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Syria (Arabic: سوريا Sūriyā or سورية Sūriyah), or the Syrian Arab Republic (Arabic: الجمهورية العربية السورية ), is a country in Southwest Asia, bordering the Mediterranean Sea and Lebanon to the west, Israel to the southwest, Jordan to the south, Iraq to the east, and Turkey to the north. The modern state of Syria was governed by a French mandate after World War I, Its capital city, Damascus is one of the oldest cities in the world, a seat of the Aramaean empire, and in Muslim times the seat of the Umayyad Empire and a provincial capital of the Mamluk Empire.

Syria has a population of 20.3 million. Sunni Muslims constitute 74% of the population. Other Muslim groups include Alawites 11%, Druze and other Muslim sects 5%. This includes a notable Kurdish minority in the north. There are also various Christian sects constituting 10% of the total population. Since 1963 the country has been governed by the Baath Party, Syria's current President is Bashar al-Assad, son of Hafez al-Assad, who held office from 1970 until his death in 2000. The Assads belong to the tiny Alawi minority.

Historically, Syria has had fluctuating borders. It sometimes  included part or all of the territories of Lebanon, Israel, the West Bank, Gaza Strip and parts of Jordan.

The Syrians claim that any part of this region that was ever part of Syria as a political or geographic entity, should be considered Greater Syria or by the Arabic name Bilad al-Sham (بلاد الشام) and they actively lay claim to both Israel and Lebanon as well as Palestinian lands. They have never established diplomatic relations with Lebanon. The Syrian Government relinquished its claim over the region of İskenderun, now part of the Turkish province of Hatay. The area used to be part of Syria, but the Syrian government agreed to recognize Turkish sovereignty after Turkey threatened military action. In the Six-Day War of 1967, Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria following incessant shelling of Israeli settlements from Syrian fortified positions in the Golan. (From: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Syria).

Map of Syria

Country Stub - to be supplied

Synonyms and alternate spellings:

Further Information:   

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Encyclopedia of the Middle East

Note - This encyclopedia is a work in progress. It is far from complete and is being constructed and improved all the time. If you would like to contribute articles or expansions of existing articles, please contact news (at) mideastweb.org.  Suggestions and corrections are welcome. The concise version of this dictionary is at our Middle East Glossary.

Spelling - Spelling of words in Middle-Eastern languages is often arbitrary. There may be many variants of the same name or word such as Hezbollah, Hizbolla, Hisbolla or Husayn and Hussein. There are some conventions for converting words from Semitic languages such as Arabic and Hebrew There are numerous variant renderings of the same Arabic or Hebrew words, such as "Hizbollah," "Hisbulla" etc. It is not possible to find exact equivalents for several letters. 

Pronunciation - Arabic and Hebrew vowels are pronounced differently than in English. "o" is very short. The "a" is usually pronounced like the "a" in market, sometimes as the "a" in "Arafat."  The " 'A " is guttural.  " 'H "- the 'het ('Hirbeh, 'Hebron, 'Hisbollah') designates a sound somewhat similar to the ch in "loch" in Scots pronunciation, but made by touching the back of your tongue to the roof of your mouth. The CH should be pronounced like Loch, a more assertive consonant than 'het.

The "Gh" combination, and sometimes the "G," designate a deep guttural sound that Westerners may hear approximately as "r." The "r" sound is always formed with the back of the tongue, and is not like the English "r."

More information: Hebrew, Arabic

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