Country List | World Factbook Home
CIA Seal  World Factbook Seal Syria
Flag of Syria
Map of Syria
Introduction Syria
Following the breakup of the Ottoman Empire during World War I, France administered Syria until its independence in 1946. The country lacked political stability, however, and experienced a series of military coups during its first decades. Syria united with Egypt in February 1958 to form the United Arab Republic, but in September 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 Alawite sect, seized power in a bloodless coup and brought political stability to the country. In the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, Syria lost the Golan Heights to Israel, and during the 1990s Syria and Israel held occasional peace talks over its return. 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 Syrian troops - stationed in Lebanon since 1976 in an ostensible peacekeeping role - were withdrawn in April 2005.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.
Geography Syria
Middle East, bordering the Mediterranean Sea, between Lebanon and Turkey
Geographic coordinates:
35 00 N, 38 00 E
Map references:
Middle East
total: 185,180 sq km
land: 184,050 sq km
water: 1,130 sq km
note: includes 1,295 sq km of Israeli-occupied territory
Area - comparative:
slightly larger than North Dakota
Land boundaries:
total: 2,253 km
border countries: Iraq 605 km, Israel 76 km, Jordan 375 km, Lebanon 375 km, Turkey 822 km
193 km
Maritime claims:
territorial sea: 12 nm
contiguous zone: 41 nm
mostly desert; hot, dry, sunny summers (June to August) and mild, rainy winters (December to February) along coast; cold weather with snow or sleet periodically in Damascus
primarily semiarid and desert plateau; narrow coastal plain; mountains in west
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: unnamed location near Lake Tiberias -200 m
highest point: Mount Hermon 2,814 m
Natural resources:
petroleum, phosphates, chrome and manganese ores, asphalt, iron ore, rock salt, marble, gypsum, hydropower
Land use:
arable land: 24.8%
permanent crops: 4.47%
other: 70.73% (2005)
Irrigated land:
13,330 sq km (2003)
Natural hazards:
dust storms, sandstorms
Environment - current issues:
deforestation; overgrazing; soil erosion; desertification; water pollution from raw sewage and petroleum refining wastes; inadequate potable water
Environment - international agreements:
party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: Environmental Modification
Geography - note:
there are 42 Israeli settlements and civilian land use sites in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights (August 2005 est.)
People Syria
note: in addition, about 40,000 people live in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights - 20,000 Arabs (18,000 Druze and 2,000 Alawites) and about 20,000 Israeli settlers (July 2006 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 37% (male 3,592,915/female 3,384,722)
15-64 years: 59.7% (male 5,779,257/female 5,500,887)
65 years and over: 3.3% (male 296,070/female 327,510) (2006 est.)
Median age:
total: 20.7 years
male: 20.6 years
female: 20.9 years (2006 est.)
Population growth rate:
2.3% (2006 est.)
Birth rate:
27.76 births/1,000 population (2006 est.)
Death rate:
4.81 deaths/1,000 population (2006 est.)
Net migration rate:
0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2006 est.)
Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.06 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.06 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.9 male(s)/female
total population: 1.05 male(s)/female (2006 est.)
Infant mortality rate:
total: 28.61 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 28.85 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 28.36 deaths/1,000 live births (2006 est.)
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 70.32 years
male: 69.01 years
female: 71.7 years (2006 est.)
Total fertility rate:
3.4 children born/woman (2006 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:
less than 0.1% (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:
less than 500 (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths:
less than 200 (2003 est.)
noun: Syrian(s)
adjective: Syrian
Ethnic groups:
Arab 90.3%, Kurds, Armenians, and other 9.7%
Sunni Muslim 74%, Alawite, Druze, and other Muslim sects 16%, Christian (various sects) 10%, Jewish (tiny communities in Damascus, Al Qamishli, and Aleppo)
Arabic (official); Kurdish, Armenian, Aramaic, Circassian widely understood; French, English somewhat understood
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 76.9%
male: 89.7%
female: 64% (2003 est.)
