SYRIA

MARCH 25, 2009 BY RANG WHAM
   Introduction    Syria Top of Page
Background:
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 Alawite 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 Syrian troops - stationed in Lebanon since 1976 in an ostensible peacekeeping role - were withdrawn in April 2005.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 was elected to his second term as President.
   Geography    Syria Top of Page
Location:
Middle East, bordering the Mediterranean Sea, between Lebanon and Turkey
Geographic coordinates:
35 00 N, 38 00 E
Map references:
Middle East
Area:
total: 185,180 sq km
land: 183,630 sq km
water: 1,550 sq km
note: includes 1,295 sq km of Israeli-occupied territory
Area - comparative:
slightly larger than North Dakota
Land boundaries:
total: 2,253 km
border countries: Iraq 605 km, Israel 76 km, Jordan 375 km, Lebanon 375 km, Turkey 822 km
Coastline:
193 km
Maritime claims:
territorial sea: 12 nm
contiguous zone: 24 nm
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
Terrain:
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: 24.8%
permanent crops: 4.47%
other: 70.73% (2005)
Irrigated land:
13,330 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources:
46.1 cu km (1997)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural):
total: 19.95 cu km/yr (3%/2%/95%)
per capita: 1,048 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards:
dust storms, sandstorms
Environment - current issues:
deforestation; overgrazing; soil erosion; desertification; water pollution from raw sewage and petroleum refining wastes; inadequate potable water
Environment - international agreements:
party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: Environmental Modification
Geography - note:
there are 42 Israeli settlements and civilian land use sites in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights (August 2005 est.)
   People    Syria Top of Page
Population:
21,762,978
note: in addition, about 40,000 people live in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights - 20,000 Arabs (18,000 Druze and 2,000 Alawites) and about 20,000 Israeli settlers (July 2009 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 36.4% (male 4,063,367/female 3,864,099)
15-64 years: 59.9% (male 6,628,644/female 6,406,864)
65 years and over: 3.7% (male 372,172/female 427,832) (2009 est.)
Median age:
total: 21.7 years
male: 21.6 years
female: 21.9 years (2009 est.)
Population growth rate:
2.006% (2009 est.)
Birth rate:
25 births/1,000 population (2009 est.)
Death rate:
3.72 deaths/1,000 population (July 2009 est.)
Net migration rate:
NA (2009 est.)
Urbanization:
urban population: 54% of total population (2008)
rate of urbanization: 3.1% annual rate of change (2005-10 est.)
Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.06 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.06 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.89 male(s)/female
total population: 1.05 male(s)/female (2009 est.)
Infant mortality rate:
total: 16.69 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 19.19 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 14.05 deaths/1,000 live births (2009 est.)
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 74.22 years
male: 71.87 years
female: 76.7 years (2009 est.)
Total fertility rate:
3.12 children born/woman (2009 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:
less than 0.1% (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:
fewer than 500 (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths:
fewer than 200 (2003 est.)
