| Fun Syrian Facts! | History: | Damascus: | US pushes Syria over Hizbollah Scud claims | Hezbollah slams Gates' remarks over weapons


Country's Formal Name: Syrian Arab Republic; Country's Short Name: Syria

Fun Syrian Facts!

Syria is slightly larger than North Dakota.

Capital: Damascus

Mostly desert; hot, dry, sunny summers (June to August) and mild, rainy winters (December to February) along coast; cold
weather with snow or sleet periodically in Damascus

Natural Hazards of the Area:
Dust and sandstorms.

National Language:
Arabic; However, Kurdish, Armenian, Aramaic, Circassian are also spoken. You will still also find some people who speak French and a bit of

Syria's population is 90% Muslim--74% Sunni, and 16% other Muslim groups, including the Alawi, Shi'a, and Druze--and 10% Christian. There also is a tiny Syrian Jewish community. Arabs, including some 500,000 Palestinian and up to 1 million Iraqi refugees, make up 90% of the population.


According to our textbook, The Modern Middle East (pg. 234), the Ottoman Land Code of 1858, real estate was made an 'attractive arena for investment'. "In Syria...the French...granted tracts of land to rural and tribal leaders during the mandates period. They did this in order to buy their loyalty and counterbalance the power of urban notables. The holdings of both urban and rural notables were not negligible. By the mid-twentieth century, 1 percent of the population of Syria owned about 50 percent of the land."

After World War I, France gained control (mandate) over what was the former Ottoman Empire province of Syria. The French were able to implement their will through force with modern weapons, something unavailable to Syrians who often had few supplies to properly defend themselves. France held this control over Syria until 1946 when the country was granted its independence. Shortly after it gained its independence, Syria experienced a number of coups due to the country's severe lack of political stability.

During WWII, MESC, the Middle East Supply Center, quadrupled investment in Syrian industry.

In 1958, Syria (after political groupings such as the Ba'th Party1 demanded it) joined with Egypt to form the United Arab Republic after the Suez War of 1956. In 1961, after only 3 years, the two countries split and the Syrian Arab Republic was formed once more.

In 1967, during the Arab-Israeli War, Syria lost the Golan Heights to Israel.

During the 1960s, Syrian government used "economic incentives to gain the compliance of their citizens and reward those sectors of society the governments claimed to represent" (Gelvin, 241). The state built roads, schools, brought electricity to rural areas and undertook health care and literacy campaigns (242). Damascus University's enrollment during this time period (from 1963-1968) doubled. The state also kept food and other resources affordable by providing subsidies. Some products the state provided subsidies for are wheat, flour, cooking oil, rice, sugar, tea, petroleum, and gas.

During the 1970s, Ba'thist Syria granted many rights to its women citizens. They guaranteed women the right to vote, have guaranteed paid maternity leave and the right to child care if employed at a large facility. The Ba'thist Regime also "expanded women's rights in marriage and protected their right of inheritance" (Gelvin, 242). At this time, the state also promoted 'state feminism'. They did this in order to appease the middle class and to displace feminist organizations in the region.
Thuraya al-Hafez 2

Syria did not have the luxury of oil or natural gas underneath it's borders. Therefore, Syria would have to take a different route to prosperity.

Syria has a very diverse population, both in religion and ethnicity. The majority ethnic group are Arabs but they have Kurds, Jews, and Armenians as well. In terms of religious representation, Sunni Muslims, Christians, Jews, and Shiite sects are the main religious groups.

The Arabs account for 90.3 percent of the Syrian Population. Kurds, Armenians, and 'others' account for a mere 9.3 percent of the Syrian Population.

Class and Nationalism in the Middle East, 1920s-1960s: Leadership of Nationalist Movement (From class lecture: 02-24-10 and 03-01-10)
During the 1950s, after World War II, there was massive social change. A new class of political leaders emerged from moderate means: those from the peasantry and from the middle class.

Prosopography is a kind of political science. In essence, to understand a political party, one has to learn about its leaders.

To fully understand the lead up to the Syrian Revolt and its effects and how it sparked Nationalism, we have to first discuss the history of the political leaders.

