michel Kilo launched with leading opposition figures the Damascus Declaration, which criticized the Syrian government as “authoritarian, totalitarian and cliquish” and called for democratic reform.[72] Although the Damascus Spring lasted for a short period, its effects still echo during the political, cultural and intellectual debates in Syria today.

Although Bashar al-Assad said he would reform, the reforms have been limited to some market reforms.[73]

Over the years the authorities have tightened [75]

On 5 October 2003, Israel bombed a site near Damascus, charging it was a terrorist training facility for members of Islamic Jihad. The raid was in retaliation for the bombing of a restaurant in the Israeli town of Haifa that killed 19. Islamic Jihad said the camp was not in use; Syria said the attack was on a civilian area.[76]

In May 2004, the United States moved closer to imposing sanctions on Syria, following the adoption of the Syria Accountability Act by the House of Representatives International Relations committee.[77] Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah, all included in what the EU and the U.S. view as terrorist groups, all take refuge and enjoy strong relationships with the Syrian government.

Following 2004 Al-Qamishli riots, the Syrian Kurds protested in Brussels, in Geneva, in Germany, at the US and UK embassies, and in Turkey. The protesters pledged against violence in north-east Syria starting Friday, 12 March 2004, and reportedly extending over the weekend resulting in several deaths, according to reports. The Kurds allege the Syrian government encouraged and armed the attackers. Signs of rioting were seen in the towns of Qameshli and Hassakeh.[78]

In 2005, under heavy international pressure, Syria withdrew 14,000 troops and intelligence agents from Lebanon.[79]

The authorities maintain close ties to Iran. On 6 September 2007, Israeli jet fighters carried out Operation Orchard against a suspected nuclear reactor under construction by North Korean technicians.[80]

In April 2008, President Assad told a Qatari newspaper that Syria and Israel had been discussing a peace treaty for a year, with Turkey acting as a mediator. This was confirmed in May 2008 by a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. The status of the Golan Heights, a major obstacle to a peace treaty, was being discussed.[81]

The Uprising and Civil War (2011–2012)

Flag of Syria (1932-58) used by the [85]

The Syrian Uprising (Later known as the Syrian civil war) is an ongoing internal conflict between the Syrian army and the Free Syrian Army. The uprising, which was inspired by the Arab Spring Revolutions, began as a chain of peaceful protests around the country for democracy and political freedom, which was immediately followed by a government crackdown whereby the Syrian Army was deployed to quell the uprising, and several cities were besieged as a result.[86][87] According to witnesses, soldiers who refused to open fire on civilians were summarily executed by the Syrian Army.[88] The Syrian government denied reports of defections, and blamed armed groups for causing trouble.[89] In July 2011, army defectors near the Turkish-Syrian border declared the formation of the Free Syrian Army and began forming fighting units (with civilian volunteers joining their ranks soon afterwards), which began an insurgency campaign against the Syrian government starting in September 2011. Since September 2011, the FSA has largely focused on a decentralized command-and-control structure whereby fighting units are organized and controlled on the small and local level. The uprising, which began peacefully, has turned into a sectarian civil war, 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.[90]

According to various sources, including the United Nations, up to 9,100–11,000 people have been killed, primarily protesters but also including 2,470–3,500 armed combatants.[91][92][93] According to the Syrian government, 5,700–6,400 people, including 2,000–2,500 members of the security forces, more than 800 insurgents and more than 3,000 civilians, have been killed in fighting with what they describe as armed groups.[94] The United Nations reported that over 400 children have been killed.[95][96][97][98] Syria’s government has dismissed this, characterizing claims from UN officials as being based on false news reports that originate from opposition groups.[99] Additionally, over 600 detainees and political prisoners have died under torture.[100] Another 400 children have been reportedly arrested and tortured in Syrian prisons.[101] With the most prominent case being that of Hamza Al-Khateeb. According to the UN, about 1.2 million Syrians have been internally displaced within the country.[102] To escape the violence, over 355,000 Syrian refugees have fled to neighboring countries of Jordan,[103] Iraq,[104] Lebanon, and Turkey.[102][105]

Overall, both sides have been accused of human rights abuses, although the majority of abuses have been committed by the government.[106]

The [9]

In late June 2012 high-ranking military and political personnel, such as Manaf Tlas [109]

On 21 August 2012, the country’s Deputy Prime Minister Qadri Jamil said the Syrian government is prepared to discuss the resignation of President Bashar al-Assad.[110]

Politics and government

Syria
This article is part of the series:
Politics and government of
Syria

Syria is formally a unitary republic. The constitution adopted in 2012 effectively transformed Syria into a semi-presidential republic due to the constitutional right for individuals to be elected which do not form part of the National Progressive Front.[111] The President is Head of State and the Prime Minister is Head of Government.[112] The Peoples Council is the Syria’s legislature responsible for passing laws, approving government appropriations and debating policy.[113] While presidency is an independent office, the Government of Syria is subject to the confidence of the Peoples Council in order to govern. 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.[114]

Branches of government

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[115] but does not make Islam the state religion.

