Location: bordering the Mediterranean Sea, between Lebanon, Iraq and Turkey
Capital: Damascus
Area: 185,180 sq km
Coastline: 183 km
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: unnamed location near Lake Tiberias -200 m
highest point: Mount Hermon 2,814 m
Administrative Divisions: 13 governorates:
Al Hasaka, Aleppo, al Raqqa, al Suwayda, Daraa, Deir el Zor, Hama, Homs, Idlib, Latakia, Quneirtra, Tartus, Rif Dimashq
Official language: Arabic
Other: Kurdish, Armenian, Syriac, Circassian, French, English
Religion: 74% Muslim (Sunni, Shia, Alawi, Druze), 16% Christian; Jews, Yazidis
Population: 18,016,874
Age structure: 0-14 years: 38%
                         15-64 years: 58.7%
                         65 years and over: 3.3%
Life expectancy: total population: 70.61 years
male: 69.27 years
female: 72.02 years (2007 est.)
Literacy: total population: 79.6%
male: 86%
female: 73.6% (2004 census)
Internet domain: sy
Currency: Syrian Lira
1- Location
2- Terrain, Geography
3- Climate
4- Nature ,Environment
5- People
6- Education
7- Cultural Life
8- Tradition
9- Religion
10- Economy
11- History
12- Constitution
13- Human Rights
14- Tourism


1- Location

Located in western Asia, Syria is bordered on the north by Turkey, on the east by Iraq, on the south by Jordan, on the southwest by Israel, and on the west by Lebanon. It has an area of 185,180 sq km and a population of 18 million. Its capital is Damascus, and its main cities are Aleppo, Hama, Homs, Latakia and Deir el Zor.


2- Terrain, Geography

Syria’s coastal plain along the Mediterranean stretches south from the Turkish border to Lebanon. The coastline is 183 km long, covered with sand dunes and interspersed with rocky promontories running down from the mountains. In the northwest, off the city of Tartus, is the small and rocky island of Arwad. The coastal plain is intensively cultivated with citrus fruits and olives. Some reed grasses, wild flowers, trees, and shrubs also grow. Syria claims a territorial limit of 35 nautical miles off its Mediterranean shore.

Between the Mediterranean coast and the arid desert regions lies a semiarid steppe zone extending across three-fourths of the country. It extends from Anti-Lebanon Mountains and Jabal al Nusayriyah in the west, to the Turkish mountain region on the north, on to Jabal al Arab, Jabal ar Ruwaq, Jabal Abu Rujmayn, and the Jabal Bishri ranges in the southeast.

The Jabal al Nusayriya mountain range runs parallel to the coastal plain. It averages 1,212 meters; the highest peak, Nabi Yunis, is about 1,575 meters. There are forests of Aleppo pines, oak and heather on the western slopes, with cedar trees at the higher elevations, and scrub bushes on lower slopes. The eastern slopes of Jabal al Nusayriya are steep, hot and dry.

The Homs Gap corridor between Jabal al Nusayriya and the Anti-Lebanon has been a well-used route for trade and invasion from the coast to the country's interior, and to other parts of Asia. The highway and railroad from Homs to the Lebanon’s port at
Tripoli run through the Homs Gap.

The Ghab depression east of Jabal al Nusayriya is a fertile, irrigated valley crossed by the Orontes River. This river springs in Lebanon and flows northward to Syria. Its water is used for irrigated cultivation of cotton, sugar-beet, vegetables and wheat, livestock stations and fish farms.

The other major bodies of water in northwestern Syria are Bahrat Homs, an artificial lake and Sabkhat al Jabbul , a large salt lake near Aleppo.

Buhayrat al Assad is a reservoir created in 1973 when the Tabaqah Dam was completed on the Euphrates. It is 80 km long and averages 8 kilometers in width.

In the southwest on the border between Syria and Lebanon is Mount Hermon (Jabal al Shaykh), which overlooks the Hawran plateau south of Damascus. Volcanic cones, some of which reach over 900 meters, intersperse the plateau. About 18,000 sq km are covered in fields of black basalt. The Hawran plateau extends south through
Jordan and into Saudi Arabia. There are several volcanic springs in this region.

