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About Syria: Government

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

Data code: SY

Capital: Damascus

Administrative divisions: 14 provinces (muhafazat, singular - muhafazah); Al Hasakah, Al Ladhiqiyah, Al Qunaytirah, Ar Raqqah, As Suwayda', Dar'a, Dayr az Zawr, Dimashq, Halab, Hamah, Hims, Idlib, Rif Dimashq, Tartus

Independence: 17 April 1946 (from League of Nations mandate under French administration)

National holiday: National Day, 17 April (1946)

Constitution: 13 March 1973

Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal

President: Dr. Bashar Al Assad

Flag description: three equal horizontal bands of red (top), white, and black with two small green five-pointed stars in a horizontal line centered in the white band.

About Syria: Society

Population: 17,213,871 (July 1999 est.)

Age structure:
0-14 years: 46% (male 4,032,620; female 3,840,431)
15-64 years: 51% (male 4,515,274; female 4,322,415)
65 years and over: 3% (male 246,812; female 256,319) (1999 est.)

Population growth rate: 3.15% (1999 est.)

Birth rate: 36.95 births/1,000 population (1999 est.)

Death rate: 5.4 deaths/1,000 population (1999 est.)

Net migration rate: 0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (1999 est.)

Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.96 male(s)/female
total population: 1.04 male(s)/female (1999 est.)

Infant mortality rate: 36.42 deaths/1,000 live births (1999 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 68.09 years
male: 66.75 years
female: 69.48 years (1999 est.)

Total fertility rate: 5.37 children born/woman (1999 est.)

noun: Syrian(s)
adjective: Syrian

Ethnic groups: Arab 90.3%, Kurds, Armenians, and other 9.7%


Sunni Muslim 74%,
Alawite, Druze, and other Muslim sects 16%,
Christian (various sects) 10%,

Languages: Arabic (official); Kurdish, Armenian, Aramaic, Circassian widely understood; French, English also understood

definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 70.8%
male: 85.7%
female: 55.8% (1997 est.)

About Syria: Geography

Location: Middle East, bordering the Mediterranean Sea, between Lebanon and Turkey

Geographic coordinates: 35 00 N, 38 00 E

Map references: Middle East

total: 185,180 sq km
land: 184,050 sq km
water: 1,130 sq km

Area - comparative: slightly larger than North Dakota

Land boundaries:
total: 2,253 km

Coastline: 193 km

Maritime claims:
contiguous zone: 41 nm
territorial sea: 35 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 hitting 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

Land use:
arable land: 28%
permanent crops: 4%
permanent pastures: 43%
forests and woodland: 3%
other: 22% (1993 est.)

Irrigated land: 9,060 sq km (1993 est.)

Natural hazards: dust storms, sandstorms

Environment - current issues: deforestation; overgrazing; soil erosion; desertification; water pollution from dumping of raw sewage and wastes from petroleum refining; inadequate supplies of potable water

Environment - international agreements:
party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification, Hazardous Wastes, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution
signed, but not ratified: Environmental Modification

About Syria: History

The actual events of SYRIA can be summarized from the beginnings of agriculture which started round about 12000 years ago, and the first glimmerings of a distinctive “SYRIAN CULTURE” which goes back to the early bronze age, sumerians, Akkadians, Phoenicians, Aramaeans, Egyptians, Hittites, Assyrians, and Persians, all have left steps behind to record their vectories and civilizations.

In the wake of Sargon’s campaigns came the Amorites, then the Babylon, Canaanites were another Semitic peoples associated with SYRIA soon after 2000 BC, settled on the coastal strip and their language was probably the first to be written using a system of individual letters rather than words or syllables (cuneiform scripts).

The Aramaic States of SYRIA, however, were extinguished by the resurgent new Assyrian Empire after 900 BC. After the collapse of the Persian Empire, SYRIA had been ruled by Greeks, Romans and Byzantines Empires, then it felt under the ARABS, SYRIA therefore become the center of a new world and the leading torchbearer of civilization, with Damascus as its capital under the Umayyad dynasty of caliphs.

Abbasids, Hamadanids and Ottoman Turkey who also ruled SYRIA in the modern period.

In the beginning of 20th century and at the end of the first world war, the Ottoman Empire had been defeated by the French and British mandates, however the French entered SYRIA in 1920 and terminated in 1945 when SYRIA regained its political independence and Damascus become the capital of SYRIAN ARAB REPUBLIC.

About Syria: Economy
GDP: purchasing power parity - $41.7 billion (1998 est.)

GDP - real growth rate: 2% (1998 est.)

GDP - per capita: purchasing power parity - $2,500 (1998 est.)

GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture: 26%
industry: 21%
services: 53% (1997)

Population below poverty line: 15%-25%

Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: NA%
highest 10%: NA%

Inflation rate (consumer prices): 15%-20% (1997 est.)

Labor force: 4.7 million (1998 est.)

Labor force - by occupation: services 40%, agriculture 40%, industry 20% (1996 est.)

Unemployment rate: 12%-15% (1998 est.)

revenues: $3.5 billion
expenditures: $4.2 billion, including capital expenditures of $NA (1997 est.)

Industries: petroleum, textiles, food processing, beverages, tobacco, phosphate rock mining

Industrial production growth rate: 0.2% (1996 est.)

Electricity - production: 19.3 billion kWh (1996)

Electricity - production by source:
fossil fuel: 63.73%
hydro: 36.27%
nuclear: 0%
other: 0% (1996)

Electricity - consumption: 19.3 billion kWh (1996)

Electricity - exports: 0 kWh (1996)

Electricity - imports: 0 kWh (1996)

Agriculture - products: wheat, barley, cotton, lentils, chickpeas, olives, sugar beets; beef, mutton, eggs, poultry, milk

Exports: $4.2 billion (f.o.b., 1998 est.)

Exports - commodities: petroleum 65%, textiles 16%, food and live animals 13%, manufactures 6% (1997 est.)

Exports - partners: Italy 18%, Germany 13%, France 12%, Turkey 10%, Lebanon 7%, Spain 6% (1997 est.)

Imports: $5.7 billion (c.i.f., 1997)

Imports - commodities: machinery and equipment 40%, foodstuffs/animals 15%, metal and metal products 15%, textiles 10%, chemicals 10%, consumer goods 5% (1997 est.)

Imports - partners: Ukraine 14%, Italy 7%, Germany 6%, Turkey 5%, France 4%, South Korea 4%, Japan 4%, US 3% (1997 est.)

Economic aid - recipient: $327.3 million (1995)

Currency: 1 Syrian pound (£S) = 100 piastres

Exchange rates: Syrian pounds (£S) per US$1 - 46

Fiscal year: calendar year


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