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.[116] 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,[116] with two thirds of the seats automatically allocated to the ruling coalition.[117] 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 armed anti-government rebels, however, chose not to field candidates and called on their supporters to boycott the elections.

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.[116] The Supreme State Security Court (SSSC) was abolished by President Bashar al-Assad by legislative decree No. 53 on 21 April 2011.[118]

Political parties

Article 8 of the old Syrian constitution stated that “the Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party leads the state and society.” The 2012 constitution does not contain this provision any longer. The President is the Secretary-General of the party, and the leader of the National Progressive Front governing coalition. The minor parties in the coalition are the Arab Socialist Movement, Arab Socialist Union, Communist Party of Syria (Unified), Communist Party of Syria (Bakdash), Social Democratic Unionists, Socialist Unionists, Syrian Social Nationalist Party, Democratic Socialist Unionist Party, Arabic Democratic Unionist Party, National Vow Movement. Outside of the coalition are 14 illegal Kurdish political parties.[119]

State control

Nearly all of Syria’s radio and television outlets are state owned, and the Ba’ath Party controls nearly all newspapers.[122]

The Emergency Law, effectively suspending most constitutional protections, was in effect from 1963 until 21 April 2011.[118] It was justified by the government in the light of the continuing war with Israel over the Golan Heights.

Human rights

Syria’s human rights situation is currently among the worst in the world, according to human rights organizations such as [124]

The authorities are accused of arresting democracy and human rights activists, [128]

Administrative divisions

Syria is divided into fourteen nahiyah).

A governor, whose appointment is proposed by the minister of the interior, approved by the cabinet, and announced by executive decree, heads each governorate. The governor is assisted by an elected provincial council. Most of the Golan Heights territory.

Damascus is the capital city of Syria. Latakia along with Tartus are Syria’s main ports on the Mediterranean sea. Other major cities include Aleppo in northern Syria, Hama in central Syria, Homs in the south of Hama and Deir ez-Zor on the Euphrates river in eastern Syria.

Military

Syrian soldier wearing a Soviet-made Model ShMS nuclear-biological-chemical warfare mask aiming a Chinese Type-56 assault rifle

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.[129] 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.[130] 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.[129]

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-kilometer range were procured from North Korea, and Scud-D, with a range of up to 700 kilometers, is allegedly being developed by Syria with the help of North Korea and Iran, according to Zisser.[131]

Syria received significant financial aid from Persian Gulf Arab states as a result of its participation in the military spending.

Foreign relations

Syrian–Turkish dispute over İskenderun (Hatay)

In 1938 Republic of Hatay became independent from the French mandate of Syria as the Republic of Hatay and following a referendum, 8 months later in 1939, it decided to join Turkey. This self-annexation was never recognized by Syria, which continues to show the Hatay Province of Turkey as part of Syria’s territory on maps.[132]

Israeli occupation of the Golan Heights

The Golan Heights is a strategic plateau and mountainous region in southwestern Syria. Two-thirds of the area is currently occupied by Israel. It comprises 1,850 square kilometres (714 sq mi) and includes mountains reaching an altitude of 2,880 metres (9,449 ft) above sea level.

The heights dominate the plains below. The Southwest Asia.

An agreement to establish a demilitarized zone between [135]

In 1973, Syria tried to regain control of the Golan Heights in a surprise attack on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish year.[136] Despite initial Syrian advances and heavy Israeli losses, the Golan Heights remained in Israeli hands after a successful Israeli counterattack.

Syria and Israel signed an armistice agreement in 1974, and a [138]

After the Six-Day War, a population of 20,000 Syrians remained in the Golan Heights, most of them Druze. Since 2005, Israel has allowed Druze apple farmers in the Golan to sell their produce to Syria. In 2006, the export total reached 8,000 tons of apples.[140]

Syrian occupation of Lebanon

The Syrian occupation of Lebanon began in 1976 as a result of the civil war and ended in April 2006 in response to domestic and international pressure after the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister, Rafik Hariri.

