Fast facts | Inquirer Opinion

Fast facts

/ 10:55 PM September 14, 2013


Capital: Damascus

Land area: 185,180 sq. km. (includes 1,295 sq. km. of Israeli-occupied Golan Heights territory)


Administrative divisions: 14 provinces


Population: 22.5 million (July 2013 est.)

Ethnic groups: Arab (90.3 percent), Kurds, Armenians and others (9.7 percent)

Language: Arabic (official), Kurdish, Armenian, Aramaic, Circassian, French, English

Religion: Sunni Muslim (74 percent), other Muslim groups like Alawite, Druze (16 percent), Christian (10 percent), Jewish (small communities)

Chief of State: President Bashar Al-Assad (since July 17, 2000).

(A coup led by the military’s Hafiz Al-Assad in 1970 catapulted him to power. He was elected president and ruled until his death in June 2000. A month later, Assad’s son, Bashar, was elected to the presidency.)


From protest to civil war: Protests in the cities of Damascus and Deraa erupted in March 2011, with a call for the release of political prisoners. The bloody response of security forces against the protesters triggered violent unrest that spread nationwide over the next months, and resulted in a full-scale civil war by June 2012.

Fatalities: Over 110,371 (including 40,146 civilians, 27,654 army soldiers and 21,850 rebel fighters, among others) were killed as of end-August.

Refugees: Since March 2011, around 6.2 million have been displaced, taking refuge in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt.

Rebel groups: The Free Syrian Army (FSA), led by Gen. Salim Idriss, was formed in August 2011 by defectors of the Syrian army. Claiming to have 40,000 men in its command, the FSA seeks to “work hand in hand with the people to achieve freedom and dignity, topple the regime, protect the revolution and the country’s resources and stand up to the irresponsible military machine which is protecting the regime.”

The Nusra Front, formed early in the crisis with the backing of al-Qaeda in Iraq, is Syria’s most powerful jihadist group, seeking to establish an Islamist emirate in the country. The 6,000-strong group is considered by the United States as a terrorist organization.

The Syrian Islamic Front, founded in December 2012, is an umbrella organization of 12 Salafist (Sunni Muslims) groups with fighters reaching 25,000. Like Nusra Front, it aims to make Syria an Islamic emirate.

Allies of Syrian government: Iran, Russia, China and Hezbollah

Compiled by: Inquirer Research

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Sources: CIA World Factbook; BBC; The Guardian

TAGS: armed conflict, Damascus, Middle East, Syria

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