Syria – geography
Syria stretches from a 100 km long Mediterranean coast to steppe and desert areas to the east and southeast. Large parts of the arid areas are uninhabited or very sparsely populated, while 80% of the population lives in the western fifth of the country, primarily in and between the two major cities of Damascus and Aleppo. The area is hilly with mountain ranges that run north-south, Antillibanon on the border with Lebanon (Mount Hermon, 2814 m). Most of the country’s scarce water resources are found here, and the landscape alternates between arable land, grass slopes and forests. To the east, precipitation decreases, and to the SE lies the Syrian Desert, which extends into Jordan and Iraq and continues on the Arabian Peninsula. North of this runs the Euphrates300 km through the central steppe area; the river enables the cultivation of the Euphrates Valley. East of Aleppo, the river is dammed and forms the large Assadsø with hydropower plants.
The Golan Heights furthest to the SW have been occupied by Israel since 1967, which annexed the area in 1981. From the Golan, one can militarily master strategically important areas and water resources, and the future of the Golan is one of the most important elements in the negotiations for a peace agreement in the region.
The climate varies greatly in Syria. The coastal area north of Lebanon has a Mediterranean climate with sunny summers and cool, humid winters. To the east it is more continental and dry; on the grasslands the summers are very hot, often with temperatures above 40 °C, while night frosts are frequent in the winter. Damascus regularly experiences snowfall, but the snow does not stay long.
In the late 1900-t. Syrian industry and service activities underwent a gradual liberalization, which to some extent seems to have worked as intended. In 1997-99, the country had an economic growth of 3-4% per year, which, however, linked to rising oil prices. But Syria remains a country with significant problems, first and foremost widespread poverty. Two thirds of the Syrian workers earn less than DKK 500 a month, and most public employees must have two jobs to maintain a tolerable standard of living. In this perspective, liberalisations that are perceived by ordinary Syrians as a decline in real wages mean a continuing critical situation for the poor. One consequence is that many take work abroad or emigrate for a shorter or longer period of time. Syrian statistics are deficient, not least in this area, but it is estimated that that it is about 1 million. people. In the short term, the foreign economy will be strengthened by the sums that migrant workers send home from abroad, but the basic structural problems will not be solved.
Syria’s oil production is only 2-3 times larger than Denmark’s, and so are the reserves, and the country is forced to develop a broad-spectrum economy. Among other things. focus on chemicals, textiles and agricultural products such as citrus fruits and olive oil; for the latter two, sales on the EU market in particular were previously hampered by southern European protectionist interests.
Syria has a very young population and population growth is large, although it was declining in the 1990’s. Up to 70% of the residents live in the big cities, but urban growth seems to slow down in line with slowly improving conditions in the agricultural communities, e.g. expansion of water and electricity supply.
- Countryaah: Do you know how many people there are in Syria? Check this site to see population pyramid and resident density about this country.
Ethnically and religiously, the population is composed. A majority (74%) are Arab Sunni Muslims, and the original minorities are Alawites, Druze, Christians and Jews. In addition, a large Palestinian minority, an estimated 430,000 people, for the most part descendants of refugees from the establishment of Israel in 1948.
Migrations. Syria is a major supplier of labor for the reconstruction process in Lebanon, not least in Beirut. It is especially the unskilled who are leaving, but the prospect of better wages and living conditions has also led many skilled and highly educated people to move west. Also countries around the Persian Gulf have received many Syrians, perhaps 1/2 million. A third wave of emigration is targeting Europe, the United States and Russia. It is young people seeking education. All three groups include opposition figures who fear reprisals in Syria after joining the regime.
Health. The development has not been able to keep up with the rapid population growth, but there has been a moderate improvement with e.g. private clinics in addition to public health. However, Syria continues to lag behind many other Arab countries, and there are very large differences between city and country.
Syria – language
Official language is modern standard Arabic. Different variants of the Syrian-Palestinian dialect of Arabic are used as spoken language. In the northeastern corner of Syria, Iraqi-Arabic is spoken. A large minority in the northeast speaks the Kurmanji dialect of Kurdish. Small minorities speak Malula Aramaic, Turabdian (Syrian) and Armenian. See also Syrian and Arabic. For culture and traditions of Syria, please check animalerts.
Syria – religion
The majority of Syria’s population is Muslim: 74% are Sunni Muslims; Alawites, Druze and Shia Muslims (of which about half are Ismailis) make up 16%. The rest (10%) belong to various Christian churches (see also Syrian churches).
There are quite a few Jews, mainly in Damascus, Qamishli and Aleppo. Islam is not a state religion, and institutionally Islam is therefore not an integral part of the political system in Syria, as is the case in a number of other Middle Eastern states. There is a state mufti, but his powers are severely limited.
Syria – Constitution
The Constitution of the Republic of Syria is from 1973 and declares that Syria is part of the Pan-Arab unit. The legislative power lies nominally with the parliament, the People’s Assembly, with 250 members elected by general election for four years. The Constitution gives the Ba’ath Party (Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party) the leading political role, and it is the center of the National Progressive Front that unites all parties. The executive has the president, who must be Muslim. He is proposed by the Ba’ath party and is elected for seven years by direct election. He appoints a government which has the real legislative power; it is headed by a prime minister.
Syria – economy
After the Ba’ath Partyin 1963 came to power, the Soviet Union became Syria’s economic and political mainstay, and after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the country has had to begin a liberalization of the economy. The government has retained a dominant role in the economy, but strives, among other things, through tax incentives to attract foreign investors to the country, just as import restrictions have been lifted and foreign trade has been oriented towards the West. After stagnation in the 1980’s, economic growth was quite high in the first half of the 1990’s, driven not least by progress in the oil sector and in the private sector. Economic development has since been modest, hampered by large public spending on defense and by loss-making state-owned enterprises and marked by bureaucracy and corruption.
The main trading partners in 2005 were Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Iraq. Denmark’s exports to Syria in 2005 amounted to DKK 207 million. DKK, while imports from there were 18 mill. kr.