In January 1976, Syrian proposal to restore the limits to the Palestinian guerrilla presence in Lebanon, that had been in place prior to the outbreak of the civil war, was welcomed by Maronites and conservative Muslims, but rejected by the Palestinian guerrillas and their Lebanese Druze-led and leftist allies. To deal with the opposition posed by this latter grouping which was normally allied with Syria, in June 1976, Syria dispatched Palestinian units under its control in Lebanon, and soon sent its own troops as well. Syrian claims these interventions came in response to appeals from Christian villagers under attack by the leftists.

By October 1976, Syria had caused significant damage to the strength of the leftists and their Palestinian allies, but at a meeting of the [142]

In 1989, at the final accords of the civil war, two rival administrations were formed in Lebanon: a military one under Aoun in East [144]

Following the assassination of the Lebanese ex-premier Rafik Hariri in 2005, and an alleged involvement of Syria in his death a public uprising nicknamed Cedar Revolution had swept the country. With the consequent adoption of UN resolution 1559, Syria was forced to announce its full withdrawal from Lebanon on 30 April 2006.[145]

Economy

Olive trees field in Syria. Agriculture in Syria

Syria is a middle-income country, with an economy based on agriculture, oil, industry, and tourism. As of 2012, Syria’s oil and tourism industries in particular have been devastated, with $5 billion USD lost to the ongoing conflict of the civil war.[146]

As a result of its political isolation which includes significant economic sanctions from the Arab League, EU and the US, Syria has low rates of investment, and low levels of industrial and agricultural productivity. Syria’s GDP declined by over 3% in 2011,[33]

Syria has 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 [33]

Some basic commodities, such as diesel, continue to be heavily subsidized, and social services are provided for nominal charges. The subsidies are becoming harder to sustain as the gap between consumption and production continues to increase. Syria has a population of approximately 22.2 million people, and Syrian Government figures place the population growth rate at 2.45%, with 75% of the population under the age of 35 and more than 40% under the age of 15.

Approximately 200,000 people enter the labor market every year. According to Syrian Government statistics. Government and public sector employees constitute over one quarter of the total labor force. Government officials acknowledge that the economy is not growing at a pace sufficient to create enough new jobs annually to match population growth. The UNDP announced in 2005 that 30% of the Syrian population lives in poverty and 11.4% live below the subsistence level.[33]

Foreign trade

Given the policies adopted from the 1960s through the late 1980s, which included nationalization of companies and private assets, Syria failed to join an increasingly interconnected global economy. Syria withdrew from the Greater Arab Free Trade Area (GAFTA) came into effect and customs duties were eliminated between Syria and all other members of GAFTA.

In addition, Syria has signed a free trade agreement with [146]

Export Trading Partners. From MIT/Harvard MIT/Harvard Atlas of Economic Complexity

Import Trading Partners. From MIT/Harvard MIT/Harvard Atlas of Economic Complexity

Transport

Syria has three international airports (Damascus, Aleppo and Lattakia), which serve as hubs for Syrian Air and are also served by a variety of foreign carriers.[150]

The majority of Syrian cargo is carried by Chemins de Fer Syriens (the Syrian railway company), which links up with Turkish State Railways (the Turkish counterpart). For a relatively under developed country Syria’s railway infrastructure is well maintained with many express services and modern trains.[151]

Demographics

Population in Syria[153]
Year Million
1971 6.6
1990 12.7
2009 21.9
Source: OECD/World Bank/UNO

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 is about 99 per km² (258 per square mile). 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 number approximately 1,852,300. The vast majority of this population was from Iraq (1,300,000), but sizeable populations from the former British Mandate of Palestine (543,400) and Somalia (5,200) also lived in the country.[154]

Education is free and compulsory from ages 6 to 12. Schooling consists of 6 years of [156]

Largest cities

Ethnic groups

Couple of Jewish woman in Aleppo, 1873

Syrians are an overall indigenous [158]

Syrian Arabs, together with some 400,000 UNRWA Palestinian Arabs make up over 90% of the population.[2]

Druze number around 500,000, and concentrate mainly in the southern area of Jabal al-Druze.[159]

Syria also hosts non-Arab ethnic minorities. The largest of these groups, Kurds, constitutes about 9% of the population, or approximately 2 million people.[160] Most Kurds reside in the northeastern corner of Syria and most speak the Kurmanji variant of the Kurdish language.

The majority of Syrian Turkmen live in Aleppo, Damascus and Latakia and number around 500,000-1,000,000.[161]

The [163]

7th largest Armenian population in the world.

