[Country map of Syria]



Location: Middle East, bordering the Mediterranean Sea, between Lebanon and Turkey

Map references: Middle East

total area: 185,180 sq km
land area: 184,050 sq km
comparative area: slightly larger than North Dakota
note: includes 1,295 sq km of Israeli-occupied territory

Land boundaries: total 2,253 km, Iraq 605 km, Israel 76 km, Jordan 375 km, Lebanon 375 km, Turkey 822 km

Coastline: 193 km

Maritime claims:
contiguous zone: 41 nm
territorial sea: 35 nm

International disputes: separated from Israel by the 1949 Armistice Line; Golan Heights is Israeli occupied; Hatay question with Turkey; ongoing dispute over water development plans by Turkey for the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers; Syrian troops in northern Lebanon since October 1976

Climate: 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 hits Damascus

Terrain: primarily semiarid and desert plateau; narrow coastal plain; mountains in west

Natural resources: petroleum, phosphates, chrome and manganese ores, asphalt, iron ore, rock salt, marble, gypsum

Land use:
arable land: 28%
permanent crops: 3%
meadows and pastures: 46%
forest and woodland: 3%
other: 20%

Irrigated land: 10,000 sq km (1992)

current issues: deforestation; overgrazing; soil erosion; desertification; water pollution from dumping of raw sewage and wastes from petroleum refining; inadequate supplies of potable water
natural hazards: dust storms, sandstorms
international agreements: party to - Hazardous Wastes, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution; signed, but not ratified - Biodiversity, Desertification, Environmental Modification

Note: there are 42 Jewish settlements and civilian land use sites in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights (August 1994 est.)


Population: 15,451,917 (July 1995 est.)
note: in addition, there are 31,000 people living in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights - 16,500 Arabs (15,000 Druze and 1,500 Alawites) and 14,500 Jewish settlers (August 1994 est.)

Age structure:
0-14 years: 48% (female 3,639,776; male 3,826,154)
15-64 years: 49% (female 3,691,862; male 3,854,989)
65 years and over: 3% (female 219,251; male 219,885) (July 1995 est.)

Population growth rate: 3.71% (1995 est.)

Birth rate: 43.21 births/1,000 population (1995 est.)

Death rate: 6.07 deaths/1,000 population (1995 est.)

Net migration rate: 0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (1995 est.)

Infant mortality rate: 41.1 deaths/1,000 live births (1995 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 66.81 years
male: 65.67 years
female: 68.01 years (1995 est.)

Total fertility rate: 6.55 children born/woman (1995 est.)

noun: Syrian(s)
adjective: Syrian

Ethnic divisions: Arab 90.3%, Kurds, Armenians, and other 9.7%

Religions: Sunni Muslim 74%, Alawite, Druze, and other Muslim sects 16%, Christian (various sects) 10%, Jewish (tiny communities in Damascus, Al Qamishli, and Aleppo)

Languages: Arabic (official), Kurdish, Armenian, Aramaic, Circassian, French widely understood

Literacy: age 15 and over can read and write (1990 est.)
total population: 64%
male: 78%
female: 51%

Labor force: 4.3 million (1994 est.)
by occupation: miscellaneous and government services 36%, agriculture 32%, industry and construction 32%; note - shortage of skilled labor (1984)


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)

Digraph: SY

Type: republic under leftwing military regime since March 1963

Capital: Damascus

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

Independence: 17 April 1946 (from League of Nations mandate under French administration)

National holiday: National Day, 17 April (1946)

Constitution: 13 March 1973

Legal system: based on Islamic law and civil law system; special religious courts; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal

Executive branch:
chief of state: President Hafiz al-ASAD (since 22 February 1971 see note); Vice Presidents 'Abd al-Halim ibn Said KHADDAM, Rif'at al-ASAD, and Muhammad Zuhayr MASHARIQA (since 11 March 1984); election last held 2 December 1991 (next to be held NA December 1998); results - President Hafiz al-ASAD was reelected for a fourth seven-year term with 99.98% of the vote; note - President ASAD seized power in the November 1970 coup, assumed presidential powers 22 February 1971, and was confirmed as president in the 12 March 1971 national elections
head of government: Prime Minister Mahmud ZU'BI (since 1 November 1987); Deputy Prime Minister Lt. Gen. Mustafa TALAS (since 11 March 1984); Deputy Prime Minister Salim YASIN (since NA December 1981); Deputy Prime Minister Rashid AKHTARINI (since 4 July 1992)
cabinet: Council of Ministers; appointed by the president

Legislative branch: unicameral
People's Council (Majlis al-Chaab): elections last held 24-25 August 1994 (next to be held NA); results - percent of vote by party NA; seats - (250 total) National Progressive Front 167, independents 83

Judicial branch: Supreme Constitutional Court, High Judicial Council, Court of Cassation, State Security Courts

Political parties and leaders:
National Progressive Front includes: the ruling Arab Socialist Resurrectionist (Ba'th) Party, Hafiz al-ASAD, President of the Republic, Secretary General of the party, and Chairman of the National Progressive Front; Syrian Arab Socialist Party (ASP), 'Abd al-Ghani KANNUT; Arab Socialist Union (ASU), Jamal ATASSI; Syrian Communist Party (SCP), Khalid BAKDASH; Arab Socialist Unionist Movement, Sami SOUFAN; and Democratic Socialist Union Party, leader NA

