Syria, formally known as the Syrian Arab Republic, is a nation in Western Asia bordered to the west by Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea, to the north by Turkey, to the east by Iraq, to the south by Jordan, and to the southwest by Israel. Damascus is Syria’s capital and biggest city.
Syria, a nation of lush plains, high mountains, and deserts, is home to a varied ethnic and religious population that includes Syrian Arabs, Greeks, Armenians, Assyrians, Kurds, Circassians, Mandeans, and Turks. Sunnis, Christians, Alawites, Druze, Mandeans, Shiites, Salafis, and Yazidis are among the religious groupings. Sunni Arabs make up the majority of Syria’s population.
The term “Syria” was previously associated with the Levant (known in Arabic as al-Sham), although the current state includes the sites of many ancient kingdoms and empires, notably the Eblan civilisation of the third millennium BC. Its capital, Damascus, is one of the world’s oldest continually inhabited cities. Damascus was the headquarters of the Umayyad Caliphate and a regional capital of Egypt’s Mamluk Sultanate during the Islamic period.
The current Syrian state was formed as a French mandate following the end of decades of Ottoman domination in World War I, and it was the biggest Arab state to emerge from the previously Ottoman-ruled Arab Levant. Syria achieved its independence as a parliamentary republic on October 24, 1945, when it became a founding member of the United Nations, thus ending the previous French mandate — though French forces did not depart the country until April 1946. The post-independence era was turbulent, with a high number of military coups and coup attempts taking place between 1949 and 1971. Syria formed a short union with Egypt called the United Arab Republic in 1958, which was ended by the Syrian coup d’état in 1961. The Arab Republic of Syria was established in late 1961 after a constitutional referendum on December 1, 1961, and was progressively unstable until the Ba’athist coup d’état, after which the Ba’ath Party has held control. From 1963 until 2011, Syria was under Emergency Law, which essentially suspended most constitutional rights for people. Bashar al-Assad has been president since 2000, succeeding his father Hafez al-Assad, who served from 1970 to 2000.
Syria is a member of one international organization other than the United Nations, the Non-Aligned Movement; it was suspended from the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in November 2011, and it self-imposed suspension from the Union for the Mediterranean. Syria has been engaged in an uprising against Assad and the Ba’athist regime as part of the Arab Spring since March 2011, a crackdown that has contributed to the Syrian Civil War and Syria being one of the world’s most violent nations. Since then, a number of phantom states have formed on Syrian territory, including the Syrian Opposition, the Federation of Northern Syria, and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.