The Jabal Druze range, also named Jabal al Arab, lies southwest of the Hawran. Also a volcanic region, the range peaks at 1,800m, and is home to the country's Druze population.

Northeast of the Euphrates is the fertile Jazirah region which is watered by the tributaries of this river. The area underwent irrigation improvements during the 1960s and 1970s and now produces rice, sugar beets, cereals, wheat, barley, grapes, and vegetables, olives, olive oil, tobacco and roses.

The Syrian Desert, which is a rock and gravel steppe and not a sandy desert, comprises about 58% of the Syrian territory. For a brief time in the spring, the steppe is covered by a variety of different flowers and grassy plants. In the middle of this desert is the ancient city of Palmyra. On the eastern border with Iraq, 100 km south of Palmyra, is the Hamad desert.


3- Climate

West of the Jabal al-Nusayriyah, Syria has a Mediterranean climate which is characterized by hot, dry summers and mild, wet winters. Yearly rainfall ranges from about 510 to 1020 mm in the coastal area, from about 255 to 510 mm between Aleppo and Damascus, and from 127 mm to less than 25 mm in the desert area.

In the desert and the steppe plateau summer temperatures often exceed 43° C. Dust and sandstorms are common summer hazards, as is frosts from November to March.


4- Nature, Environment

About 32% of Syria’s area is cultivated, 46% is steppe and 2.4% covered by forest. Cultivation is mainly concentrated in the coastal zones and along the banks of the Euphrates River and its tributaries in the north-east. Forests have been lost to increased access, increased human and livestock populations, and demands for additional sources of fuel in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

In 1968, the first protected rangeland reserves were established to prevent further degradation and desertification.

In 1978, a protected areas program encompassing 22,000 ha was launched by the government. Protected areas in Syria consist of state forest protection zones, hunting reserves, green belts, enclosed rangeland and protected public waters.

In the early 1980s, the Ministry of Agriculture and Agrarian Reform began reintroducing wildlife such the Asiatic wild ass and the Dorcas gazelle into the steppe regions of the country.


In 1983, Wadi al Azib and Choula Protected Rangeland were established as nature reserves. Four wetland sites had been nominated by the Ministry of Agriculture and Agrarian Reform for Project AQUA.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Agrarian Reform, the Ministry of Environment, the Ministry of Higher Education, community based organizations, and the scientific community review and evaluate conservation practices.

Thirty three Protected Areas have been designated, recommended, or proposed in Syria. A list is provided by the World Database on Protected Areas. Al-Telila Nature Reserve was established in Palmyra in 1991.

The photo below shows the difference in vegetation cover between the inside (right) and the outside (left) the protected area of al Talila Reserve.

Photo: G. Serra

References: World Database on Protected Areas;;;;


Flora: Syria has limited areas of vegetation. Almost all of the arable areas were stripped of natural cover, but the government initiated reforestation project produces 30 million saplings annually. Along the Mediterranean coast are various reed grasses, wild flowers, trees, and shrubs, including buckthorn and tamarisk. In the Anti-Lebanon Mountains are forests of Aleppo pine and Syrian oak.

Fauna: Mammals in Syria include antelope, deer, wildcat, porcupine, squirrel, and hare. Birds native to the country include the flamingo, pelican, bustard, ostrich, eagle, and falcon. Lizards and chameleons are found in the desert.

Water: Throughout the arid plateau region east of Damascus, oases, streams, and a few interior rivers that empty into swamps and small lakes provide water for local irrigation. The Barada River is the most important of these. In the mid-1980s, the size of al Ghuta was gradually being eroded as housing and light industry from Damascus spread outward into the oasis. Around 350 sq km of the Ghuta are under cultivation, including extensive orchards and Poplar plantations.

The Khabur River provides water for irrigation in the Jazirah region. The Sinn, a minor river in Latakia Province, is used to irrigate the area west of the Jabal al Nusayriyah, about 32 kilometers southwest of the port of Latakia. In the south the springs that feed the upper Yarmuk River are diverted for irrigation of the Hawran.

Underground water reservoirs are tapped for both irrigation and drinking. Al Ghab region contains about 19 major springs and underground rivers.