*Sultan Atrash (1891-1982)
Sultan Atrash was the leader of the Druze during the Syrian Revolt. The Druze was "an adherent of an esoteric monotheistic religious sect living in the relative security of the
mountains of Syria and Lebanon who believes that Al-hakim was an incarnation of God" (wordnet)

*Gemal Nassar and the Free Officers
The Free Officers were men who achieved rank by making their way through the military.
These men wanted social change. They wanted to get ride of the "Old Regime" and didn't follow any particular ideology)

Legacy of Sharabi's Generation
Syrian Social Nationalist Party
Leader: Antun Sa'adeh
Wanted to reunite Syria, Lebanon and Iraq (Greater Syria)
Believed in secularism

Communist Party (1920s-1930s)

Ba'athist Party (1946)- the Arab Socialst Ba'ath Party
Ideology vs. practice
one over-all party and several 'regions'
-were supposed to become one nation
-problem: each nation had a different definition of what was good for their 'region'
-the wider the claim, the narrower the results; family rulings, not really concerned with social problems
-as popularity fell, it weakened; depended on smaller upper-class society and family to fund them
-this group was most successful in terms of taking power

Arab Nationalist Movement (1950s)

Free Officers Movement (1948)
This group was most successful in terms of taking power and making a difference


The Ommayad Mosque, Damascus, Syria, October 20, 2005. [© AP Images]
The Ommayad Mosque, Damascus, Syria, October 20, 2005. [© AP Images]

Over View of the City The Ommayad Mosque in Damascus, Syria

Interior Image of Ommayad Mosque in Damascus

"Believed to be among the world’s oldest continuously inhabited cities, it has evidence of occupation from the 4th millennium B.C.E. The first written reference to it is found in Egyptian tablets of the 15th century B.C.E.; biblical sources refer to it as the capital of the Aramaeans, and some Arabic sources have linked it with the Iram dhāt al-ʿimād, mentioned in the Qurʾān" (Damascus).

Basic Syrian Information
The Legal System in Syria is based on a combination of French and Ottoman civil law; Islamic law is used in the family court system. This system is unique and a holdover from the Ottoman empire which crumbled in 1918 after the first World War. Their system of politics is said to be a democracy, yet the current president has been in power since July 17, 2000. Somehow, President Bashar Al-Asad, managed to maintain power with 97.6% of the vote. Syria's standing as a democracy is in question due to their military authoritative nature of the government. Syria's government is set up much like the American Government we enjoy today. In truth, we are not so different both in government and in our rights.

This short excerpt from the CIA World Fact book gives a brief history of events in Syria from the 1990's to present day.

"During the 1990s, Syria and Israel held occasional peace talks over its return. Following the death of President al-Asad, his son, Bashar al-Asad, was approved as president by popular referendum in July 2000. Syrian troops - stationed in Lebanon since 1976 in an ostensible peacekeeping role - were withdrawn in April 2005. During the July-August 2006 conflict between Israel and Hezbollah, Syria placed its military forces on alert but did not intervene directly on behalf of its ally Hezbollah. In May 2007 Bashar al-Asad was elected to his second term as President. pictured below"
external image moz-screenshot.pngexternal image moz-screenshot-1.pngexternal image moz-screenshot-2.pngEl-presidente-sirio-Bachar-al-Asad-Foto-EFE-2008071220013403hg2.jpg

The tension between Israel and Syria is well documented through out their short history. The tension between the two countries continues to a strange relationship between both nations. The tense relationship goes back to their many wars in the 20th Century. One of the consequences of the many wars is that Israel controls the Golan Heights which leads straight into the capital city of Damascus. Some of tension may also be linked to this picture below, Ahmedinajad is on the left and Al-Asad is on the right. Ahmendinajad has no love for the nation of Israel.
Here is a note about the Ba'ath Party from the following source, http://www.damascus-online.com/se/hist/baath_party.htm,
“Unity [Arab], Freedom [from colonialism], and Socialism” are still the watchwords. From its earliest development, the motivation behind Ba'athist political thought and its leading supporters was the need to produce a means of reasserting the Arab spirit in the face of foreign domination. Moral and cultural deterioration, it was felt, had so weakened the Arabs that Western supremacy spread throughout the Middle East. Arabs needed a regeneration of the common heritage of people in the region to drive off debilitating external influences.

As you can see the Ba'ath party is firmly entrenched in the makeup of the Syrian government.

Also here is a brief quote from this link again concerning the Ba'ath Party and it's early beginnings

