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Syrian Arab Republic

Syrian Arab Republic

Last updated in September 2015

Please note: Owing to the current political situation in Syria, not all the usual country information is available. Links to current news and articles can be found in the Web archive in the right-hand column of this page.

Name: Syrian Arab Republic (al-Jumhuriya al-Arabiya as-Suriya)

Climate: Mediterranean climate in coastal areas; in Damascus, Aleppo and the country’s interior, continental climate with hot, dry summers and mild to cold, sometimes wet winters; rainfall: in coastal areas 600-1,000 mm, in the steppes 400 mm, in the east and south-east as little as 100 mm

Location: Between latitude 32° and 37° N and longitude 35° and 42° E; Syria has borders with Turkey in the north, Iraq in the east, Jordan in the south and Israel in the west as well as with Lebanon and the Mediterranean

Area: 185,180 sq km

Capital: Damascus (approximately 1.7 million inhabitants; Greater Damascus: 4 million inhabitants)

Population: Approximately 22 million (annual growth rate 2.5 per cent); according to the United Nations Refugee Agency UNHCR, some 4 million Syrian refugees have left the country since March 2011 (most of them seeking refuge in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey); mainly Arab Syrians, Palestinians (approximately 529,000 registered with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, UNRWA) and Iraqis (including approximately 40,000 registered with the UNHCR); ethnic minorities: Kurds, Armenians, Turkmen and Circassians

National language: Arabic (widely used foreign languages: English and French)

Religions:  Mostly Sunni Muslims; religious minorities: Alawite Muslims, Christians, Druze, Shiite Muslims, Ismaelites and a small number of Jews

National day: 17 April 1946 (Eid al-Jalaa, marking the withdrawal of the last French mandate troops from Syria)

Independence: 28 September 1941 (nominal)

System of government: socialist, popular, democratic; presidential system; People’s Assembly comprising 250 members

Head of state: Bashar al-Assad (since 17 July 2000; confirmed in office for a further seven-year term by referendum on 27 May 2007), President of the Republic; term of office: seven years with the option of re-election; at the so-called presidential elections held on 3 June 2014, Bashar al-Assad was, according to official figures, re-elected with 88.7 per cent of votes, with an election turnout of 73 per cent.

Deputy head of state: According to the Constitution: Chairman of the People’s Assembly (Parliament), Mohammed Djihad al-Laham)

Head of government: Wael Nader al-Halki

Foreign Minister: Walid al-Muallim

Parliament: People’s Assembly; 250 members; last elections: 7 May 2012, not in all parts of the country (originally scheduled for May 2011 but postponed because of the unrest); elections held every four years

Governing party: Ba’ath Party; in addition, the coalition of parties forming the National Progressive Front: Arab Socialist Party, Arab Socialist Union Party, Arab Socialist Movement, Syrian Communist Party, Syrian Arab Socialist Union, Democratic Socialist Unionist Party, Arab Democratic Unionist Party, National Vow Movement and Syrian Social Nationalist Party

Opposition: There is currently heavy fighting between regime and opposition groups. The initially peaceful popular demonstrations for freedom and an end of the Ba’ath Party dictatorship have escalated since 2011 as a result of the regime’s use of brutal force against the population and became increasingly radicalised in 2012. Internationally, the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces (Coalition) has established itself as the broadest opposition platform so far and has been politically recognised by 130 countries as the sole legitimate representative of the Syrian people. On 14 September 2013, Ahmad Tomeh was elected interim Prime Minister of the Coalition in Istanbul and tasked with forming a government of technocrats. On 14 October 2014, Ahmed Tomeh was re-elected as Prime Minister of the interim government.

Trade unions: General Federation of Trade Unions (umbrella organization comprising some 20 state-controlled individual trade unions); General Union of Farmers; professional associations

Administrative structure: 14 Governorates including the City of Damascus

Membership of international organizations (date of accession): United Nations (24 October 1945); United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization UNESCO (16 November 1946), International Telecommunication Union ITU (28 June 1962), WorldMeteorological Organization WMO (15 August 1952), International Labour Organization ILO (30 October 1961), International Bank for Reconstruction and Development IBRD (10 April 1947), International Development Association IDA (World Bank; 28 June 1962), International Atomic Energy Agency IAEA (6 June 1963), International Finance Corporation IFC (World Bank), International Monetary Fund IMF (10 April 1947), World Health Organization WHO (7 April 1948), Universal Postal Union UPU (1 January 1966), United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization FAO, United Nations Industrial Development Organization UNIDO (21 June 1985), Arab League (1945; membership suspended since November 2011; represented by the opposition National Coalition since March 2012), Organisation of Islamic Cooperation OIC (1970, membership suspended since August 2012), Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries OAPEC (1968), Non-Aligned Movement,   Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (membership effective as of 14 October 2013)

Principal media: State radio and television; daily newspapers: al-Baath, al-Thaura, Tishrin (all Arabic-language and state-controlled), Al-Watan (Arabic-language), Baladna (English- and Arabic-language); weeklies: al-Iqtissadiya (Arabic-language), Abiad wa Asuad (Arabic-language);

Gross domestic product (GDP): 2011: approximately USD 107.6 billion (estimated)

Per capita GDP: 2011: USD 5,100 (estimated)

Exchange rate: As of September 2013, 1 euro = 183,36 Syrian pounds (SYP)

Development cooperation

Syria is a partner country of German development cooperation. For more information please visit the website of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development

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