Nationality:
noun: Syrian(s)
adjective: Syrian
Ethnic groups:
Arab 90.3%, Kurds, Armenians, and other 9.7%
Religions:
Sunni Muslim 74%, other Muslim (includes Alawite, Druze) 16%, Christian (various denominations) 10%, Jewish (tiny communities in Damascus, Al Qamishli, and Aleppo)
Languages:
Arabic (official); Kurdish, Armenian, Aramaic, Circassian widely understood; French, English somewhat understood
Literacy:
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 79.6%
male: 86%
female: 73.6% (2004 census)
Education expenditures:
3.9% of GDP (1999)
   Government    Syria Top of Page
Country name:
conventional long form: Syrian Arab Republic
conventional short form: Syria
local long form: Al Jumhuriyah al Arabiyah as Suriyah
local short form: Suriyah
former: United Arab Republic (with Egypt)
Government type:
republic under an authoritarian military-dominated regime
Capital:
name: Damascus
geographic coordinates: 33 30 N, 36 18 E
time difference: UTC+2 (7 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
daylight saving time: +1hr, begins 1 April; ends 30 September
Administrative divisions:
14 provinces (muhafazat, singular - muhafazah); Al Hasakah, Al Ladhiqiyah (Latakia), Al Qunaytirah, Ar Raqqah, As Suwayda', Dar'a, Dayr az Zawr, Dimashq, Halab, Hamah, Hims, Idlib, Rif Dimashq (Damascus), Tartus
Independence:
17 April 1946 (from League of Nations mandate under French administration)
National holiday:
Independence Day, 17 April (1946)
Constitution:
13 March 1973
Legal system:
based on a combination of French and Ottoman civil law; Islamic law is used in the family court system; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
Suffrage:
18 years of age; universal
Executive branch:
chief of state: President Bashar al-ASAD (since 17 July 2000); Vice President Farouk al-SHARA (since 11 February 2006) oversees foreign policy; Vice President Najah al-ATTAR (since 23 March 2006) oversees cultural policy
head of government: Prime Minister Muhammad Naji al-UTRI (since 10 September 2003); Deputy Prime Minister for Economic Affairs Abdallah al-DARDARI (since 14 June 2005)
cabinet: Council of Ministers appointed by the president
(For more information visit the World Leaders website )
elections: president approved by popular referendum for a second seven-year term (no term limits); referendum last held on 27 May 2007 (next to be held in May 2014); the president appoints the vice presidents, prime minister, and deputy prime ministers
election results: Bashar al-ASAD approved as president; percent of vote - Bashar al-ASAD 97.6%
Legislative branch:
unicameral People's Council or Majlis al-Shaab (250 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms)
elections: last held on 22-23 April 2007 (next to be held in 2011)
election results: percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - NPF 172, independents 78
Judicial branch:
Supreme Judicial Council (appoints and dismisses judges; headed by the president); national level - Supreme Constitutional Court (adjudicates electoral disputes and rules on constitutionality of laws and decrees; justices appointed for four-year terms by the president); Court of Cassation; Appeals Courts (Appeals Courts represent an intermediate level between the Court of Cassation and local level courts); local level - Magistrate Courts; Courts of First Instance; Juvenile Courts; Customs Courts; specialized courts - Economic Security Courts (hear cases related to economic crimes); Supreme State Security Court (hear cases related to national security); Personal Status Courts (religious; hear cases related to marriage and divorce)
Political parties and leaders:

legal parties: National Progressive Front or NPF [President Bashar al-ASAD, Dr. Suleiman QADDAH] (includes Arab Socialist Renaissance (Ba'th) Party [President Bashar al-ASAD]; Socialist Unionist Democratic Party [Fadlallah Nasr Al-DIN]; Syrian Arab Socialist Union or ASU [Safwan QUDSI]; Syrian Communist Party (two branches) [Wissal Farha BAKDASH, Yusuf Rashid FAYSAL]; Syrian Social Nationalist Party [Ali QANSU]; Unionist Socialist Party [Fayez ISMAIL])
opposition parties not legally recognized: Communist Action Party; National Democratic Front [Hasan Abdul AZIM, spokesman] (includes five parties - Arab Democratic Socialist Union Party [Hasan Abdul AZIM], Arab Socialist Movement, Democratic Ba'th Party [Ibrahim MAHKOS], People's Democratic Party [Riad al TURK], Revolutionary Workers' Party [Abdul Hafeez al HAFEZ])