Syria is a signatory to the Man and Biosphere Program, with the Rakaa Biosphere Reserve as the first proposed reserve. It is Party to the Barcelona Convention and has signed the Protocol concerning Mediterranean Specially Protected Areas. Designation of seven Mediterranean Specially Protected Areas is under consideration by the government. The Convention on Wetlands came into force for the Syrian Arab Republic on 5 July 1998.

Rivers and their length in Syrian territory

Euphrates 680 km
Al Khabour 442 km
Orontes 441 km
Al Balikh 202 km
Jaghiagh 100 km
Queiq 98 km
Al Kabir Al Shamali 96 km
Barada 81 km
Awaj 70 km
Afrin  68 km
Al Kabir Al Janubi 56 km
Sajour 48 km
Al Yarmouk 45 km
Sybarani  32 km
Abou Kobis 8 km
Sinn 6 km
Banyas 1 km


Al-Assad 674 sq km, near al Thawra
Jabbul 239 sq km, near
Qattineh 61 sq km, near Homs
Al-Baath 27 sq km, near al Raqqa
Atiba 11 sq km, near Damascus
Khatunieh 3 sq km, near al Hasaka
Mzereeb 1 sq km, near Daraa
Massadeh 1 sq km, near Quneitra



Environment issues facing Syria are deforestation, overgrazing, soil erosion, desertification, water pollution from dumping of raw sewage, and from petroleum refining; and inadequate supplies of water.



5- People, Ethnicities, Languages

The population of Syria is slightly over 18 million, including about 250,000 refugees from Palestine. As of 2005-6, the number of Iraqi refugees in Syria reached 1,200,000 (UNHCR).


The population density is estimated to be 80 persons per sq km.

Arabs constitute around 85% percent of the population. Ethnic and religious groups tend to be concentrated in certain geographic regions and hold certain social positions. Of the urban dwellers, 40% are Sunni; of those, 80 percent live in the five largest cities. Alawis live in rural areas. About 90 % of the inhabitants of the Jabal al Arab are Druze. Armenians and Jews are largely urban traders.

There are only eight wholly nomadic tribes remaining whose range crosses international boundaries. They are the Ruwala (by far the largest) and the Hassana of the Syrian Desert; the Butainat and the Abadah, near Palmyra in central Homs Province; the Fadan Walad and the Fadan Kharsah; and the Shammar al Zur and the Shammar al Kharsah in Deir al Zor Province.

All the minority groups have a strong cultural identity, resulting in cultural differences that distinguish the ethnic and religious communities. There are differences in clothing, household architecture, agricultural practice, and outlook, besides the differences in belief and practice.

Kurds make up about 10% of the total population. Although some Kurdish groups have lived in the country for generations, many arrived from Turkey between 1924 and 1938.

Around 35 to 40 percent of the Kurds live in the foothills of the Taurus Mountains north of Aleppo. An equal number live in the Jazirah. About 10 % live in the vicinity of Jarabulus northeast of Aleppo; and from 10 to 15 percent in the Hayy al Akrad (Quarter of the Kurds) on the outskirts of
Damascus. They do not hold Syrian citizenship, and there are government restrictions on the use of the Kurdish language and culture. Without citizenship, they are unable to own land, are not permitted to practice as doctors or engineers or be employed by the government, are ineligible for admission to public hospitals, have no right to vote or travel to and from the country.

Most Kurds are Sunni Muslims; a very small number are Christian and Alawi. The Yazidis who who number around 12,000 and also speak Kirmanji are sometimes considered Kurds. They inhabit the mountain regions around Aleppo; and a few villages in the Jazirah. Most of the Yazidis work the land for Muslim landowners.

About 150,000 Armenians live in Syria. Roughly 75 percent live in Aleppo, where they are a large and commercially important element, and fewer than 20 percent live in the Hayy al Arman (Quarter of the Armenians) section of Damascus. The remainder are scattered in the larger towns along the northern border of the Jazirah. Most Armenians belong to the Armenian Orthodox Church, a smaller number belong to the Armenian Catholic Church.