Government Syria
Country name:
conventional long form: Syrian Arab Republic
conventional short form: Syria
local long form: Al Jumhuriyah al Arabiyah as Suriyah
local short form: Suriyah
former: United Arab Republic (with Egypt)
Government type:
republic under an authoritarian, military-dominated regime
name: Damascus
geographic coordinates: 33 30 N, 36 18 E
time difference: UTC+2 (7 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
daylight saving time: +1hr, begins 1 April; ends 30 September
Administrative divisions:
14 provinces (muhafazat, singular - muhafazah); Al Hasakah, Al Ladhiqiyah, Al Qunaytirah, Ar Raqqah, As Suwayda', Dar'a, Dayr az Zawr, Dimashq, Halab, Hamah, Hims, Idlib, Rif Dimashq, Tartus
17 April 1946 (from League of Nations mandate under French administration)
National holiday:
Independence Day, 17 April (1946)
13 March 1973
Legal system:
based on a combination of French and Ottoman civil law; religious law is used in the family court system; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
18 years of age; universal
Executive branch:
chief of state: President Bashar al-ASAD (since 17 July 2000); Vice President Farouk al-SHARA (since 11 February 2006) oversees foreign policy; Vice President Najah al-ATTAR (since 23 March 2006) oversees cultural policy
head of government: Prime Minister Muhammad Naji al-UTRI (since 10 September 2003); Deputy Prime Minister for Economic Affairs Abdallah al-DARDARI (since 14 June 2005)
cabinet: Council of Ministers appointed by the president
elections: president approved by popular referendum for a seven-year term (no term limits); referendum last held 10 July 2000 after the death of President Hafiz al-ASAD (next to be held July 2007); the president appoints the vice presidents, prime minister and deputy prime ministers
election results: Bashar al-ASAD approved as president; percent of vote - Bashar al-ASAD 97.29%
note: Hafiz al-ASAD died on 10 June 2000; on 20 June, the Ba'th Party nominated Bashar al-ASAD for president and presented his name to the People's Council on 25 June; he was approved by a popular referendum on 10 July
Legislative branch:
unicameral People's Council or Majlis al-Shaab (250 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms)
elections: last held 2-3 March 2003 (next to be held March 2007)
election results: percent of vote by party - NPF 67%, independents 33%; seats by party - NPF 167, independents 83; note - the constitution reserves half the seats for workers and peasants and declares the Ba'th Party the leading party of the state and it holds 135 seats
Judicial branch:
Supreme Judicial Council (appoints and dismisses judges; headed by the President); national level - Supreme Constitutional Court (adjudicates electoral disputes and rules on constitutionality of laws and decrees; justices appointed for four-year terms by the President); Court of Cassation; Appeals Courts (Appeals Courts represent an intermediate level between the Court of Cassation and local level courts); local level - Magistrate Courts; Courts of First Instance; Juvenile Courts; Customs Courts; specialized courts - Economic Security Courts (hear cases related to economic crimes); Supreme State Security Court (hear cases related to national security); Personal Status Courts (religious; hear cases related to marriage and divorce)
Political parties and leaders:
note - legal parties include: National Progressive Front or NPF [President Bashar al-ASAD, Dr. Suleiman QADDAH, deputy] (includes Arab Socialist Renaissance (Ba'th) Party [President Bashar al-ASAD, secretary; Muhammad BAKHITAN, assistant secretary general]; Arab Socialist Renaissance (Ba'th) Party [President Bashar al-ASAD, secretary general; Muhammad BAKHITAN, assistant secretary general]; Socialist Unionist Democratic Party [Fadlallah Nasr Al-DIN]; Syrian Arab Socialist Union or ASU [Safwan QUDSI]; Syrian Communist Party (two branches) [Wissal Farha BAKDASH, Yusuf Rashid FAYSAL]; Syrian Social National Party [Jubran URAYJI]; Unionist Socialist Party [Fayez ISMAIL]); illegal parties include: Kurdish Azadi Party [Khayr al-Din MURAD]; Kurdish Democratic Alliance (includes four parties) [Abd al-Hamid DARWISH, secretary general]; Kurdish Democratic Front (includes three parties but no designated leader); Kurdish Democratic Union Party or PYD [Ali MUHAMMAD]; Kurdish Future Movement; Kurdish Yekiti Party [Hasan SALEH]; National Democratic Front [Hassan Abd al-AZEM];
Political pressure groups and leaders:
Damascus Declaration [Riyad SEIF, secretary general] (a broad alliance of opposition groups including: Committee for Revival of Civil Society [Michel KILO, Riyad SEIF]; Kurdish Democratic Alliance; Kurdish Democratic Front; National Democratic Front; Syrian Human Rights Society or HRAS [Fawed FAWUZ]); National Salvation Front (alliance between former Vice President Abd al-Halim KHADDAM, the SMB, and other small opposition groups); Syrian Muslim Brotherhood or SMB [Sadr al-Din al-BAYANUNI]; (operates in exile in London; endorsed the Damascus Declaration but is not an official member)
International organization participation:
Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Imad MUSTAFA
chancery: 2215 Wyoming Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008
telephone: [1] (202) 232-6313
FAX: [1] (202) 234-9548
Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador (vacant); Charge d'Affaires Michael CORBIN
embassy: Abou Roumaneh, Al-Mansour Street, No. 2, Damascus
mailing address: P. O. Box 29, Damascus
telephone: [963] (11) 333-1342
FAX: [963] (11) 224-7938
Flag description:
three equal horizontal bands of red (top), white, and black, colors associated with the Arab Liberation flag; two small green five-pointed stars in a horizontal line centered in the white band; former flag of the United Arab Republic where the two stars represented the constituent states of Syria and Egypt; similar to the flag of Yemen, which has a plain white band, Iraq, which has three green stars (plus an Arabic inscription) in a horizontal line centered in the white band, and that of Egypt, which has a gold Eagle of Saladin centered in the white band; the current design dates to 1980
Economy Syria
Economy - overview:
The Syrian economy grew by an estimated 2.9% in real terms in 2006, led by the petroleum and agricultural sectors, which together account for about one-half of GDP. Higher crude oil prices countered declining oil production and exports and led to higher budgetary and export receipts. Total foreign assets of the Central Bank and domestic banking system rose to about $20 billion in 2006, and the government strengthened the private sector foreign exchange rate by about 7 percent from the start of the year. The Government of Syria has implemented modest economic reforms in the past few years, including cutting interest rates, opening private banks, consolidating some of the multiple exchange rates, and raising prices on some subsidized foodstuffs. Nevertheless, the economy remains highly controlled by the government. Long-run economic constraints include declining oil production and exports, weak investment, and increasing pressure on water supplies caused by heavy use in agriculture, rapid population growth, industrial expansion, and water pollution.