Other political or pressure groups: non-Ba'th parties have little effective political influence; Communist party ineffective; conservative religious leaders; Muslim Brotherhood


Diplomatic representation in US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Walid MUALEM
chancery: 2215 Wyoming Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008
telephone: [1] (202) 232-6313
FAX: [1] (202) 234-9548

US diplomatic representation:
chief of mission: Ambassador Christopher W. S. ROSS
embassy: Abou Roumaneh, Al-Mansur Street No. 2, Damascus
mailing address: P. O. Box 29, Damascus
telephone: [963] (11) 333-2814, 714-108, 333-3788
FAX: [963] (11) 224-7938

Flag: three equal horizontal bands of red (top), white, and black with two small green five-pointed stars in a horizontal line centered in the white band; similar to the flag of Yemen, which has a plain white band and of Iraq, which has three green stars (plus an Arabic inscription) in a horizontal line centered in the white band; also similar to the flag of Egypt, which has a symbolic eagle centered in the white band


Overview: In 1990-93 Syria's state-dominated Ba'thist economy benefited from the Gulf war, increased oil production, good weather, and economic deregulation. Economic growth averaged roughly 10%. The Gulf war provided Syria an aid windfall of nearly $5 billion dollars from Arab, European, and Japanese donors. However, the benefits of the 1990-93 boom were not evenly distributed and the gap between rich and poor is widening. A nationwide financial scandal and increasing inflation were accompanied by a decline in GDP growth to 4% in 1994. For the long run, Syria's economy is still saddled with a large number of poorly performing public sector firms, and industrial productivity remains to be improved. Oil production is likely to fall off dramatically by the end of the decade. Unemployment will become a problem for the government when the more than 60% of the population under the age of 20 enter the labor force.

National product: GDP - purchasing power parity - $74.4 billion (1994 est.)

National product real growth rate: 4% (1994 est.)

National product per capita: $5,000 (1994 est.)

Inflation rate (consumer prices): 16.3% (1993 est.)

Unemployment rate: 7.5% (1993 est.)

Budget: NA

Exports: $3.6 billion (f.o.b., 1994 est.)
commodities: petroleum 53%, textiles 22%, cotton, fruits and vegetables, wheat, barley, chickens
partners: EC 48%, former CEMA countries 24%, Arab countries 18% (1991)

Imports: $4 billion (c.i.f., 1994 est.)
commodities: foodstuffs 21%, metal products 17%, machinery 15%
partners: EC 37%, former CEMA countries 15%, US and Canada 10% (1991)

External debt: $19.4 billion (1993 est.)

Industrial production: growth rate NA%

capacity: 4,160,000 kW
production: 13.2 billion kWh
consumption per capita: 865 kWh (1993)

Industries: textiles, food processing, beverages, tobacco, phosphate rock mining, petroleum

Agriculture: accounts for 30% of GDP and one-third of labor force; all major crops (wheat, barley, cotton, lentils, chickpeas) grown mainly on rain-watered land causing wide swings in production; animal products - beef, lamb, eggs, poultry, milk; not self-sufficient in grain or livestock products

Illicit drugs: a transit country for Lebanese and Turkish refined cocaine going to Europe and heroin and hashish bound for regional and Western markets

Economic aid:
recipient: no US aid; about $4.2 billion in loans and grants from Arab and Western donors 1990-92 as a result of Gulf war stance

Currency: 1 Syrian pound (#S) = 100 piastres

Exchange rates: Syrian pounds (#S) per US$1 - 11.2 (official fixed rate), 26.6 (blended rate used by the UN and diplomatic missions), 42.0 (neighboring country rate - applies to most state enterprise imports), 46.0 - 53.0 (offshore rate) (yearend 1993)

Fiscal year: calendar year


total: 1,998 km
broad gauge: 1,766 km 1.435-m gauge
narrow gauge: 232 km 1.050-m gauge

total: 31,569 km
paved: 24,308 km (including 670 km of expressways)
unpaved: 7,261 km

Inland waterways: 870 km; minimal economic importance

Pipelines: crude oil 1,304 km; petroleum products 515 km

Ports: Baniyas, Jablah, Latakia, Tartus

Merchant marine:
total: 80 ships (1,000 GRT or over) totaling 233,701 GRT/364,714 DWT
ships by type: bulk 10, cargo 68, vehicle carrier 2

total: 107
with paved runways over 3,047 m: 5
with paved runways 2,438 to 3,047 m: 16
with paved runways 914 to 1,523 m: 1
with paved runways under 914 m: 67
with unpaved runways 1,524 to 2,438 m: 3
with unpaved runways 914 to 1,523 m: 15


Telephone system: 512,600 telephones; 37 telephones/1,000 persons; fair system currently undergoing significant improvement and digital upgrades, including fiber optic technology
local: NA
intercity: coaxial cable and microwave radio relay network
international: 1 INTELSAT (Indian Ocean) and 1 Intersputnik earth station; 1 submarine cable; coaxial cable and microwave radio relay to Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey

broadcast stations: AM 9, FM 1, shortwave 0
radios: NA

broadcast stations: 17
televisions: NA

Defense Forces

Branches: Syrian Arab Army, Syrian Arab Navy, Syrian Arab Air Force, Syrian Arab Air Defense Forces, Police and Security Force

Manpower availability: males age 15-49 3,440,030; males fit for military service 1,927,930; males reach military age (19) annually 159,942 (1995 est.)

Defense expenditures: exchange rate conversion - $2.2 billion, 6% of GDP (1992)