Kurdish parties (considered illegal): Azadi Party [Kheirudin MURAD]; Future Party [Masha'l TAMMO]; Kurdish Democratic Alliance (includes four parties); Kurdish Democratic Front (includes three parties); Yekiti Party [Hasan SALEH, Fu'ad ALEYKO]
other parties: Nahda Party [Abdul Aziz al MISLET]; Syrian Democratic Party [Mustafa QALAAJI]
Political pressure groups and leaders:
Damascus Declaration National Council [Riyad SEIF, secretary general] (a broad alliance of opposition groups and individuals including: Committee for Revival of Civil Society [Michel KILO, Riyad SEIF]; Communist Action Party [Fateh JAMOUS]; Kurdish Democratic Alliance; Kurdish Democratic Front; Liberal Nationalists' Movement; National Democratic Rally; and Syrian Human Rights Society or HRAS [Fawed FAWUZ]); National Salvation Front (alliance between former Vice President Abd al-Halim KHADDAM, the SMB, and other small opposition groups); Syrian Muslim Brotherhood or SMB [Sadr al-Din al-BAYANUNI] (operates in exile in London; endorsed the Damascus Declaration, but is not an official member)
International organization participation:
ABEDA, AFESD, AMF, CAEU, FAO, G-24, G-77, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICCt (signatory), ICRM, IDA, IDB, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, Interpol, IOC, IPU, ISO, ITSO, ITU, LAS, MIGA, NAM, OAPEC, OIC, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNRWA, UNWTO, UPU, WCO, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO
Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Imad MOUSTAPHA
chancery: 2215 Wyoming Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008
telephone: [1] (202) 232-6313
FAX: [1] (202) 265-4585
Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador (vacant); Charge d'Affaires Charles F. HUNTER
embassy: Abou Roumaneh, Al-Mansour Street, No. 2, Damascus
mailing address: P. O. Box 29, Damascus
telephone: [963] (11) 3391-4444
FAX: [963] (11) 3391-3999
Flag description:
three equal horizontal bands of red (top), white, and black, colors associated with the Arab Liberation flag; two small, green, five-pointed stars in a horizontal line centered in the white band; former flag of the United Arab Republic where the two stars represented the constituent states of Syria and Egypt; similar to the flag of Yemen, which has a plain white band, Iraq, which has an Arabic inscription centered in the white band, and that of Egypt, which has a gold Eagle of Saladin centered in the white band; the current design dates to 1980
   Economy    Syria Top of Page
Economy - overview:
Syrian economic growth slowed in 2009 to 2.2% in real terms as the global economic crisis affected oil prices and the economies of Syria's key export partners and sources of investment. Damascus has implemented modest economic reforms in the past few years, including cutting lending interest rates, opening private banks, consolidating all of the multiple exchange rates, raising prices on some subsidized items, most notably gasoline and cement, and establishing the Damascus Stock Exchange - which is set to begin operations in 2009. In addition, President ASAD signed legislative decrees to encourage corporate ownership reform, and to allow the Central Bank to issue Treasury bills and bonds for government debt. Nevertheless, the economy remains highly controlled by the government. Long-run economic constraints include declining oil production, high unemployment and inflation, rising budget deficits, and increasing pressure on water supplies caused by heavy use in agriculture, rapid population growth, industrial expansion, and water pollution.
GDP (purchasing power parity):
$102.5 billion (2009 est.)
$100.3 billion (2008 est.)
$95.39 billion (2007 est.)
note: data are in 2008 US dollars
GDP (official exchange rate):
$54.35 billion (2009 est.)
GDP - real growth rate:
2.2% (2009 est.)
5.1% (2008 est.)
6.3% (2007 est.)
GDP - per capita (PPP):
$4,700 (2009 est.)
$4,700 (2008 est.)
$4,700 (2007 est.)
note: data are in 2008 US dollars
GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture: 15.5%
industry: 29%
services: 55.5% (2009 est.)
Labor force:
5.772 million (2009 est.)
Labor force - by occupation:
agriculture: 19.2%
industry: 14.5%
services: 66.3% (2006 est.)
Unemployment rate:
9.2% (2009 est.) 8.6% (2008 est.)
Population below poverty line:
11.9% (2006 est.)
Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: NA%
highest 10%: NA%
Investment (gross fixed):
21.7% of GDP (2009 est.)
Budget:
revenues: $9.02 billion
expenditures: $13.14 billion (2009 est.)
Public debt:
32.3% of GDP (2009 est.) 25.4% of GDP (2008 est.)
Inflation rate (consumer prices):
3.8% (2009 est.) 15.7% (2008 est.)
