What to know about Syria

National/World News

A map with Syria highlighted. Iraq, Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan are also labeled.

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Syria is a Middle Eastern country sharing a border with Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, Iraq and Turkey.

About Syria:

Area: 185,180 sq km, slightly larger than North Dakota

Population: 18,028,549 (July 2017 estimate)

Median age: 24.1 years old

Capital: Damascus

Ethnic Groups: Arab 90.3%, Kurds, Armenians and other 9.7%

Religion: Muslim 87%, Christian 10% and Druze 3%

GDP (purchasing power parity): $50.28 billion (2015 estimate)

GDP per capita: $2,900 (2015 estimate)

Unemployment: 50% (2017 estimate)


1517-1918 – Part of the Ottoman Empire.

1920 – The League of Nations puts Syria under French control.

April 17, 1946 – Independence is declared after French troops leave the country.

1949-1958 – A series of coups leads to instability in the country.

February 1, 1958 – Syria and Egypt merge, creating the United Arab Republic.

September 28, 1961 – Syria secedes from the United Arab Republic.

1967 – Syria loses the Golan Heights to Israel during the Six Day War.

November 13, 1970 – Minister of Defense Hafez al-Assad stages a bloodless coup.

1976-2005 – Approximately 17,000 Syrian troops are stationed in neighboring Lebanon.

1979-present – Syria appears on the US State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism.

June 10, 2000 – Hafez al-Assad dies.

July 10, 2000 – Bashar al-Assad is elected president by referendum, winning 97% of the vote. He is re-elected in 2007.

March 2011-present – Civil war in Syria.

January 22, 2014 – At the Geneva II conference, US Secretary of State John Kerry says the path to a peaceful Syria must involve the world community, but cannot include Syrian President al-Assad.

June 3, 2014 – President Assad is re-elected, receiving 88.7% of the vote in the country’s first election since civil war broke out in 2011. The election is criticized by opposition groups and many Western countries.

September 22-23, 2014 – The United States and allies launch airstrikes against ISIS targets in Syria for the first time.

May 2015 – ISIS takes control of the ancient city of Palmyra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site dating back 2,000 years, and destroys its temples and shrines in the months that follow.

August 17, 2015 – The UN says the humanitarian crisis in Syria is worsening, estimating that at least 250,000 Syrians have been killed, more than a million have been injured and almost half the population displaced since the civil war began in 2011.

January 27, 2017 – US President Donald Trump signs an executive order that indefinitely suspends admissions for Syrian refugees and limits the flow of other refugees into the United States by instituting what the President has called “extreme vetting” of immigrants. Syria is one of seven countries included in the travel ban.

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