There is a small number of Turkomans, who are Sunni Muslim, Circassians who are also Sunni; around 20,000 Assyrians, who are Nestorian Christians and speak Syriac, a form of Aramaic.



6- Education

All schools in Syria are government-run and nonsectarian. The Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Higher Education are responsible for all aspects of administration and curriculum development. Legislation passed in 2001 allows the establishment of some private universities and colleges.

Schooling is divided into 6 years of compulsory primary education, 3 years of lower secondary education, and 3 years of upper secondary education. Vocational secondary training schools offer courses in industry, agriculture, commerce, and primary school-teacher training. The usual entrance age for secondary schooling is 15, and is 14 for teacher training institutions.

Although Arabic is the official language in public schools, the government permits the teaching of Armenian, Hebrew, Syriac (Aramaic), and Chaldean in some schools on the basis that these are "liturgical languages."

In 2003, 8.6 percent of the state budget was earmarked for education. The adult literacy rates for the year 2006 were estimated at 79.8% (86.0% for males, 73.6% for females).

The Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor sponsor literacy classes aimed at eliminating illiteracy, in keeping with Part III Article 22 of Syria’s constitution: “The educational system has to guarantee the people's continuous progress and adapt itself to the ever-developing social, economic, and cultural requirements of the people.”

Syrian government policy is to encourage enrollment in its university faculties of science, though the trend has been for more student to enroll in the faculties of arts and literature.

The University of Damascus, founded in 1923, has faculties of law, medicine, pharmacology, dentistry, Islamic jurisprudence, agriculture architecture, engineering, science, fine arts, commerce, and education. The Higher Institute for Social Work was established in 1962 to conduct research into social and economic problems. The University of Aleppo, opened in 1958, has faculties of engineering and sciences, agriculture, and literature. Tishrin University in Latakia has a similar curriculum. Al Ba’ath University in Homs, opened in 1979, is Syria's only university with departments of petroleum engineering and veterinary medicine. All instruction is in Arabic.

In September 2002, the president founded the country’s first virtual university through which students can obtain degrees from international institutions.

Internet usage in Syria is among the lowest in the Arab world, with only 0.8% of the population using the internet.

References:; Internet World Stats (IWS).;



7- Cultural life

The Arabic Language Academy, founded in Damascus 1919, is the oldest such academy in the Arab world. Its directors were Muhammad Kurd Ali (1919-1953), Khalil Mardam Bey (1953-1959), Prince Mustafa Shahabi (1959-1968), Dr. Husni Sabh (1968-1986), Dr. Shaker al Fahham (1986-present).

The Aleppo Institute of Music, founded in 1955, has departments of Eastern and Western music.

The Arab Institute of Music was founded in Damascus in 1961; the Higher Institute of Music and the Syrian National Symphony Orchestra are products of this Institute. These conservatories have trained thousands of talented musicians in the intricacies of both Arabic and European classical music. Employment for the graduating the musicians is not easy to find.

In 1992, the Ministry of Culture established a School of Music and Drama in Damascus.

The National Museum in Damascus has collections of Asian, Greek, Roman, Byzantine, and Islamic art. The museums at the site of the ancient city of Palmyra and in Aleppo are noted for their archaeological holdings.

Al Assad Library, located in Damascus, is Syria’s national library.

Syria has a large and flourishing artisan community who produce basic items such as soap, damask textiles, glassware, and shoes in small cottage industries. Aghabani cotton hand embroidered tablecloths, pottery, and wood carvings are other popular crafts.

Syrian writers, many of whom immigrated to
Egypt, played an important role in the Arab literary and cultural revival of the nineteenth century.


Prominent contemporary Syrian writers include, among others, Adonis, Haidar Haidar, Ghada al Samman, Nizar Qabbani, Zakariya Tamer, Hoda al-Naamani, Bouthaina Shaaban, Saadallah Wannous..

Some of Syria’s many fine artists who include painters, photographers, and sculptors are Ahmad Moualla, Louay Kayyali, Nizar Nabaa, Ghazi al Khalidy, Fateh al Moudarres.

