Syrian Arab Republic
Last updated in August 2016
Please note: Currently, not all the usual country information is available for Syria. Owing to the hostilities there, more up-to-date information is not available and economic data is subject to considerable fluctuation. 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 (as of 2011); 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 as refugees with the United Nations Refugee Agency, UNHCR); ethnic minorities: Kurds, Armenians, Turkmen and Circassians
Since March 2011, the UNHCR has registered around 4.8 million Syrian refugees in the neighbouring countries. According to United Nations figures, 13.5 million people in Syria are dependent on humanitarian aid, including some 6.5 million internally displaced persons.
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: officially a socialist, popular, democratic state; presidential system (ruled by the al-Assad family, with the security services occupying a powerful position)
Head of state: President of the Republic Bashar al-Assad (succeeded his father, Hafiz al-Assad, on 17 July 2000; last confirmed in office on 3 March 2014); term of office: seven years (no term limits)
Nominal deputy head of state: Speaker of the People’s Assembly (Parliament), Hadiyeh al-Abbas (since 6 June 2016)
Head of government: Imad Khamis (since 3 July 2016)
Foreign Minister: Walid al-Muallem (since 21 February 2006)
Parliament: People’s Assembly; 250 members; last elections: 13 April 2016 (elections were not held in all parts of the country and Syrians living abroad were excluded from the poll); elections held every four years
Governing party: coalition of parties forming the National Progressive Front headed by the Ba’ath Party; no opposition parties to speak of are allowed
Opposition: Internationally, the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces has established itself as the broadest opposition platform to date and was politically recognised by 130 countries, including Germany, as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people on 12 December 2012 in Marrakesh. On 16 May 2016, Dr Jawab Abu Hatab was elected by the General Assembly of the National coalition as the new Prime Minister of the so-called Syrian Interim Government.
Civil war: The initially peaceful popular protests calling for freedom and an end to the Assad dictatorship escalated in the course of 2011 as a result of the regime’s use of brutal violence against the people. The conflict developed into a civil war in the course of which ethnic and sectarian antagonisms became ever more prominent. Russia, the pro-Iranian Hezbollah militia and Kurdish fighters joined the civil war. Helped by the events in Iraq, the Islamic State (IS) carved out a sphere of influence in the north-eastern part of Syria and is now being fought by the international anti-IS coalition. In the Nusra Front or Jabhat Fath al-Sham, the terrorist organisation al-Qaeda also has an offshoot that is involved in the fighting in Syria.
Trade unions: General Federation of Trade Unions (umbrella organisation comprising some 20 state-controlled individual trade unions); General Union of Farmers; professional associations
Administrative structure: 13 Governorates and Damascus Governorate
Membership of international organisations (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), World Meteorological 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)
Weekly newspapers: al-Iqtissadiya (Arabic-language), Abiad wa Asuad (Arabic-language)
Gross domestic product (GDP): approximately USD 107.6 billion (2011, estimated)
Per capita GDP: USD 5,100 (2011, estimated)
Exchange rate: As of August 2016, 1 euro = 240.54 Syrian pounds (SYP)