Form of Government: Republic
Area: 185 180 sq km
Population: 21 296 000 inhab. (estimate 2016)
Density: 115.00 inhab./sq km
Coordinates: lat. 37° - 32° N; long. 36° - 42° E
Capital: Damascus=Dimashq (capital) 2 011 000 inhab. (2016); Damascus 2 574 000 inhab. (2014), urban agglomeration
Currency: Syrian pound (100 piastres)
Human development index: 0.536 (rank: 155)
President: Basshār Ḥāfiẓ al-Asad (Baath), elected 11 July 2000, last re-elected 3 June 2014
Prime Minister: ‘Imād Muḥammad Dīb Khamīs (Baath), since 3 July 2016
People's Assembly: seats based on the elections of 13 April 2016: National Progressive Front (coalition of political parties headed by Baath), 200; others, 50
Internet: www.cbssyr.sy (Central Bureau of Statistics)
Member of Arab League, OIC, UN, WTO observer
International license plate code SYR
International dialling code 00963
Travel vaccinations requirement yellow fever (required only if traveling from a country with risk of transmission, including travelers having transited more than 12 hours through the airport of a country with risk of transmission)
Electricity (Voltage) 220
Driving side rigth
Internet code .sy
DST duration (start-end) late March-late October
Annual average temperature (°C) Damascus 17.4; Aleppo 17.3
Average temperature in January/July (°C) Damascus 7.5/26.5; Aleppo 6/28
Daily sunshine hours in June/December (average) Damascus 13/5; Aleppo 13/4
Annual average precipitation (mm) Damascus 245; Aleppo 333
Days of rainfall (annual average) Damascus 32; Aleppo 57
Politics and current affairs
On 23 March 2019, the Syrian Democratic Forces, Kurdish-led and backed by the USA, announced that they had taken the final ISIS-held territories in the east. Assad’s regime, backed by Russia and Iran, continues to fight to retake control of the provinces of Aleppo, Hama and Idlib, which are controlled by the jihadist group Organization for the Liberation of the Levant. Russia must also limit pressure on the part of Turkey, which backs the Free Syrian Army and other rebel groups against the government, to maintain control of the border areas and block reinforcement of the Kurds and the establishment of an autonomous Kurdish group in Syria (for this reason, Afrin and Manbij were occupied in 2018). Israel often intervenes in the conflict with bombings aimed at limiting Iran’s influence.
Syria is bordered by Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east and south-east, Jordan to the south, Israel (which occupies the Golan Heights) and Lebanon to the south-west and to the west it faces the Mediterranean Sea. The country is made up of a number of desert plains, broken up by areas of higher land from the south-west to the north-east line and culminating in the peak of Jabal ash-Shaykh (2814 m). The main rivers are the Euphrates and the Orontes. The climate is Mediterranean in coastal areas, continental with extremely hot conditions inland.
Independent since 1946, Syria was united with Egypt and Yemen for three years (1958-61) forming the United Arab Republic. In 1963 after a military coup, power was ceased by Baath (the Arab nationalist party with socialist leanings) and in 1970 after defeat in the “Six Days War” (and Israel’s occupation of the Golan Heights) a new coup by the Alawite group, within the Baath movement brought General Ḥāfiẓ al-Asad to power. Upon his death (10 June 2000) the role of President of the Republic passed to his son, Basshār. In 1976 Syria intervened in the Civil War in Lebanon, setting up a form of protectorate (cancelled in 1991 and replaced by a treaty of co-operation). Following the UN Security Council’s resolution ordering foreign troops to withdraw from Lebanon (2 September 2004) and the large-scale protests against Syria in Beirut, in 2005 Syria removed its military presence from Lebanon.
The border with the Golan Heights, still occupied by Israel, is patrolled by a UN security force.
