Syria (Arabic: سورية sūriyya or سوريا sūryā), officially the Syrian Arab Republic (Arabic: الجمهورية العربية السورية), is an Arab country in Southwest Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the west, Israel to the southwest, Jordan to the south, Iraq to the east, and Turkey to the north.
The name Syria formerly comprised the entire region of the Levant, while the modern state encompasses the site of several ancient kingdoms and empires, including the Eblan civilization of the third millennium BC. In the Islamic era, its capital city, Damascus, was the seat of the Umayyad Empire and a provincial capital of the Mamluk Empire. Damascus is widely regarded as one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world.
Modern Syria was created as a French mandate and attained independence in April 1946, as a parliamentary republic. The post-independence period was rocky, and a large number of military coups and coup attempts shook the country in the period 1949-1970. Syria has been under Emergency Law since 1962, effectively suspending most constitutional protections for citizens. The country has been governed by the Baath Party since 1963, although actual power is concentrated to the presidency and a narrow grouping of military and political strongmen. Syria's current president is Bashar al-Assad, son of Hafez al-Assad, who held office from 1970 until his death in 2000. Syria has played a major regional role, particularly through its central role in the Arab conflict with Israel, which since 1967 has occupied the Golan Heights, and by active involvement in Lebanese and Palestinian affairs.
The population is mainly Sunni Muslim, but with significant Alawi, Shia, Druze and Christian minorities. Since the 1960s, Alawite military officers have tended to dominate the country's politics. Ethnically, some 90% of the population is Arab, and the state is ruled by the Baath Party according to Arab nationalist principles, while approximately 10% belong to the Kurdish, Armenian, Aramean Syriacs, Turkmen, Assyrian and Circassians minorities.
Down until 1914, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Palestine, and Transjordan were not separate countries but were united under Ottoman rule. There were harsh press laws, giving rise to "comics" which made indirect political statements.
After Napoleon's invasion of Egypt at the close of the 18th century, interference by the Western European powers was nearly constant in the Eastern Mediterranean. There was concerted European military action against the Ottoman ruler Muhammad Ali in 1840-41. France occupies Lebanon, 1860-61. The Europeans tried to organise their imperialist affairs in the Middle East at the Conference of London (1886), and via the Protocol of Lebanon (1861 and 1864). The historian Nicola A Ziadeh in her 1957 book Syria and Lebanon writes: "The Powers tried to secure for themselves or their nationals concessions of great economic value, such as the Port of Beirut, the Damas-Hamah Railways, the power and transport companies in Damascus and Beirut, to mention only the more important ones. These interests were protected through political pressure on the central administration in Constantinople" (p 37).
Britain occupies Egypt in 1882.
France and Britain were actively imperialist in the Syria-Lebanon region following World War I. French army occupies Damascus, July 1920.
France "regarded Syria and Lebanon as an area of exploitation, where French capital, French colonial expansion and French culture should be developed. The interests of the people themselves were a matter of secondary importance." The French took a divide-and-conquer approach, in order to "break down the national unity." Lebanon remained under French martial law until 1925. During the Syrian rebellion of 1925-27, "the atrocities committed by the French Army were barbarous, especially the bombardment of Damascus in 1927." French officials were adamant at establishing French political, economic, and cultural control.
The French Front Populaire of Leon Blum was more liberal but fell ca. 1936.
During the mid-1950s, political leadership in Syria shifted increasingly toward radical and a
- Nicola A Ziadeh, 1957. Syria and Lebanon. History of the region from the perspective of a liberal Middle Eastern native.
- ↑ Nicola A Ziadeh, p 60.
- ↑ Nicola A Ziadeh, p 47.
- ↑ Nicola A Ziadeh, p 50.
- ↑ Nicola A Ziadeh, p 50.
- ↑ Nicola A Ziadeh, p 51.
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