Syria is one of the few Arab countries to have had indigenous film industry beginning in 1928, and to host a regular film festival. The state controls production, limiting funding is to one feature film a year. Many of the filmmakers have won prizes at international festivals. Filmmakers include Abdulhamid Abdulatif, Mustapha Akkad, Nabil al Maleh, Ammar al Shabaji, Khaled Hamadeh, Mohammed Malas, Usama Mohammad, Hashem Watandash . Syrian comedy and serialized television dramas are popular in the eastern Arab world.

Syria is a signatory of the World Heritage Convention, and is home to five UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Site of Palmyra, Ancient City of Aleppo, Ancient City of Damascus, Ancient City of Bosra, and the Crac des Chevalier.

Reference: Encyclopædia Britannica Online



8- Religion

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the government generally respects this right in practice. The constitution requires that the president be a Muslim, but Islam is not the state religion. Christians, Muslims, and other religious groups are subject to their respective religious laws on marriage, divorce, and inheritance. All religions and religious orders must register with the government, which monitors fund raising and requires permits for all meetings by religious groups, except for worship. The government generally permits national and ethnic minorities to conduct traditional, religious, and cultural activities.

Muslims constitute the majority of the population. Of those, 74% are Sunni. Alawis account for 10% of the total population and Druze about 6%. There is a small number of Ismailis and Yazidis. Around 10% of the population is Christian, and a small number of Jews remain in Damascus.

The government considers militant Islam a threat and keeps an eye on the practice of its members. Mosque sermons are monitored and controlled, and mosques are closed between prayers.

The two main Syrian churches are the Orthodox and the Catholic; Greek Orthodox make up 50–55% of the Christian population; the Greek Catholics which include Armenian, Maronite, Chaldean, Melkite and Syriac make up 18%; the Syrian Orthodox, Assyrians and Armenian Orthodox churches make up the rest.

The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East manages the See of Lebanon and Syria from Damascus.

The Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East, of Alexandria and of Jerusalem is also Eastern Rite Catholic church based in Damascus.

The Monastery of St Symeon the Stylite is the most famous of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Aleppo.

Image source:



9- Economy

Syria’s economy is based on agriculture, oil, industry, and tourism. The high population growth rate compounds growing pressure on Syria’s limited water supplies, which are strained by heavy agricultural use, industrial expansion, and water pollution. Syria is currently the subject of U.S. economic sanctions under the Syria Accountability Act, which prohibits the export and re-export of most U.S. products to Syria. Addtional strain is put on the economy by defense spending. Major sectors of the economy including refining, ports operation, air transportation, power generation, and water distribution, are state run.

Agriculture accounts for 25% of GDP and employs a quarter of the total labor force. Cereals, cotton, tobacco, fruits and olives are cultivated intensively. One third of Syria's land is arable, with 80% of cultivated areas dependent on rainfall for water. Farms are privately owned, but the government controls important elements of marketing and transportation. The government has made large investments in irrigation systems in northern Syria and the Jazirah region, as part of a plan to increase irrigated farmland by 38% over the next decade.

Oil accounts for a majority of Syria’s export income and oil exports are one of the country’s most important sources of foreign exchange. The government has begun to work with international energy companies so as to becoming a gas exporter. Presently all natural gas produced in the country is consumed domestically.

Industry accounts for 23% of the GDP and includes the production of phosphates, fertilizers, iron, steel, and cement. Textiles are the largest single manufacturing industry, mainly cotton and silk textile production. Syrian artisans are noted for the high quality of their silk brocades and rugs and for their artistic metalwork in brass, copper, silver, iron, and steel. The soap, glass, flour, tobacco, tanning, vegetable oil, and food-processing industries are growing.

From the 1960s through the late 1980s, the government nationalized companies and private assets. It withdrew from the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) in 1951 when Israel became a member. It submitted a request to join the World Trade Organization in 2001. Syria is a member of the Greater Arab Free Trade Agreement (GAFTA) which came into effect in 2005. Customs duties are eliminated between all members of GAFTA. Members are the Arab League countries with the exception of
Mauritania, Somalia, Comoros and Djibouti. Syria has signed a free trade agreement with Turkey, which came into force in January 2007, and initialed but not yet signed an Association Agreement with the EU.

