Syria (Arabic: سُورِيَا or سُورِيَة, romanized: Sūriyā), officially the Syrian Arab Republic (Arabic: الجمهورية العربية السورية, romanized: al-Jumhūrīyah al-ʻArabīyah as-Sūrīyah), is a Western Asiancountry located in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Levant. It is a unitary republic that consists of 14 governorates (subdivisions), and is bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the west, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east and southeast, Jordan to the south, and Israel and Lebanon to the southwest. Cyprus lies to the west across the Mediterranean Sea. A country of fertile plains, high mountains, and deserts, Syria is home to diverse ethnic and religious groups, including the majority Syrian Arabs, Kurds, Turkmens, Assyrians, Armenians, Circassians, Albanians, and Greeks. Religious groups include Muslims, Christians, Alawites, Druze, and Yazidis. The capital and largest city of Syria is Damascus. Arabs are the largest ethnic group, and Muslims are the largest religious group.
Syria is the only country that espouses the Arab nationalist ideology known as neo-Ba'athism. Syria is a member of one international organization other than the United Nations, the Non-Aligned Movement. It was suspended from the Arab League in November 2011 and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, and self-suspended from the Union for the Mediterranean.
The modern Syrian state was established in the mid-20th century after centuries of Ottoman rule. After a period as a French mandate (1923–1946), the newly created state represented the largest Arab state to emerge from the formerly Ottoman-ruled Syrian provinces. It gained de jure independence as a democratic parliamentary republic on 24 October 1945 when the Republic of Syria became a founding member of the United Nations, an act which legally ended the former French Mandate (although French troops did not leave the country until April 1946).
The name "Syria" historically referred to a wider region, broadly synonymous with the Levant, and known in Arabic as al-Sham. The modern state encompasses the sites of several ancient kingdoms and empires, including the Eblan civilization of the 3rd millennium BC. Aleppo and the capital city Damascus are among the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world.In the Islamic era, Damascus was the seat of the Umayyad Caliphate and a provincial capital of the Mamluk Sultanate in Egypt.
The post-independence period was tumultuous, with multiple military coups and coup attempts shaking the country between 1949 and 1971. In 1958, Syria entered a brief union with Egypt called the United Arab Republic, which was terminated by the 1961 Syrian coup d'état. The republic was renamed as the Arab Republic of Syria in late 1961 after the December 1 constitutional referendum of that year. A significant event was the 1963 coup d'état carried out by the military committee of the Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party which established a one-party state. Syria was under Emergency Law from 1963 to 2011, effectively suspending the constitutional protections for citizens. Internal power-struggles within neo-Ba'athist factions caused further coups in 1966 and 1970, which eventually resulted in the seizure of power by General Hafez al-Assad. Assad assigned Alawite loyalists to key posts in the armed forces, bureaucracy, Mukhabarat and the ruling elite; effectively establishing an "Alawi minority rule" to consolidate power within his family.
After the death of Hafez al-Assad in 2000, his son Bashar al-Assad inherited the presidencyand political system centred around a cult of personality to al-Assad family. Assad and his Ba'ath regime have been condemned for numerous human rights abuses, including frequent executions of citizens and political prisoners, massive censorship and for financing a multi-billion dollar illicit drug trade. Since March 2011, Syria has been embroiled in a multi-sided civil war, with a number of countries in the region and beyond involved militarily or otherwise. As of 2020, three political entities - the Syrian Interim Government, Syrian Salvation Government and Rojava - have emerged in Syrian territory to challenge Assad's rule. Syria was ranked last on the Global Peace Index from 2016 to 2018, making it the most violent country in the world due to the war. The conflict has killed more than 570,000 people, with pro-Assad forces causing more than 90% of the total civilian casualties.[a] The war also led to the Syrian refugee crisis, with an estimated 7.6 million internally displaced people (July 2015 UNHCR figure) and over 5 million refugees (July 2017 registered by UNHCR), making population assessment difficult in recent years.