Syria has a population of about 23 million people. Majority, about 74% are Sunni Muslims whole 12% of the population are Alawites, a Shia Muslims sect. Besides being the minority, Alawites have been dominant in government for several decades. An estimated 10% of Syria’s population is Christian. The Druze, a mystical sect with aspects that are common to a few monotheistic religions, comprises a smaller percentage of the country’s population.
Most people living in Syria are Arabic speakers. An estimated 9% of the country’s population, mostly those who live in the northeast parts speak Kurdish.
3. Cradle of Civilization
Syria has been home to civilization for a minimum of 10,000 years. Ebla, an ancient majestic city that flourished between 1800 BC and 1650 BC was located in Syria. There were numerous cuneiform tablets, reaching up to 20,000 were discovered in this city and provided an extraordinary view of how the day to day life in Mesopotamia was at the time. Since the discovery of these tablets, Ebla has become part of the major history of ancient empires. At different times, the region was ruled by Assyrians, Egyptians, Persians, Chaldeans, Romans and Macedonians.
4. Large cities in Syria
The largest cities in Syria are Aleppo located in the northwest as well as Damascus to the southwest. Both cities are truly ancient. The first mentioning of Damascus was in an Egyptian document that dates back to 1500 BC. Carbon dating done on archaeological sites located close to Tell Ramad, on the outskirts of Damascus show that the site had been occupied way back in 6300 BC.
5. Oldest Occupied City
Aleppo is said to be the oldest city in the world that has been occupied continuously. Evidence of human habitation of this city dates back as far as 6000 BC. Continuous occupation of the city may have been as a result of its location along Silk Road which made it bustle with trade over centuries.
6. Part of Ottoman Empire
Syria was part of Ottoman Empire for close to four centuries. Syria was controlled by the French along with the present day Lebanon after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in 1918. The country gained independence from the French in 1946. Due to the fact that Syria and Lebanon shared the same territory, Syria has made efforts to exert influence on Lebanon. Between 1976 and 2005, troops from Syria occupied parts of Lebanon allegedly to guard Lebanon against external threats.
7. Removal of Syria from Lebanon
Syria’s presence in Lebanon was brought to an end by public demonstrations following assassination of the Prime Minister of Lebanon, Rafic Hariri. The father to the current Syrian president, Hafez al-Assad remained in power from 1971 till he died in 2000. He violently killed thousands of civilians in 1982 during a Muslim Brotherhood crackdown in 1982. His son took up the presidency following his father’s death in 2000.
8. Syria’s Civil Conflict
The ongoing civil war in Syria started following the violent suppression of pro-democracy demonstrations by President Bashar Al-Assad in 2011. Rebel groups prepared to oust the president but the groups comprised of Islamist factions which made the U.S get cautious of assisting them.
9. Millions of Syrians Displaced
According to the United Nations, an estimated 100,000 Syrians have died in the Syrian ongoing conflict so far. World leaders condemned the move by government forces that saw 300 people massacred in Syria’s Homs city in February, 2012. Millions of Syrians have been displaced as a result of the conflict so far.
10. Syria’s International Isolation
Syria has faced growing international isolation in the recent past due to its support of Iraq insurgents and its role in Lebanon. In 2008, France attempted to bring the country to the international fold but Syria violated the UN ban to arm Hezbollah militia in Lebanon leading to extension of sanctions by the US in May, 2010.