In 2001, Syria legalized private banking, and is taking steps to loosen controls on foreign exchange. Syria's exchange rate is fixed, and the government maintains two official rates -- one rate on which the budget and the value of imports, customs, and other official transactions are based, and a second set by the Central Bank on a daily basis that covers all other financial transactions. In 2003, the government canceled a law that criminalized private sector use of foreign currencies, and in 2005 it issued legislation that allows licensed private banks to sell specific amounts of foreign currency to the private sector to finance imports, and to Syrian citizens under certain circumstances.

In June 2005, Syria defined its new economic identity as a “social market economy” and adopted the “Tenth Five Year Plan 2006–2010.” This plan ensures private sector participation in decision making and the execution of development plans.

More than half of the 80 laws and 80 legislative decrees issued in 2005 and 2006 have been targeted toward modernizing the economy and promoting an attractive business environment. Measures have been taken to strengthen insurance regulations, customs procedures, and intellectual property rights, licensing private banks (including Islamic banks); reviving the Monetary Council; establishing the Syrian stock market; and modernizing intellectual property rights, taxes, and customs duties laws.

Syria’s main trading partners are Germany, Italy, France, United States, and the United Kingdom.

Its main exports are: Crude oil, petroleum products, fruits and vegetables, clothing and textiles, meat, live animals, wheat.

Its main imports are: Machinery, transport equipment, electric power machinery, food, livestock, metal and metal products, chemicals and chemical products, plastics, yarn, paper.



10- Natural Resources

Good farmland is located in the coastal region and in parts of the valleys of the Orontes and Euphrates rivers. Petroleum, natural gas, phosphate rock, asphalt, and salt are the main Syrian minerals found in sufficiently large quantities for commercial exploitation. Small deposits of coal, iron ore, copper, lead, and gold exist, primarily in mountainous regions.

Energy: About 20 percent of Syria's electricity is generated in hydroelectric facilities, and the remainder is produced in conventional thermal installations.

References: The Heritage Foundation 2007 Report; Arab World Competitiveness Report 2005;;



11- History
Ancient History
Christian History
Muslim History
Modern History


12- Constitution

Syria’s constitution was adopted on March 13, 1973. The Ba'ath Party (the Arab Ba'ath Socialist Party) is the dominant party in both in the state and society, and the president is given broad powers. The president is approved by referendum and serves for a 7-year term. He is also Secretary General of the Ba'ath Party and leader of the National Progressive Front.

The president decides issues of war and peace and approves the state's 5-year economic plans.


He has the right to appoint ministers, to declare war, to declare amnesty, to amend the constitution, and to appoint civil servants and military personnel. When a state of emergency is declared, the president assumes full control government. Under these circumstances, he can issue laws without the usually required ratification by the People's Council.

The constitution requires that the president be Muslim, but does not make Islam the state religion.


13- Justice and Human Rights

Justice System: Syria’s Constitution provides for an independent judiciary. The judicial system is a combination of Ottoman, French, and Islamic laws, with civil and criminal courts, military courts, security courts, and religious courts. The latter handle questions of personal status such as divorce and inheritance. The Court of Cassation, modeled on the French system, is the highest court of appeal. The Supreme Constitutional Court rules on the constitutionality of laws and decrees.

Civil and criminal courts are organized under the Ministry of Justice. Defendants before these courts are entitled to legal representation of their choice. In the case of indigents, the courts appoint the lawyer. Defendants are presumed innocent and they are allowed to present evidence and to confront their accusers. Trials are public, except for those involving juveniles or sex offenses. Defendants may appeal their verdicts to a provincial appeals court and ultimately to the Court of Cassation. There are no juries. Military courts have the authority to try civilians as well as military personnel.

Women: The Constitution provides for equality between men and women and equal pay for equal work. The government provides equal access to all educational institutions, including universities. According to the Syrian Women's Union, around 46 percent of the total number of students in secondary school are girls.