In 2011, the repression of protest rallies against the President Basshār al-Asad regime led to a long civil war. The rebel forces are backed by the monarchies of the Gulf, the US and Turkey (which is however against the activities of Kurdish militia) as well as by countless other countries, which have recognized the opposition forces grouped together in the Syrian National Council as legitimate representatives of the Syrian people. The regime of al-Asad is upheld by Hezbollah Shiites, by Iran and by Russia. The heterogeneous coalition of rebels was weakened by internal division, specifically by the presence of groups connected to Islamic extremist forces who in 2014-15 took hold of ample areas in the northeastern part of the country and in Iraq. Syria has also become a theatre for clashes between foreign powers involved in the conflict, particularly the USA, Russia, Iran and Turkey.
According to the Constitution passed by referendum on 12 March 1973, the President of the Republic is elected for a seven-year term, the candidate being nominated by the People’s Assembly and confirmed by popular vote. The President holds executive power and appoints the government.
Legislative power lies with the People’s Assembly, comprising 250 members elected by universal suffrage. Half of the seats are reserved for workers, while 167 of the seats are nevertheless reserved for members of the JWW, the national patriotic front headed by the Baath party.
Apart from the regular army, there is also an 8000 strong force of paramilitary armed personnel (the Gendarmerie).
|Crimes||490.6||per 100 000 pop.||2011|
|Homicides||3.5||per 100 000 pop.||2016|
|Aleppo=Ḥalab||2 132 100||inhab.||2004|
|Damascus=Dimashq||2 011 000||inhab.||2016|
|Aleppo||3 519 000||inhab.||2014|
|Damascus||2 574 000||inhab.||2014|
|Population by age and gender (% - 2018)|
Refugees fleeing the civil war are about 5.6 million.
Since 2011, economic activities have been effectively paralyzed by the civil war and by international sanctions.
|Agricultural prod. index (2004-06=100)||79.22||index||2016|
|Balance of trade||-3 600||M US$||2018|
|Active population||4 834 126||units||2018|
|Active population, Females||14.6||%||2018|
|Unemployment rate, Females||39.3||%||2017|
|Expenses||442 180||M LCU||2009|
|Revenues||600 831||M LCU||2009|
|Currency in circulation||577.1||BN LCU||2010|
|International reserves||20 631.9||M US$||2010|
Agriculture and forests.
Cereal crops are grown, especially wheat and barley, in the ‘Ar al-Jazīrah plains. Fruit farming (especially citrus) is widespread in the mountainous areas and on the coastal plains. Other important products include vines, olives, tomatoes, potatoes, sugar beet, and cotton (grown in the Al-Ghāb plain). The forests are concentrated in the areas around Latakia, Homs, Damascus and Ḥamāh.
|cereals, total||3 171.006||1000 t||2017|
|roots and tubers, total||613.434||1000 t||2017|
|beans, dry||1.423||1000 t||2017|
|beans, green||33.252||1000 t||2017|
|castor oil seed||1.693||1000 t||2017|
|sugar beet||776.367||1000 t||2017|
|sugar cane||0.001||1000 t||2017|
|seed cotton||441.442||1000 t||2017|
|citrus fruits||1 249.35||1000 t||2017|
|citrus fruits, nes||195.01||1000 t||2017|
|beans, dry||0.438||1000 ha||2017|
|beans, green||3.733||1000 ha||2017|
|castor oil seed||0.687||1000 ha||2017|
|sugar beet||16.142||1000 ha||2017|
|sugar cane||0||1000 ha||2017|
|seed cotton||119.768||1000 ha||2017|
|citrus fruits||47.025||1000 ha||2017|
|citrus fruits, nes||7.062||1000 ha||2017|
|cattle||1 141.833||1000 heads||2017|
|cattle and buffaloes||1 150.917||1000 heads||2017|
|sheep||17 641.877||1000 heads||2017|
|goats||2 437.521||1000 heads||2017|
|asses and mules||85.886||1000 heads||2017|
|birds||17 921||1000 heads||2017|
|crustaceans and molluscs||110||t||2017|
|freshwater fishes||4 850||t||2017|
There are some crude oil deposits in the north-eastern part of the country (at Qaratshūk, As-Suwaydā’, Hamseh, Kherbet, Yosefieh), which are linked to an oil pipeline coming from Kirkūk (Iraq) and heading towards the port of Ṭarṭūs and the refinery at Homs, where it branches into the Homs-Bāniyās and the Homs-Tripoli (Lebanon) pipelines. Other natural resources include natural asphalt (at Kafrīyah), rock salt (at Dayr az-Zawr), phosphates (at Homs), gypsum and natural gas.
