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November 2015



Syria, located in the Middle East, bordering the Mediterranean Sea between Lebanon and Turkey, is roughly 1.5 times the size of Pennsylvania. It also shares borders with Iraq, Israel, and Jordan. The capital, Damascus, is thought to be one of the world's oldest continuously inhabited cities.

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. 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 the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, Syria lost the Golan Heights region to Israel. During the 1990s, Syria and Israel held occasional peace talks over its return. In November 1970, Hafiz al-Asad, a member of the socialist Ba'th Party and the minority Alawi sect, seized power in a bloodless coup and brought political stability to the country. 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 Syrian troops - stationed in Lebanon since 1976 in an ostensible peacekeeping role - were withdrawn in April 2005.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's second term as president was approved by popular referendum.

Ethnically, Syria is 90% Arab, and the rest is made up of Kurds, Armenians, and other. Arabic is the official language of Syria, while other languages spoken throughout the country include: Kurdish, Armenian, Aramaic, Cicassian, French and English. The majority of Syrians (87%) identify as Muslim; most of these are Sunni. The major urban areas of Syria are: Aleppo, Damascus (capital), Hims, Hama, and Lattakia. Syria's legal system is a mix of civil and Islamic law. Its government is a unicameral system of the People's Assembly, comprised of 250 members directly elected. The natural resources of Syria include: petroleum, phosphates, chrome and manganese ores, asphalt, iron ore, rock salt, marble, gypsum, and hydropower.

CIA World Factbook, 11/2015

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