Syrian Arab Republic

05.07.2019 - Article

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 18.6 million (as of 2017); mainly Arab Syrians, Palestinians (around 529,000 registered with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, UNRWA, of which roughly 438,000 still live in Syria) and Iraqis; ethnic minorities: Kurds, Armenians, Turkmen and Circassians

Since March 2011, the UNHCR has registered around 5.7 million Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries. According to United Nations figures, 11.7 million people in Syria are dependent on humanitarian assistance, around 6.2 million of them internally displaced.

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 presidential elections on 3 March 2014); term of office: seven years (no term limits)

Nominal deputy head of state: Speaker of the People’s Assembly (Parliament), Hammoud Youssef Sabbagh (since 28 September 2017)

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

​​​​​​​Conflict: The initially peaceful popular protests calling for more freedoms and rights escalated in the course of 2011 as a result of the regime’s use of brutal violence against the people. A conflict developed in the course of which ethnic and sectarian antagonisms became ever more prominent. Helped by the events in Iraq, the so-called Islamic State (IS) carved out a sphere of influence in the north-eastern part of Syria. With the support of the Global Coalition against Daesh, in 2019 it was driven out of Syria, where it no longer occupies any areas. However, it remains active underground. In the Nusra Front or Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), which was formerly known as Jabhat Fath al-Sham, the terrorist organisation al-Qaeda also has an offshoot involved in the fighting in Syria. Since 10 January 2019, Idlib province has been largely under the military control of HTS.

Opposition: Internationally, the National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces (SOC) has established itself as the broadest opposition platform to date. In Marrakech on 12 December 2012, it was politically recognised by 130 states, including Germany, as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people. On 30 June 2019, Abdulrahman Mustafa was elected Prime Minister of the Syrian Interim Government by the National Coalition’s General Assembly. Nasr al-Hariri has been the Chairman of the High Negotiations Committee of the Syrian opposition since November 2017.

Gross domestic product (GDP): approximately USD 15.5 billion (2018, estimated)

Per capita GDP: USD 3905 (2019, estimated)

Exchange rate: As of March 2019, 1 euro = 497.39 Syrian pounds (SYP)

Information about German development cooperation with Syria can be found on the website of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development.

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