Women participate actively in public life and are represented in most professions, including the military. They constitute approximately 7 percent of judges, 10 percent of lawyers, 57 percent of teachers below university level, and 20 percent of university professors. They have the right to own or manage land or other property. Personal status law continues to be applicable, even when it does discriminate against women

Women require the permission of their husbands to travel abroad, and divorce laws favor men. The law specifically provides for reduced sentences in "honor" crimes, where a woman is killed by a male relative for her alleged sexual misconduct. Instances of honor crimes are rare and occur primarily in rural areas where Bedouin customs prevail. The law prohibits sexual harassment and specifies different punishments depending on whether the victim is a minor or an adult. Sexual harassment is rare, rape is a felony, and prostitution is illegal.


Women's rights activists in Syria continue their work to end all discriminatory legislation including in the areas of marriage, divorce, and inheritance.

Children: The law emphasizes the need to protect children, and the government, in cooperation with UNICEF, has organized seminars regarding the subject of child welfare. The government provides free public education from primary school through university. The government provides medical care for children until the age of 18.

The Labor Law provides for the protection of children from exploitation in the workplace. The private sector minimum age for employment is 15 years for most types of nonagricultural work, and 18 years for heavy labor.


Children under 16 are prohibited by law from working in mines, at petroleum sites, or in other dangerous fields.


The law prohibits children from working at night, and requires parental permission for children under the age of 16 to work. The exploitation of children for begging purposes also is prohibited.

The law provides for severe penalties for those found guilty of abuses against children.

Persons with Disabilities: The law prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities and seeks to integrate them into the public sector work force. There are no laws that mandate access to public buildings for persons with disabilities.

Refugees: Syria hosted more than 200,000 Lebanese refugees who fled there during the July/August 2006 conflict, as well as an estimated 500,000 refugees fleeing Iraq. Since May 2006, the country closed its border to Iraqi Palestinians and several hundred were stranded between the Iraqi and Syrian border checkpoints. There are also some 500,000 Palestinian refugees, and tens of thousands of Syrians remained displaced due to Israel's continuing occupation of the Golan.


Civil Liberties

Privacy, Family, Home: The law prohibits intrusion on privacy; in practice, security services under emergency law may enter homes and conduct searches without warrants .The security services are free to monitor telephone, fax, email and postal mail communications.

Freedom of Speech and Press: The Constitution provides for freedom of speech and of the press; in practice, unwritten rules allow the government to restrict these rights. Criticism of the government is prohibited. Journalists who fail to observe press restrictions do so at the risk of imprisonment.

The Ministry of Information and the Ministry of Culture and National Guidance censor domestic and foreign press, fiction and nonfiction works, including films. This has restricted the work of Syrian filmmakers.


Commonly censored subjects included anything to do with the government, Islamic fundamentalism, or material offensive to any of the country's religious groups.

Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association: The Constitution provides for the right of assembly; in practice, the government generally does not respect this right. Citizens need permission from the Ministry of Interior to hold a demonstration.

The government requires political forums and discussion groups to obtain prior approval to hold lectures and seminars and to submit lists of all attendees. Despite these restrictions several domestic human rights and civil society groups do hold meetings without registering with the government.

The Constitution provides for the right of association but also grants the government the right to limit their activities; in practice, workers are not free to establish unions independent of the government. The law does not prohibit strikes; however, previous government crackdowns have deterred workers from striking. Private associations are required to register with the authorities.

The government does not permit the establishment of independent political parties.

Human rights defenders in Syria have faced arrest, harassment and restrictions on their freedom of movement. In 2006, there was a wave of detention campaigns against political opposition figures, reformists, and human rights and civil society activists. In 2007, the Supreme State Security Court (SSSC) criminalized membership of the Muslim Brotherhood Movement in accordance to Law No. 49/1980. Such membership is considered a crime punishable by death.

Thousands of political prisoners remain in detention. The “disappeared” are mostly Muslim Brotherhood members and Syrian activists who were detained in the late 1970s and early 1980s, as well as hundreds of Lebanese and Palestinians who were detained in Syria or abducted from

According to Syrian and international human rights organizations, torture and ill-treatment in detention continue.

Death penalty

The death penalty is enforced for a wide range of offences, but there is little information about its use.



14- Tourism

Tourism is a well-developed industry in Syria and there is a lot to see and do in the country, including a number of annual festivals.