Fact Sheet

  Syria

 
 
 
 

 Area 185,000 sq km – Population 22.5 million

Muslim  74% Sunni, 16% other - Christian 10%

Labor Force 5.3 million – Unemployment 18%

Agriculture 17%, Industry 16%, Services 67%

GDP US$ 64.7 billion – GDP per capita US$5,100

Agriculture 17%, Industry 23%, Services 60%

Exports US$3.9 billion - oil, minerals, foodstuffs

To Iraq 56%, Saudi Arabia 9%, Kuwait/UAE 11%

Imports $10.8 billion – Transport Equipment, machinery, metals. chemicals, plastics, paper

 
 
 
 

Data Source: CIA World Fact Book (Data predominantly for 2011 prior to current unrest.)

Ancient Syria was conquered by Egypt in about 1500 BC, and after that by Hebrews, Assyrians, Chaldeans, Persians, and Alexander the Great of Macedonia. From 64 BC, until the Arab conquest in AD 636, it was part of the Roman Empire. The Arabs made it a trade center for their extensive empire, but it suffered severely from the Mongol invasion in 1260 and fell to the Ottoman Turks in 1516. Syria remained an Ottoman province until World War I. Following the end of the war, a secret Anglo-French pact of 1916 later executed by the League of Nations put Syria under the French zone of influence, but the French were forced to put down several nationalistic uprisings. In 1930 France recognized Syria as an independent republic but still subject to the mandate, finally granting it independence in 1946. After a period of political instability, Syria united with Egypt in February of 1958 to form the United Arab Republic. In 1961, the two entities separated and the Syrian Arab Republic was reestablished.

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 by brutally suppressing political opposition. Following the death of President Hafiz 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 Syrian troops, stationed in Lebanon since 1976 in an ostensible peacekeeping role, were withdrawn in April 2005. In May 2007, Bashar al-ASAD’s second term as President was approved by popular referendum. Influenced by major uprisings elsewhere in the region anti-government protests broke out in the southern province of Dar’a in March 2011 with 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. Since then demonstrations and unrest have spread to nearly every city in Syria.

The government responded to unrest with a mix of concessions – including the repeal of the Emergency Law and approving new laws permitting new political parties and liberalizing local and national elections – and force. However the government’s response has failed to meet opposition demands for ASAD to step down, and the government’s on-going security operations to quell unrest and widespread opposition activity have led to extended violent clashes between government forces and oppositionists. International pressure on the ASAD regime has intensified since late 2011, as the Arab League, Turkey, and the Unites States have extended economic sanctions against the regime. In December 2012, the National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces was recognized by more than 130 countries as the sole legitimate representative of the Syrian people. Unrest persists in 2013, and the death toll among Syrian Government forces, opposition forces, and civilians has topped 100,000. A Peace Conference has been called for January 22nd in Geneva and while Turkey and Iran have called for a Syrian ceasefire, opposition groups remain aggressive demanding that ASAD step down as a precondition to meeting.

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