Articulated as the principle of Arab nationalism, the Ba'ath movement was one of several political groups that drew legitimacy from an essentially reactive ideology. Nevertheless, Ba'athist ideology spread slowly by educating followers to its intellectual attractions. The three major proponents of early Ba'athist thought, Zaki al-Arsuzi, Salah al-Din al-Bitar, and Michel Aflaq, were middle-class educators whose political thought had been influenced by Western education. During the 1930s Arsuzi, Salah, and Aflaq expounded their vision of Arab nationalism to small audiences in Syria. By the early 1940s Salah and Aflaq had taken the initiative to extend the movement’s operations in Damascus by organizing demonstrations in support of Rashid Ali al-Kailani’s government in Iraq against the British presence there. By 1945 the word ba'ath (Arabic for “resurrection” or “renaissance”) had been applied to what was then officially a party rather than a movement. The official founding of the party may be dated from its first party congress in Damascus on April 7, 1947, when a constitution was approved and an executive committee established. However, significant expansion beyond Syria’s borders took place only after the war of 1948, when lack of Arab unity was widely perceived as responsible for the loss of Palestine to the new state of Israel. The Iraqi branch of the Ba'ath party was established in 1954 after the merger of the Ba'ath with Akram al-Hurani’s Arab Socialist Party in 1952, to form the Arab Ba'ath Socialist Party. In February 1963 the Ba'ath Party came to power in Iraq and one month later, in March 8, it came to power in Syria after the March Revolution. Inter-party disagreements were one of the major factors that led to the Correction Movement led by Hafez al-Assad, the movement ended years of conflict within the party. A new constitution, approved in 1973, stated that the Ba'ath Party is “leading party in the state and society”. In 1972, the Ba'ath also became the leader of the 7 Syrian parties forming the National Progressive Front NPF. The national committee of the Ba'ath is the effectively the decision making body in Syria. Number of members in Syria exceeds million. (http://www.damascus-online.com/se/hist/baath_party.htm)

This also gives you insight that the Ba'ath party is not a terrorist organization. The Ba'ath party is what we might consider a government in advancement of the Syrian Arabian agenda. The Ba'ath party is just a progressive party that sees the foreign intervention as a crippling effect on Arabian society. For the most part concerning Syria, this is an extremely perceptive quote, that gives insight in the party and the Government, but not the people of Syria.
Foot Notes:
1. Ba'ath Party: Resurrection Party: "Founded in 1949, the party found support among romantic intellectuals who waxed eloquent about Arab unity as well as among hardcore organizers" (The Modern Middle East, 239). This party demanded economic and social reform. "Ba'athist regimes, a bit less ideological but no less fervent about holding onto power, still control the government of Syria and retained control of Iraq until 2003" (239).

2. Thuraya al-Hafez was a popular feminist in Syria from the 1920s until the 1970s. She also became one of the most prominent Syrian supporters of President Gamal Abd al-Nasser of Egypt.

Damascus." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2010. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 22 Feb. 2010
Gelvin , James L. The Modern Middle East . New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.
"Middle East: Syria ." Central Intelligence Agency . 2010. Web. 22 Feb 2010.
"Thuraya al-Hafez." Syrian History . 2008. Level9 Studios , Web. 22 Feb 2010.
This information was derived from the fact book from the CIA

Here is an article that I found interesting since we dealt with the issue in Illinois and now Missouri is dealing with it now.
Smoking ban in public goes into effect in Syria
Syrians smoke water-pipes outside a cafe after a law banning smoking in most public places has gone into effect, in Damascus, Syria, Wednesday, April
Syrians smoke water-pipes outside a cafe after a law banning smoking in most public places has gone into effect, in Damascus, Syria, Wednesday, April
AP – Syrians smoke water-pipes outside a cafe after a law banning smoking in most public places has gone into … By ALBERT AJI, Associated Press Writer Albert Aji, Associated Press Writer – Wed Apr 21, 9:57 am ET
DAMASCUS, Syria – A smoking ban that few are expected to abide by went into effect in Syria Wednesday, a country where people light up even in hospitals.
The ban targets most public places such as restaurants, cafes, schools, universities, hospitals, parks, movie theaters, museums and public transport.
The law, which also forbids the sale of cigarettes to minors, was approved six months ago by President Bashar Assad, a British-trained eye doctor.
The Middle East's favorite pastime — smoking water pipes — is also prohibited in public under the new law except in well-ventilated and designated areas. Also outlawed are tobacco advertising and the sale and import of sweets and toys modeled after tobacco products.
Offenders will face fines ranging between $45 and $870 and a possible three to 12 months in jail.
"The ban is good, but I doubt I will stop smoking," said businessman Bassam Shanna, 47.
The ban's effects are already being felt in Damascus' famous cafes.
The normally bustling indoor area of the Nowfara Cafe in the city's downtown area was almost entirely empty on Wednesday.
"Fifty people would be sitting here if it weren't for the ban" complained the manager, Shadi Rabbat.
However, the cafe's terrace was crowded with some 50 customers smoking water pipes.
"We hope the government will reconsider the ban," said another cafe owner who refused to give his name because he feared reprisals by the authorities.
Syria had in the past taken steps to try to restrict smoking, including a 1996 decree issued by Assad's late father, President Hafez Assad, that banned smoking in government offices, hospitals and the airport.
A 2004 law banned smoking in internet cafes and another law in 2006 made buses, railway stations, movie theaters, parks and cultural centers smoke-free, with violators facing a fine of about $10 and three months in jail. But the bans were often flouted and not strictly enforced.
This time, however, more sweeping measures were being taken, reflecting Syria's desire to join other Arab countries struggling to control smoking with bans and anti-smoking campaigns.
Fines are also steeper this time round — the fine for smoking in a cafe is $45 while it goes up to a staggering $870 in five-star hotels.
Health ministry officials will be frequently carrying out on site inspections to ensure the law was being observed in public places.
"It's a chance for me to seriously try to quit smoking," said Mohammed al-Kash, a sociology professor at Damascus University. "I am fully committed to the ban."
Three million people — or 15 percent of Syria's 23.5 million population — smoke. As much as 23 percent of these are university students, according to figures published in the state media. Syrians are thought to spend $565 million a year on smoking.
Other Arab countries are also struggling to create a more smoke free environment.
In the tobacco-loving Arab world, people smoke in offices, universities, taxis, hair salons and even hospitals and smoking has long been a social imperative and a rite of passage for young men.
Packs can cost as little as 50 cents in some Arab nations.
Egypt, Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates and most recently Iraq have imposed restrictions on smoking in public, but the bans vary in scope and enforcement.
The Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, for example, has no laws banning smoking in government offices or public places, and government employees — including President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad — regularly smoke in their offices.