GDP (purchasing power parity):
$75.1 billion (2006 est.)
GDP (official exchange rate):
$27.23 billion (2006 est.)
GDP - real growth rate:
2.9% (2006 est.)
GDP - per capita (PPP):
$4,000 (2006 est.)
GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture: 25.5%
industry: 22.1%
services: 52.4% (2006 est.)
Labor force:
5.505 million (2006 est.)
Labor force - by occupation:
agriculture: 26%
industry: 14%
services: 60% (2003 est.)
Unemployment rate:
8% (2005 est.)
Population below poverty line:
11% (2004 est.)
Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: NA%
highest 10%: NA%
Inflation rate (consumer prices):
7% (2006 est.)
Investment (gross fixed):
22.1% of GDP (2006 est.)
revenues: $8.471 billion
expenditures: $9.42 billion; including capital expenditures of $3.82 billion (2006 est.)
Public debt:
38% of GDP (2006 est.)
Agriculture - products:
wheat, barley, cotton, lentils, chickpeas, olives, sugar beets; beef, mutton, eggs, poultry, milk
petroleum, textiles, food processing, beverages, tobacco, phosphate rock mining
Industrial production growth rate:
1.5% (2005)
Electricity - production:
29.64 billion kWh (2004 est.)
Electricity - production by source:
fossil fuel: 57.6%
hydro: 42.4%
nuclear: 0%
other: 0% (2001)
Electricity - consumption:
27.57 billion kWh (2004 est.)
Electricity - exports:
0.2 kWh (2004)
Electricity - imports:
0 kWh (2004)
Oil - production:
420,000 bbl/day (2005 est.)
Oil - consumption:
265,000 bbl/day (2004 est.)
Oil - exports:
285,000 bbl/day (2004)
Oil - imports:
NA bbl/day
Oil - proved reserves:
2.5 billion bbl (2006 est.)
Natural gas - production:
7.1 billion cu m (2004 est.)
Natural gas - consumption:
7.1 billion cu m (2004 est.)
Natural gas - exports:
0 cu m (2004 est.)
Natural gas - imports:
0 cu m (2004 est.)
Natural gas - proved reserves:
240.7 billion cu m (1 January 2005 est.)
Current account balance:
$-1.065 billion (2005 est.)
$6.923 billion f.o.b. (2006 est.)
Exports - commodities:
crude oil, petroleum products, fruits and vegetables, cotton fiber, clothing, meat and live animals, wheat
Exports - partners:
Iraq 26.3%, Italy 9.9%, Germany 9.9%, Lebanon 9.1%, Egypt 5.1%, France 4.9%, Saudi Arabia 4.6% (2005)
$6.634 billion f.o.b. (2006 est.)
Imports - commodities:
machinery and transport equipment, electric power machinery, food and livestock, metal and metal products, chemicals and chemical products, plastics, yarn, paper
Imports - partners:
Saudi Arabia 11.6%, China 6.1%, Egypt 5.9%, Italy 5.8%, UAE 5.7%, Ukraine 4.6%, Germany 4.5%, Iran 4.2% (2005)
Reserves of foreign exchange and gold:
$5.5 billion (2006 est.)
Debt - external:
$8.355 billion; note - excludes military debt and debt to Russia (2006 est.)
Economic aid - recipient:
$180 million (2002 est.)
