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Cities in SYRIA



From Ottoman Empire to independent state

As part of the Ottoman Empire, Syria between 1516 and 1914 comprised an area that also included Lebanon, Israel and Jordan. Present-day Syria emerged at the end of the First World War after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. The area became a French mandate area in 1920. Syria was officially recognised by France in 1941, but the country did not gain de-facto independence until the withdrawal of French and British troops in 1946. After the first Syrian constitution came into being in 1950, Syria was part of the United Arab Republic together with Egypt from 1958 to 1961. However, a coup in Damascus put an end to this pan-Arab initiative and the Ba'ath Party (an Arab socialist, secularist party) eventually took power in 1963. Four years later, in June 1967, Syria lost the Golan to Israel in the Six Day War.

Period Hafez al-Assad

In November 1970, Hafez al-Assad, an Alawite who had made a rapid career in the Syrian armed forces and the Baath Party, seized power in a (bloodless) coup. A year later, in March 1971, he was elected President of Syria in a referendum. An attempt to retake the Golan from Israel during the Yom Kippur War in October 1973 failed, after which a ceasefire was agreed between the two countries a year later. Since then, regaining the Golan has been one of the central themes in Syria's foreign policy. Despite the (international) political and economic problems the country faced during his 30-year rule, Assad managed to bring internal stability to Syria and make the country a significant player in the Middle East.

Bashar Al-Assad comes to power

After the death of Hafez Al-Assad on 10 June 2000, he was succeeded by his son Bashar Al-Assad. The new president has set himself the task of modernising Syria and has indicated that he wants to implement (cautious) economic and social reforms. It remains to be seen, however, whether he will succeed in this and whether there will be any political changes.

In September 2003, President Asad appointed Mohammed Naji al-Otari prime minister. In 2004, the United States decided to impose economic sanctions on Syria because of what it called its support for terrorism. In 2005 and 2006, the situation remained tense, partly because of the murder of the former Lebanese Prime Minister Hariri and Syria's alleged involvement in this. In 2007, Asad was re-elected president. In July 2008, President Asad visited Sarkozy in Paris, signalling the end of Syria's political isolation by the West. In October 2008, Lebanon and Syria established diplomatic relations for the first time since the countries' independence. In April 2009, Mohammed Zuhair al-Siddiq, an officer in the Syrian security service, was arrested in Dubai. He witnessed the assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. In February 2010, the US appointed an ambassador to Syria for the first time in five years. In May 2010, sanctions against Syria were renewed due to Syria's support for terrorist groups.

Civil war

A civil war has been raging in Syria since 2011. By now (March 2014) the civil war has claimed the lives of at least 100,000 civilians. On average, 5,000 more are killed every month. 6.5 million people had to leave their homes. Over 2 million people fled to neighbouring countries such as Jordan and Lebanon. Refugee camps can barely cope with the growing influx. Jihad fighters from Europe are also involved in the conflict. The UN has so far been powerless against the violence. A small success has been the enforced destruction of chemical weapons, which was completed in June 2014. In 2015 and 2016, the conflict continues with more and more players. The United States and its allies, Russia, Turkey and the Kurds all intervene in the civil war, all with their own interests and agendas. Meanwhile, the breakdown continues with the low points being the destruction of Palmira by Islamic State and the bombing of Aleppo in September and October of 2016. In 2017, Islamic State is pushed back further and further. Putin pays a visit to Syria in December 2017 and declares that Russian forces have completed their task.

In early 2018, the situation is still very unstable with many warring parties. In July 2018, the Syrian army recaptures almost the entire south of the country, up to the borders with Jordan and Israeli-occupied territory. Kurdish-led SDF forces launch an offensive in late 2018 that reduces Islamic State's territory to a tiny enclave on the Iraqi border. The US withdraws its troops from northern Syria in October 2019, prompting Turkey to attack Kurdish allies in the area. Turkey is sending thousands of troops across the border in 2020 to stop a Syrian offensive to retake Idlib, the last province still in the hands of the opposition. Protests in southern Syria against growing economic problems prompted President Assad to sack Prime Minister Imad Khamis in June 2020. According to a UN estimate in September 2021, the death toll from the civil war over the past 10 years exceeds 350,000, although the UN acknowledges that this is the minimum verifiable death toll and an undercount. By the end of 2021, about 6.7 million Syrians were internally displaced and about 14 million people across the country were in need of humanitarian assistance. Another 5.7 million Syrians were registered refugees in Turkey, Jordan, Iraq, Egypt and North Africa. The conflict in Syria remains one of the biggest humanitarian crises worldwide.


Elmar Landeninformatie

CIA - World Factbook

BBC - Country Profiles

Last updated May 2024
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