Central bank discount rate:
NA% (31 December 2008) 5% (31 December 2007)
Commercial bank prime lending rate:
NA% (31 December 2008)
Stock of money:
$73.54 billion (31 December 2008) $15.21 billion (31 December 2007)
Stock of quasi money:
$73.93 billion (31 December 2008) $12.29 billion (31 December 2007)
Stock of domestic credit:
$84.31 billion (31 December 2008) $15.19 billion (31 December 2007)
Market value of publicly traded shares:
$NA
Agriculture - products:
wheat, barley, cotton, lentils, chickpeas, olives, sugar beets; beef, mutton, eggs, poultry, milk
Industries:
petroleum, textiles, food processing, beverages, tobacco, phosphate rock mining, cement, oil seeds crushing, car assembly
Industrial production growth rate:
-3.5% (2009 est.)
Electricity - production:
36.5 billion kWh (2007 est.)
Electricity - consumption:
27.35 billion kWh (2007 est.)
Electricity - exports:
0 kWh (2008 est.)
Electricity - imports:
1.4 billion kWh (2007)
Oil - production:
367,500 bbl/day (2008 est.)
Oil - consumption:
256,000 bbl/day (2008 est.)
Oil - exports:
155,000 bbl/day (2008 est.)
Oil - imports:
58,710 bbl/day (2007 est.)
Oil - proved reserves:
2.5 billion bbl (1 January 2009 est.)
Natural gas - production:
6.04 billion cu m (2008 est.)
Natural gas - consumption:
6.18 billion cu m (2008 est.)
Natural gas - exports:
0 cu m
Natural gas - imports:
140 million cu m (2008 est.)
Natural gas - proved reserves:
240.7 billion cu m (1 January 2009 est.)
Current account balance:
-$1.521 billion (2009 est.) -$791 million (2008 est.)
Exports:
$10.13 billion (2009 est.) $13.97 billion (2008 est.)
Exports - commodities:
crude oil, minerals, petroleum products, fruits and vegetables, cotton fiber, textiles, clothing, meat and live animals, wheat
Exports - partners:
Iraq 30.7%, Germany 9.8%, Lebanon 9.6%, Italy 6.4%, France 5.5%, Egypt 5.4%, Saudi Arabia 5.1% (2008)
Imports:
$13.1 billion (2009 est.) $15.97 billion (2008 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 11.7%, China 8.7%, Russia 7.5%, Italy 5.9%, Egypt 5.8%, UAE 5.7%, Turkey 4.3%, Iran 4.2% (2008)
Reserves of foreign exchange and gold:
$5.083 billion (31 December 2009 est.) $6.765 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
Debt - external:
$7.621 billion (31 December 2009 est.) $7.167 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
Exchange rates:
Syrian pounds (SYP) per US dollar - 46.8599 (2009), 46.5281 (2008), 50.0085 (2007), 51.689 (2006), 50 (2005)
note: data for 2004-06 are the public sector rate; data for 2002-03 are the parallel market rate in 'Amman and Beirut; the official rate for repaying loans was 11.25 Syrian pounds per US dollars during 2004-06,
   Communications    Syria Top of Page
Telephones - main lines in use:
3.633 million (2008)
Telephones - mobile cellular:
7.056 million (2008)
Telephone system:
general assessment: fair system currently undergoing significant improvement and digital upgrades, including fiber-optic technology
domestic: the number of fixed-line connections has increased markedly since 2000; mobile-cellular service growing with telephone subscribership reaching 40 per 100 persons in 2008;
international: country code - 963; submarine cable connection to Egypt, Lebanon, and Cyprus; satellite earth stations - 1 Intelsat (Indian Ocean) and 1 Intersputnik (Atlantic Ocean region); coaxial cable and microwave radio relay to Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey; participant in Medarabtel
Radio broadcast stations:
AM 14, FM 2, shortwave 1 (1998)
Television broadcast stations:
44 (plus 17 repeaters) (1995)
Internet country code:
.sy
Internet hosts:
7,879 (2009)
Internet users:
3.565 million (2008)
   Transportation    Syria Top of Page
Airports:
104 (2009)
Airports - with paved runways:
total: 29
over 3,047 m: 4
2,438 to 3,047 m: 16
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 3
under 914 m: 5 (2009)
Airports - with unpaved runways:
total: 75
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 15