In addition, approximately 1,300,000 [164]

The [166]

Religion

Sunni account for 74% of the population,[167]

President Bashar Al-Assad’s family is Alawite and Alawites dominate the government of Syria and hold key military positions.[168]

Christians (2.5 million), a sizable number of which are found among Syria’s population of Palestinian refugees, are divided into several groups. Chalcedonian Antiochian Orthodox make up 35,7% of the Christian population; the Catholics (Melkite, Armenian Catholic, Syriac Catholic, Maronite, Chaldean Catholic and Latin) make up 26,2%; the Armenian Apostolic Church 10,9%, the Syrian Orthodox make up 22,4%; Assyrian Church of the East and several smaller Christian denominations account the remainder. Many Christian monasteries also exist. Many Christian Syrians belong to a high socio-economic class.[169]

Languages

Arabic is the official language. Several modern Arabic dialects are used in everyday life, most notably Levantine in the west, Mesopotamian in the northeast. Kurdish (in its Kurmanji form) is widely spoken in the Kurdish regions of Syria. Armenian and Turkish (South Azeri dialect) are spoken among the Armenian and Turkmen minorities. Before the advent of Arabic, Aramaic was the lingua franca of the region and is still spoken among Assyrians and Classical Syriac is still used as the liturgical language of various Syriac denominations. Most remarkably, Western Neo-Aramaic is still spoken in the village of Ma`loula as well as two neighbouring villages, 35 miles (56 km) northeast of Damascus. Many educated Syrians also speak English and French.

Education

The strong educational system in Syria is based on the old French system. Education is free in all public schools and obligatory up to the 9th grade. Schools are divided into three levels:

  • 1st to 4th grade: Basic Education Level I (Arabic: التعليم الأساسي: حلقة أولى‎)
  • 5th to 9th grade: Basic Education Level II (Arabic: التعليم الأساسي: حلقة ثانية‎)
  • 10th to 12th grade: Secondary Education (Arabic: التعليم الثانوي‎), the equivalent of high school.

Final exams of the 9th grade are carried out nationally at the same time. The result of these exams determines if the student goes to the “general” secondary schools or the technical secondary schools. Technical secondary schools include industrial and agricultural schools for male students, crafts school for female students, and commercial and computer science schools for both.

At the beginning of the 11th grade, those who go to “general” secondary school have to choose to continue their study in either the “literary branch” or the “scientific branch”.

The final exams of the 12th grade (the baccalaureate) are also carried out nationally and at the same time. The result of these exams determines the university, college and specialization that the student attends. To do that the student has to apply through a complicated system called Mufadalah.

Colleges charge modest fees ($10–20 a year) if the student achieves the sufficient marks in his Baccalaureate exams. If not, the student may opt to pay higher fees ($1500–4000) to enroll. There are some private schools and colleges but their fees are much higher.

Most universities in Syria follow the French model of higher education, the university stages and the academic degrees are:

  • First stage: the Licence awarded after 4 years to 6 years depending on the field.
  • Second stage: the Master’s degree in the American/English systems.
  • Third stage: the DEA or an equivalent degree.

Since 1967, all schools, colleges, and universities have been under close government supervision by the Ba’ath Party.[170]

There are 6 state universities in Syria,[176]

Culture

Eggelin Tomb Tower in Palmyra

The scribes of the city of Ugarit (modern Ras Shamra) created a cuneiform alphabet in the 14th century BC. The alphabet was written in the familiar order we use today.[177]

Archaeologists have discovered extensive writings and evidence of a culture rivaling those of Iraq, and Egypt in and around the ancient city of Ebla (modern Tell Mardikh).[178] Later Syrian scholars and artists contributed to Hellenistic and Roman thought and culture. Cicero was a pupil of Antiochus of Ascalon[179] at Athens; and the writings of Posidonius of Apamea[180] influenced Livy and Plutarch.

Andrea Parrot the French archaeologist and main discoverer and excavator of the Mari State writes, “each civilized person in the world should admit that he has two home countries: the one he was born in, and Syria.

Syria is a traditional society with a long cultural history.[182]

Traditional Houses of the Old Cities in Damascus, Aleppo and the other Syrian cities are preserved and traditionally the living quarters are arranged around one or more courtyards, typically with a fountain in the middle supplied by spring water, and decorated with citrus trees, grape vines, and flowers.[182]

Outside of larger city areas such as Damascus, Aleppo or Homs, residential areas are often clustered in smaller villages. The buildings themselves are often quite old (perhaps a few hundred years old), passed down to family members over several generations. Residential construction of rough concrete and blockwork is usually unpainted, and the palette of a Syrian village is therefore simple tones of grays and browns.[183]

Syrians have contributed to Zakariyya Tamer.

There was a private sector presence in the Syrian cinema industry until the end of the 1970s, but private investment has since preferred the more lucrative television serial business. Syrian soap operas, in a variety of styles (all melodramatic, however), have considerable market penetration throughout the eastern Arab world.[184]

Although declining, Syria’s handicraft industry still employs thousands.