Currency (code):
Syrian pound (SYP)
Currency code:
Exchange rates:
Syrian pounds per US dollar - (public sector rate): 50 (2006), 50 (2005), 48.5 (2004), (parallel market rate in 'Amman and Beirut): NA (2005), NA (2004), 52.8 (2003), 52.4 (2002), 50.4 (2001), (official rate for repaying loans): 11.25 (2004-06)
Fiscal year:
calendar year
Communications Syria
Telephones - main lines in use:
2.903 million (2005)
Telephones - mobile cellular:
2.95 million (2005)
Telephone system:
general assessment: fair system currently undergoing significant improvement and digital upgrades, including fiber-optic technology
domestic: coaxial cable and microwave radio relay network
international: country code - 963; satellite earth stations - 1 Intelsat (Indian Ocean) and 1 Intersputnik (Atlantic Ocean region); 1 submarine cable; coaxial cable and microwave radio relay to Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey; participant in Medarabtel
Radio broadcast stations:
AM 14, FM 2, shortwave 1 (1998)
4.15 million (1997)
Television broadcast stations:
44 (plus 17 repeaters) (1995)
1.05 million (1997)
Internet country code:
Internet hosts:
66 (2006)
Internet Service Providers (ISPs):
1 (2000)
Internet users:
1.1 million (2005)
Transportation Syria
92 (2006)
Airports - with paved runways:
total: 26
over 3,047 m: 6
2,438 to 3,047 m: 15
914 to 1,523 m: 3
under 914 m: 2 (2006)
Airports - with unpaved runways:
total: 66
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 11
under 914 m: 54 (2006)
7 (2006)
gas 2,764 km; oil 2,000 km (2006)
total: 2,711 km
standard gauge: 2,460 km 1.435-m gauge
narrow gauge: 251 km 1.050-m gauge (2005)
total: 94,890 km
paved: 19,073 km
unpaved: 75,817 km (2004)
900 km (not economically significant) (2005)
Merchant marine:
total: 108 ships (1000 GRT or over) 386,603 GRT/563,506 DWT
by type: bulk carrier 8, cargo 93, container 1, livestock carrier 4, petroleum tanker 1, roll on/roll off 1
foreign-owned: 11 (Lebanon 7, Romania 3, UAE 1)
registered in other countries: 130 (Cambodia 20, Comoros 4, Cyprus 3, Dominica 1, Georgia 43, Hong Kong 1, North Korea 14, Lebanon 1, Malta 7, Mongolia 1, Panama 18, Saint Kitts and Nevis 3, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 6, Sierra Leone 1, Slovakia 2, unknown 5) (2006)
Ports and terminals:
Baniyas, Latakia
Military Syria
Military branches:
Syrian Armed Forces: Syrian Arab Army (includes Syrian Arab Navy), Syrian Arab Air and Air Defense Force (includes Air Defense Command) (2005)
Military service age and obligation:
18 years of age for compulsory military service; conscript service obligation - 30 months (18 months in the Syrian Arab Navy); women are not conscripted but may volunteer to serve (2004)
Manpower available for military service:
males age 18-49: 4,356,413
females age 18-49: 4,123,339 (2005 est.)
Manpower fit for military service:
males age 18-49: 3,453,888
females age 18-49: 3,421,558 (2005 est.)
Manpower reaching military service age annually:
males age 18-49: 225,113
females age 18-49: 211,829 (2005 est.)
Military expenditures - dollar figure:
$858 million (FY00 est.); note - based on official budget data that may understate actual spending
Military expenditures - percent of GDP:
5.9% (FY00)
Transnational Issues Syria
Disputes - international:
Golan Heights is Israeli-occupied with the almost 1,000-strong UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) patrolling a buffer zone since 1964; Lebanon claims Shaba'a farms in Golan Heights; international pressure prompts the removal of Syrian troops and intelligence personnel stationed in Lebanon since October 1976; 2004 Agreement and pending demarcation settles border dispute with Jordan
Refugees and internally displaced persons:
refugees (country of origin): 432,048 (Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA)) 14,391 (Iraq)
IDPs: 170,000 (most displaced from Golan Heights during 1967 Arab-Israeli War) (2005)
Trafficking in persons:
current situation: Syria is a destination country for women from South and Southeast Asia and Africa for domestic servitude and from Eastern Europe and Iraq for sexual exploitation; women are recruited for work in Syria as domestic servants, but some face conditions of exploitation and involuntary servitude including long hours, non-payment of wages, withholding of passports and other restrictions on movement, and physical and sexual abuse; Eastern European women recruited for work in Syria as cabaret dancers are not permitted to leave their work premises without permission and have their passports withheld; some displaced Iraqi women and children are reportedly forced into sexual exploitation
tier rating: Tier 3 - Syria does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so
Illicit drugs:
a transit point for opiates and hashish bound for regional and Western markets; weak anti-money-laundering controls and bank privatization may leave it vulnerable to money-laundering

This page was last updated on 18 January, 2007