under 914 m: 59 (2009)
Heliports:
7 (2009)
Pipelines:
gas 3,101 km; oil 1,997 km (2009)
Railways:
total: 2,052 km
standard gauge: 1,801 km 1.435-m gauge
narrow gauge: 251 km 1.050-m gauge (2008)
Roadways:
total: 97,401 km
paved: 19,490 km (includes 1,103 km of expressways)
unpaved: 77,911 km (2006)
Waterways:
900 km (not economically significant) (2008)
Merchant marine:
total: 77
by type: bulk carrier 5, cargo 65, carrier 4, container 1, petroleum tanker 1, roll on/roll off 1
foreign-owned: 7 (Jordan 2, Lebanon 3, Romania 2)
registered in other countries: 196 (Barbados 1, Bolivia 2, Cambodia 48, Comoros 4, Cyprus 2, Dominica 2, Georgia 49, Hong Kong 1, North Korea 1, Lebanon 2, Libya 2, Malta 6, Moldova 1, Panama 32, Saint Kitts and Nevis 7, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 13, Sierra Leone 18, Slovakia 2, Togo 2, unknown 1) (2008)
Ports and terminals:
Latakia, Tartus
   Military    Syria Top of Page
Military branches:
Syrian Armed Forces: Syrian Arab Army, Syrian Arab Navy, Syrian Arab Air and Air Defense Forces (includes Air Defense Command) (2008)
Military service age and obligation:
18 years of age for compulsory military service; conscript service obligation - 30 months (18 months in the Syrian Arab Navy); women are not conscripted but may volunteer to serve (2004)
Manpower available for military service:
males age 16-49: 5,251,875
females age 16-49: 4,966,367 (2008 est.)
Manpower fit for military service:
males age 16-49: 4,360,934
females age 16-49: 4,344,895 (2009 est.)
Manpower reaching militarily significant age annually:
male: 213,513
female: 201,055 (2009 est.)
Military expenditures:
5.9% of GDP (2005 est.)
   Transnational Issues    Syria Top of Page
Disputes-international:
Golan Heights is Israeli-occupied with the almost 1,000-strong UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) patrolling a buffer zone since 1964; lacking a treaty or other documentation describing the boundary, portions of the Lebanon-Syria boundary are unclear with several sections in dispute; since 2000, Lebanon has claimed Shabaa farms in the Golan Heights; 2004 Agreement and pending demarcation settles border dispute with Jordan; approximately two million Iraqis have fled the conflict in Iraq with the majority taking refuge in Syria and Jordan
Refugees and internally displaced persons:

refugees (country of origin): 1-1.4 million (Iraq); 522,100 (Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA))
IDPs: 305,000 (most displaced from Golan Heights during 1967 Arab-Israeli War) (2007)
Trafficking in persons:

Current situation: Syria is a destination and transit country for women and children trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor; a significant number of women and children in the large and expanding Iraqi refugee community in Syria are reportedly forced into commercial sexual exploitation by Iraqi gangs or, in some cases, their families; women from Indonesia, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Ethiopia, and Sierra Leone are recruited for work in Syria as domestic servants, but some face conditions of involuntary servitude, including long hours, non-payment of wages, withholding of passports, restrictions on movement, threats, and physical or sexual abuse
Tier rating: Tier 3 - Syria again failed to report any law enforcement efforts to punish trafficking offenses in 2007; in addition, the government did not offer protection services to victims of trafficking and may have arrested, prosecuted, or deported some victims for prostitution or immigration violations; Syria has not ratified the 2000 UN TIP Protocol (2008)
Illicit drugs:
a transit point for opiates, hashish, and cocaine bound for regional and Western markets; weak anti-money-laundering controls and bank privatization may leave it vulnerable to money laundering

This page was last updated on 14 May 2009


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