Television in Syria

It was formed in 1960, when Syria and Egypt (which adopted television that same year) were part of the United Arab Republic. It broadcasted in black and white until 1976.

[186]

TV Channels in Syria:

Satellite Channels:

Terrestrial Channels:

  • Arabic focus)
  • Channel 2 (Terrestrial, with sport, family and health focus including regional variants)

Cuisine

Fattoush, an example of Syrian cuisine

The Syrian cuisine is rich and varied in its ingredients and is linked to the region 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 Turkish word ‘yaprak’ meaning leaf).

The main dishes that form Syrian cuisine are meze.

Syrians are also well known for their farina and other ingredients, rolled out, shaped into rings and baked. Another form of a similar cookie is to fill with crushed dates mixed with butter to accompany their jibbneh mashallale.

Drinks in Syria vary depending on the time of the day and the occasion. Arabic coffee, also known as Turkish 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 also a well-known beverage served mostly on special occasions. More examples of Syrian beverages include Ayran, Jallab, White coffee, and a locally manufactured beer called Al Shark.[187]

Sports

The most popular sports in Syria are football, basketball, swimming, and tennis. Damascus was home to the fifth and seventh Pan Arab Games. Many popular football teams are based in Damascus, Aleppo, Homs, Latakia, etc.

The FIFA as of November 2011.

Music

Asmahan born in As-Suwayda and emigrated to Egypt. One of few female voices in Arab music to rival that of Umm Kulthum[188]

Syria’s capital, Damascus, has long been one of the Arab world’s centers for cultural and artistic innovation, especially in the field of classical Arab music. Syria has also 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 popular stars like Sabah Fakhri.

Also, Syria was one of the earliest centers of Christian Syrian Christians.

There was formerly a distinctive tradition of Pizmonim.

Literature

Syrian literature has been influenced by the literatures of other Arab countries, by French literature, and by the country’s political history.

From early times to 1948

Under Arabic literature—and to the United States, developing Syrian literature from abroad.

From 1918 to 1926, while Syria was under French rule, French Romantic influences inspired Syrian authors, many of whom turned away from the traditional models of Arabic poetry.

From 1948 to the present day

In 1948, the partitioning of neighbouring Palestine and the establishment of Israel brought about a new turning point in Syrian writing. Adab al-Iltizam, the “literature of political commitment”, deeply marked by social realism, mostly replaced the romantic trend of the previous decades. Hanna Mina, rejecting art for art’s sake and confronting the social and political issues of his time, was arguably the most prominent Syrian novellist of this era. Following the Six-Day War in 1967, Adab al-Naksa, the “literature of defeat”, grappled with the causes of the Arab defeat.

Ba’ath Party rule, since the 1966 coup, has brought about renewed censorship. As Hanadi Al-Samman puts it,

In the face of threats of persecution or imprisonment, most of Syria’s writers had to make a choice between living a life of artistic freedom in exile-as do ‘Ali Ahmad Sa’id (Adonis)-or resorting to subversive modes of expression that seemingly comply with the demands of the authoritarian police state while undermining and questioning the legitimacy of its rule through subtle literary techniques and new genres.

In this context, the genre of the Salim Barakat, a Syrian émigré living in Sweden, is one of the leading figures of the genre.

Contemporary Syrian literature also encompasses Talib Umran), which may also serve as media of dissent.

Mohja Kahf has argued that literary dissent is typically expressed through the “poetics of Syrian silence”:

The nostalgic, moist-eyed silences of Muhammad al-Maghut‘s silence is sardonic, sneering both at the authorities and at himself, at the futility and absurdity of the human situation under authoritarian rule.

Fairs and festivals

Festival/Fair City Month
Spring Festival of Hama Hama April
Flower Festival Latakia April
Assyrian New Year Festival Qamishli April
Nowruz Kurdish New Year Festival Qamishli 21 March
Traditional Festival Palmyra May
International Flower Fair Damascus May
Syrian Song Festival Aleppo July
Marmarita Festival Homs August
Farah bellah Murshdi festival August
Festival of le Valley for Arts&Culture Homs August
Vine Festival As Suwayda September
Cotton Festival Aleppo September
Damascus International Fair Damascus September
Festival of Love and Peace Lattakia 2–12 August
Bosra Festival Bosra September
Film and Theatre Festival Damascus November
Cultural Festival of Jableh Jableh July
Jasmine Festival Damascus April

See also

References

Footnotes
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General references

Further reading

External links



Source: Wikipedia

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