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World Mission

Syria

Basic info

  • Area: 185,180 sq km
  • Population: 18,028,549
  • Infant mortality: 14.8 deaths/1,000 live births
  • Life expectancy: 75.1 years
  • Urbanisation: 54.2% of total population
  • Literacy: 86.4%

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 and experienced a series of military coups. 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 the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, Syria lost the Golan Heights region to Israel. During the 1990s, Syria and Israel held occasional, albeit unsuccessful, peace talks over its return. In November 1970, Hafiz al-ASAD, a member of the socialist Ba'ath Party and the minority Alawi sect, seized power in a bloodless coup and brought political stability to the country. Following the death of President Hafiz 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 Syrian troops - stationed in Lebanon since 1976 in an ostensible peacekeeping role - were withdrawn in April 2005.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, and compounded by additional social and economic factors, antigovernment protests broke out first 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. Demonstrations and violent unrest spread across Syria with the size and intensity of protests fluctuating. The government responded to unrest with a mix of concessions - including the repeal of the Emergency Law, new laws permitting new political parties, and liberalizing local and national elections - and with military force and detentions. The government's efforts to quell unrest and armed opposition activity led to extended clashes between government forces, their allies, and oppositionists. International pressure on the ASAD regime intensified after late 2011, as the Arab League, the EU, Turkey, and the US expanded economic sanctions against the regime and those entities that support it. In December 2012, the Syrian National Coalition, was recognized by more than 130 countries as the sole legitimate representative of the Syrian people. In September 2015, Russia launched a military intervention on behalf of the ASAD regime, and government-aligned forces recaptured Aleppo city in December 2016, shifting the conflict in the regime’s favor. Political negotiations between the government and opposition delegations at UN-sponsored Geneva conferences since 2014 have failed to produce a resolution of the conflict. Russia, Iran, and Turkey since early 2017 have held negotiations in Astana to establish de-escalation zones to reduce violence in Syria. Unrest continues in Syria, and according to an April 2016 UN estimate, the death toll among Syrian Government forces, opposition forces, and civilians was over 400,000, though other estimates have placed the number well over 500,000. As of December 2017, approximately 13.1 million people were in need of humanitarian assistance in Syria, with 6.3 million people displaced internally, and an additional 5.4 million registered Syrian refugees, making the Syrian situation among the largest humanitarian crises worldwide.

Environment

It is mostly desert with hot, dry, sunny summers (June to August) and mild, rainy winters (December to February) along the coast; cold weather with snow or sleet periodically in Damascus. Terrain is primarily semiarid and desert plateau with narrow coastal plain and mountains in the west.

Economy

Syria's economy has deeply deteriorated amid the ongoing conflict that began in 2011, declining by more than 70% from 2010 to 2017. The government has struggled to fully address the effects of international sanctions, widespread infrastructure damage, diminished domestic consumption and production, reduced subsidies, and high inflation, which have caused dwindling foreign exchange reserves, rising budget and trade deficits, a decreasing value of the Syrian pound, and falling household purchasing power. In 2017, some economic indicators began to stabilize, including the exchange rate and inflation, but economic activity remains depressed and GDP almost certainly fell. During 2017, the ongoing conflict and continued unrest and economic decline worsened the humanitarian crisis, necessitating high levels of international assistance, as more than 13 million people remain in need inside Syria, and the number of registered Syrian refugees increased from 4.8 million to more than 5.4 million. Prior to the turmoil, Damascus had begun 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, but the economy remains highly regulated. Long-run economic constraints include foreign trade barriers, declining oil production, high unemployment, rising budget deficits, increasing pressure on water supplies caused by heavy use in agriculture, industrial contact, water pollution, and widespread infrastructure damage.

Ethnic groups

Ethnic Groups(%)

Arab

90.3

and other

9.7

Religion

Religion(%)

and Shia 13%)

87

and Nestorian)

10

Druze

3

Languages

  • 90%

    Arabic

  • 6%

    Kurdish

  • 5%

    Assyrian