Geographic and Governmental Profile of Syria

Background
Influenced by major uprisings that began elsewhere in the region, antigovernment 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, but the size and intensity of protests have fluctuated over time. The government has 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 ongoing security operations to quell unrest and widespread armed opposition activity have led to violent clashes between government forces and oppositionists. International pressure on the ASAD regime has intensified since late 2011 as the Arab League, EU, Turkey, and the United States have expanded economic sanctions against the regime. In addition, former UN Secretary-General Kofi ANNAN, appointed as the joint UN-Arab League envoy to Syria, since March 2012 has worked to promote a cessation of violence by both the ASAD regime and Syrian opposition. Despite a brief lull in hostilities, however, fighting intensified through the end of May. Some estimates put the death toll at well over 10,000 since fighting began in March 2011.
Location
Middle East, bordering the Mediterranean Sea, between Lebanon and Turkey
Geographic coordinates
35 00 N, 38 00 E
Continent / Subcontinent
Middle East
Area
total:
185,180 sq km
rank:
89
land:
183,630 sq km
water:
1,550 sq km
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
Coastline
193 km
Maritime claims
territorial sea:
12 nm
contiguous zone:
24 nm
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 in Damascus
Terrain
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)
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Irrigated land
13,560 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources
46.1 cu km (1997)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural)
total:
19.95 cu km/yr (3%/2%/95%)
per capita:
1,048 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards
dust storms, sandstorms
volcanism:
Syria's two historically active volcanoes, Es Safa and an unnamed volcano near the Turkish border have not erupted in centuries
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, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified:
Environmental Modification
Geography - note
the capital of Damascus - located at an oasis fed by the Barada River - is thought to be one of the world's oldest continuously inhabited cities; there are 41 Israeli settlements and civilian land use sites in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights (2010 est.)
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 regime
Capital
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 first Friday in April; ends last Friday in October
Administrative divisions
14 provinces (muhafazat, singular - muhafazah); Al Hasakah, Al Ladhiqiyah (Latakia), Al Qunaytirah, Ar Raqqah, As Suwayda', Dar'a, Dayr az Zawr, Dimashq (Damascus), Halab, Hamah, Hims (Homs), Idlib, Rif Dimashq (Damascus Countryside), Tartus
Independence
17 April 1946 (from League of Nations mandate under French administration)
Constitution
13 March 1973; amended February 2012
Legal system
mixed legal system of civil and Islamic law (for family courts)
International law organization participation
has not submitted an ICJ jurisdiction declaration; non-party state to the ICCt
Suffrage
18 years of age; universal
Executive branch
chief of state:
Vice President Farouk al-SHARA (since 21 February 2006) oversees foreign policy; Vice President Najah al-ATTAR (since 23 March 2006) oversees cultural policy
head of government:
Prime Minister Wael al-HALQI (since 9 August 2012)
cabinet:
Council of Ministers appointed by the president; note - new Council appointed on 14 April 2011
elections:
president approved by popular referendum for a second seven-year term (no term limits); referendum last held on 27 May 2007 (next to be held in May 2014); 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 97.6%, other 2.4%
Legislative branch
unicameral People's Assembly or Majlis al-Shaab (250 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms)
elections:
last held on 7 May 2012 (next to be held in 2016)
election results:
percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - NA
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
legal parties:
National Progressive Front or NPF [President Bashar al-ASAD, Dr. Suleiman QADDAH] (includes Arab Socialist Renaissance (Ba'th) Party [President Bashar al-ASAD]; Socialist Unionist Democratic Party [Fadlallah Nasr Al-DIN]; Syrian Arab Socialist Union or ASU [Safwan al-QUDSI]; Syrian Communist Party (two branches) [Wissal Farha BAKDASH, Yusuf Rashid FAYSAL]; Syrian Social Nationalist Party [As'ad HARDAN]; Unionist Socialist Party [Fayez ISMAIL])
opposition parties not legally recognized:
Communist Action Party [Fateh al-JAMOUS]; National Democratic Rally [Hasan ABDUL-AZIM, spokesman] (includes five parties - Arab Democratic Socialist Union Party [Hasan ABDUL-AZIM], Arab Socialist Movement, Democratic Ba'th Party [Ibrahim MAKHOS], Democratic People's Party [Riad al TURK], Revolutionary Workers' Party [Abdul Hafez al HAFEZ])
Kurdish parties (considered illegal):
Azadi Party [Kheirudin MURAD]; Future Party [Masha'l TAMMO]; Kurdish Democratic Alliance (includes four parties); Kurdish Democratic Front (includes three parties); Yekiti Party [Fu'ad ALEYKO]
other parties:
Syrian Democratic Party [Mustafa QALAAJI]
Political pressure groups and leaders
Arab Human Rights Organization in Syria or AHRO; Damascus Declaration Group (a broad alliance of secular, religious, and Kurdish opposition groups); National Salvation Front (alliance between former Vice President Abd al-Halim KHADDAM and other small opposition groups in exile; formerly included the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood); Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression [Mazin DARWISH]; Syrian Human Rights Organization [Muhanad al-HASANI]; Syrian Human Rights Society or HRAS [Fayez FAWAZ]; Syrian Muslim Brotherhood or SMB [Muhammad Riyad al-SHAQFAH] (operates in exile in London)
International organization participation
ABEDA, AFESD, AMF, CAEU, FAO, G-24, G-77, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICRM, IDA, IDB, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, Interpol, IOC, IPU, ISO, ITSO, ITU, LAS, MIGA, NAM, OAPEC, OIC, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNRWA, UNWTO, UPU, WCO, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO (observer)
Diplomatic representation in the US
chief of mission:
Ambassador (vacant); Charge d'Affaires Mounir KOUDMANI
chancery:
2215 Wyoming Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008
telephone:
[1] (202) 232-6313
FAX:
[1] (202) 265-4585
Diplomatic representation from the US
chief of mission:
Ambassador Robert S. FORD; note - on 6 February 2012, the US closed its embassy in Damascus
embassy:
Abou Roumaneh, Al-Mansour Street, No. 2, Damascus
mailing address:
P. O. Box 29, Damascus
telephone:
[963] (11) 3391-4444
FAX:
[963] (11) 3391-3999
Flag description
three equal horizontal bands of red (top), white, and black; two small, green, five-pointed stars in a horizontal line centered in the white band; the band colors derive from the Arab Liberation flag and represent oppression (black), overcome through bloody struggle (red), to be replaced by a bright future (white); identical to the former flag of the United Arab Republic (1958-1961) where the two stars represented the constituent states of Syria and Egypt; the current design dates to 1980
similar to the flag of Yemen, which has a plain white band, Iraq, which has an Arabic inscription centered in the white band, and that of Egypt, which has a gold Eagle of Saladin centered in the white band
National symbol(s)
hawk
National anthem
name:
"Humat ad-Diyar" (Guardians of the Homeland)
lyrics/music:
Khalil Mardam BEY/Mohammad Salim FLAYFEL and Ahmad Salim FLAYFEL
adopted 1936, restored 1961; between 1958 and 1961, while Syria was a member of the United Arab Republic with Egypt, the country had a different anthem
Data source 1: All Above textual data, maps and flags were extracted from The World Factbook which was prepared by the Central Intelligence Agency and made available on the following link: The World Factbook. Lebanese Economy Forum is not sponsered or affiliated, in any way, by the US Central Intelligence Agency
Data source 2: Plots and Charts are constructed using the world bank public data catalog which can be viewed by visiting the following link: World Bank Data Catalog. Lebanese Economy Forum is not sponsored or affiliated, in any way, by the worldbank

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