Energy and industry.
Many factories and communication infrastructures have been damaged by the war. Power is largely produced by the hydroelectric plants, including the one at Thawrah, on the Euphrates. As well as the one at Homs, there is also an oil refinery at Bāniyās. The chemicals industry is also present, producing sulfuric acid and nitrogen fertilizers (at Homs). The metal industry, especially connected with pig iron and steel production, can be found at Ḥamāh. Cotton production has led to the development of a textile industry (at Damascus and Aleppo).
The leather tanning industry is mainly traditional, except for modern tanneries in Aleppo and Damascus. In terms of food industries, there is oil pressing (at Ḥamāh and Latakia), flour (at Damascus and Aleppo) and sugar (at Homs, Dayr az-Zawr, Maskaneh and Jisr ash-Shughūr). Other important industries include cement production (at Dummar, near Damascus, at Aleppo, Ḥamāh, Al-Ḥasakah, ‘Adrā, Ṭarṭūs and Homs), tractors, paper and carpets.
The main trading partners are Iraq, Turkey, Italy, China, Germany, Ukraine and Saudi Arabia. There is an active stock market in Damascus.
|natural gas||3 750||M m³||2017|
|oil, crude||1 246.9||1000 t||2018|
|asphalt, natural||10||1000 t||2014|
|marble - sq m||90||1000 m²||2015|
|- thermal||16 152.02||M kWh||2016|
|- hydro||920||M kWh||2016|
|- thermal||7 550||1000 kW||2016|
|- hydro||1 500||1000 kW||2016|
|total net generation||17 072.02||M kWh||2016|
|total installed capacity||9 057.6||1000 kW||2016|
|steel, crude||5||1000 t||2016|
|sulfur, rec.||10||1000 t||2016|
|nitrogen fertilizers||13.7||1000 t||2015|
|carpets||45 883||1000 m²||2015|
|cotton fabrics - t||41.1||1000 t||2015|
|footwear||183 022 000||pairs||2015|
|beer of barley||9.5||1000 t||2014|
|cottonseed oil||12.4||1000 t||2014|
|cigarettes||13 412||M units||2003|
|other paper||75||1000 t||2017|
|cement||2 000||1000 t||2016|
|sheet glass - t||34.7||1000 t||2009|
|chemicals production||26||M US$||2004|
|food, beverages and tobacco production||582||M US$||2004|
Main exports (M US$ - 2010) crude oil 4 405, petroleum products 941, cotton 410, phosphates 192, fruit and vegetables 154, apparel and accessories 143, synthetic and artificial fibres and yarns 114, plastics 75
|Iraq||2 294||M US$||2010|
|Italy||1 520||M US$||2010|
|Turkey||1 672||M US$||2010|
|China||1 546||M US$||2010|
Tourism. Tourism, today almost disappeared because of the conflict, was concentrated mainly on the remarkable archaeological sites (especially near Damascus, Aleppo, Ugarit, Ebla and Palmyra).
|Number of arrivals||1 043 332||units||2016|
Social and welfare
|Expected years of schooling||8.8||years||2013|
|Teachers, primary level||132 099||units||2008|
|Teachers, secondary level||180 703||units||2008|
|Social protection spending||5.3||% of total expenses||1999|
|Hospital beds||1.4||per 1000 pop.||2016|
|Physicians||1.4||per 1000 pop.||2016|
|HIV||-0.1||% of adults||2014|
|Tuberculosis||19||per 100 000 pop.||2017|
|Archaeological sites, visitors||20 183||units||2016|
|Access to clean fuels and technologies for cooking||99.02||%||2016|
|Access to electricity||89.638||%||2017|