Arabic Republic of Syria
Arabic: (OFFICIAL:) jumhūriyya sūriyyati l-¢arabiyya
Arabic: (SHORT:) sūriyyā
Independent republic in Asia with 20.18 million inhabitants (2009 estimate) and an area of 185,180 kmē. Capital is Damascus, while the city of Aleppo further north is about the same size.
Administratively is Syria divided into 14 provinces, called muhafaza.
Day of independence is April 17, 1946, when self-governance was gained peacefully from the League of Nations mandate under French administration.
Head of state is President Bashar al-Assad. Syria has 2 vice-presidents, one with responsibility for Political and Foreign affairs, the other for Internal and Party affairs. Prime minister since 2003 is Muhammad Naji al-Otari. The government has 30 ministries, and 3 deputy prime ministers working together with the prime minister.
The National Assembly has 250 members, where the Ba’th Party alone has majority. The national assembly has only theoretical power over the real politics.
Syria does not perform too well on the Human Development Index where it comes in as no. 107 of the 182 states that are ranked in the world, and 15 among 22 MENA countries. On a scale with 1.000 as maximum, Syria gains 0.742 points.
The currency of Syria is the pound (SYP), which is non-covertible in foreign countries and a fairly stable currency.
Syria’s economy is weak from years isolation from the Western world, and rigid political leadership on all aspects of life. With a GDP per capita at US$4,600 (2008 estimate), the country is 56% below world average. However, factors like unemployment at 9%, and 12% of the population below poverty line, are less dramatic figures.
Syria has not succeeded in developing advanced health services that meets the needs of society, whereas basic services are better.
As is the case with health services, Syria has far better basic education than higher. Reforms to improve higher learning has been launched, but are too fresh to produce results yet.
Syria is home of several people groups, Syrian Arabs and Kurds form the largest communities.
Arabic dominates the Syrian society, but Kurdish dominates in the east. Languages like Armenian, Azerbaijani and Aramaic are also living languages.
Syria has several large religious communities, 3 are counted as part of Islam, several of Christianity, in addition to Druze religion and Isma’ilism.
Syria has quite high fertility rates, and population growth is considerable.
Syria’s history goes deep back in time, the country’s two main cities compete about being the world oldest city. Syria was the bridge between Mesopotamia and Ancient Egypt, it was central in the development of Christianity and the heartland of early Islam during when it became a world religion.
List of Cites and Towns
By Tore Kjeilen