current time and date
currency: Syrian pound (SYP)
Official languages
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Coat of arms
Syria profile
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
Syria history
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 Syrian troops - stationed in Lebanon since 1976 in an ostensible peacekeeping role - were withdrawn in April 2005.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 60,000.
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Conventional long form: Syrian Arab Republic
Conventional short form: Syria
Local long form: Al Jumhuriyah al Arabiyah as Suriyah
Local short form: Suriyah
Formerly known as: United Arab Republic (with Egypt)
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Syria's capital city is Damascus
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Syria Constitution:
13 March 1973;
amended February 2012
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Syria population growth rate: -0.797%
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Syria highest point: Mount Hermon 2,814 m
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Syria lowest point: unnamed location near Lake Tiberias -200 m
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About 25% of Syria's land is arable.
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Syria birth rate is 24 births/1,000 population
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Syria infant mortality rate is 15 deaths/1,000 live births
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Syria fertility rate is 2.77 children born/woman
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Syria climate:
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
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Top 10 cities of Syria with populations (2012 est.) are:
1. Aleppo: 2,132,100
2. Damascus: 1,711,000
3. Homs: 652,609
4. Latakia: 383,786
5. Hama: 312,994
6. Ar-Raqqah: 220,488
7. Deir ez-Zor: 211,857
8. Al-Hasakah: 188,160
9. Qamishli: 184,231
10. Sayyidah Zaynab: 136,427
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Syria ethnic groups:
Arab - 90.3%
Kurds, Armenians, and other - 9.7%
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Syria Exports:
crude oil, minerals, petroleum products, fruits and vegetables, cotton fiber, textiles, clothing, meat and live animals, wheat
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Syria Imports:
machinery and transport equipment, electric power machinery, food and livestock, metal and metal products, chemicals and chemical products, plastics, yarn, paper
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unicameral People's Assembly or Majlis al-Shaab (250 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms)

Administrative Divisions:
14 provinces (muhafazat, singular - muhafazah).
1. Al Hasakah
2. Al Ladhiqiyah (Latakia)
3. Al Qunaytirah
4. Ar Raqqah
5. As Suwayda'
6. Dar'a
7. Dayr az Zawr
8. Dimashq (Damascus)
9. Halab
10. Hamah
11. Hims (Homs)
12. Idlib
13. Rif Dimashq (Damascus Countryside)
14. Tartus
Political parties and leaders:
legal parties:
National Progressive Front (NPF) - President Bashar al-ASAD, Dr. Suleiman QADDAH
Arab Socialist Renaissance (Ba'th) Party - President Bashar al-ASAD
Socialist Unionist Democratic Party - Fadlallah Nasr Al-DIN
Syrian Arab Socialist Union (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 (KDP-S)
Kurdish Democratic Patriotic/National Party
Kurdish Democratic Progressive Party (KDPP-Darwish)
Kurdish Democratic Progressive Party (KDPP-Muhammad)
Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) - Salih Muslim MOHAMMAD
Kurdish Democratic Unity Party
Kurdish Democratic Yekiti Party
Kurdish Future Party (KFP)
Kurdish Future Party - Rezan HASSAN
Kurdish Left Party
Kurdish Yekiti (Union) Party
Syrian Kurdish Democratic Party

other parties:
Syrian Democratic Party - Mustafa QALAAJI