Useful country information
Total area: 71,498 sq mi (185,180 sq km)
Population (2016 est.): 18.28 million
Capital (2011 est.): Damascus, 2,440,000
Damascus: Capital City Profile
Other large cities: Aleppo, 3.164 million; Hims, 1.369 million; Hamah, 933,000
Monetary unit: Syrian pound
National name: Al-Jumhuriyah al-'Arabiyah as-Suriyah
Languages: Arabic (official); Kurdish, Armenian, Aramaic, Circassian widely understood; French, English somewhat understood
Ethnicity/race: Arab 90.3%, Kurds, Armenians, and other 9.7%
Religions: Muslim 87% (official; includes Sunni 74% and Alawi, Ismaili, and Shia 13%), Christian (includes Orthodox, Uniate, and Nestorian) 10% (includes Orthodox, Uniate, and Nestorian), Druze 3%, Jewish (few remaining in Damascus and Aleppo)
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National Holiday: April 17, Evacuation Day.
Following the breakup of the Ottoman Empire during World War I, Syria was administered by the French until independence in 1946.
From 1958 to 1961, Syria was united with Egypt as the United Arab Republic, a Syrian coup in 1961 dissolved the union.
In the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, Syria lost the Golan Heights to Israel. Since 1976, Syrian troops have been stationed in Lebanon, ostensibly in a peacekeeping capacity.
President of the Syrian Arab Republic is Bashar al-Assad, he is also Regional Secretary of the Ba'ath Party. Ba'athism calls for unification of the Arab world into a single state.
Bashar al-Assad became president after the death of his father Hafez al-Assad, who held office from 1970 until his death in 2000.
Influenced by major uprisings that began in Tunisia, antigovernment protests broke out first in the southern province of Dar'a in March 2011. Protesters calling for the repeal of the restrictive Emergency Law allowing arrests without charge, the legalization of political parties, and the removal of corrupt local officials. Demonstrations and violent unrest spread across Syria and led ultimately to a full-scale civil war, involving regional and international powers.
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