Associated Press writers Hadeel Al-Shalchi in Cairo, Ben Hubbard in Ramallah and Scheherezade Faramarzi in Beirut contributed to this report.

Article in response to the smoking ban in Syria:
Syria's smoking ban leaves cafes empty
By Roueida Mabardi (AFP) – 7 hours ago
DAMASCUS — Damascus's oldest cafe, the Havana, used to be packed with customers whiling away the hours sipping coffee and puffing on a water pipe, but today it is three-quarters empty.
Like so many other places in the world, Syria has been hit by a ban on smoking in public places.
Smoking nargiles, or water pipes, in the country's ubiquitous coffee-houses is a firmly established tradition in Syria, as in most of the Middle East.
"It helps me to relax and makes me happy," says Nayla, 30, who often goes out with her friends for a nargile.
Syrians are heavy smokers of nargiles and cigarettes, with official figures showing 60 percent of men and 23 percent of men indulging in the habit, for which they collectively spend about 600 million dollars (448 million euros) a year.
A packet of cigarettes here costs 50 to 80 Syrian pounds (1.10 to 1.60 dollars/82 euro cents to 1.19 euros) and the average smoker spends eight percent of his annual salary on tobacco, says Societe Generale Pour le Tabac, the state-owned tobacco entity.
Several cigarette factories have opened in Syria in recent years, including one in the northwestern city of Lattakia in 2007 that is owned by Altadis, a unit of Britain's Imperial Tobacco Group.
In the Al-Rawda cafe, another popular hangout for Damascenes, the outdoor smoking section is packed and the sweet smell of nargile tobacco smoke fills the air.
Abdel-Karim, 40, smokes two and a half packets of cigarettes a day and resents the law that came into force on April 21, which he calls "unjust."
"It doesn't take into account the fact that more than half of Syrians are smokers. A smoker should be allowed to smoke in public places," he says.
The government had already passed a law banning tobacco advertising, its sale to under-19s and smoking on public transport and in certain public places, but that law was enforced only very half-heartedly.
Samir, 25, drives a taxi from six in the morning until four in the afternoon.
"I can't not smoke for all that time, especially with the congestion in Damascus," he says, drawing nervously on a cigarette, despite the risk of incurring a 55 dollar (41 euro) fine.
"If a policeman catches me, I'll run away. I'll leave my car and run."
If they want people to stop smoking, "they should close the cigarette factories," Samir adds.
The new law, which was passed six months ago, bans the smoking and sale of tobacco in any form in cafes, restaurants and nightclubs, as well as schools, universities, hospitals, public transport, cinemas, theatres and museums.
Offenders face a fine of between 45 and 870 dollars (34-650 euros) and potentially up to two years in prison.
But the law does allow some public places to create smoking areas.
"We are waiting for a visit from a committee that should tell us where we can have a smoking zone," says a member of staff at the Havana.

In class we are talking about Hezbollah and how they are on the U.S. terrorist list. Found another interesting article that discusses Syria as a primary backer for Hezbollah.

US pushes Syria over Hizbollah Scud claims

By Rupert Cornwell
4:00 AM Thursday Apr 22, 2010
Charges that Syria has transferred Scud missiles to the Lebanon-based radical Islamist group Hizbollah are turning into a new Middle East flashpoint, complicating United States efforts to push Israelis and Palestinians into a peace deal, and raising the spectre of new Israel-Lebanon war.
Syria's charge d'affaires in Washington was summoned to the State Department to be told of US alarm at the reports.
Rumours of such transfers had been rife for weeks before Shimon Peres, the Israeli President, first made the allegations public last week. Syria has denied the accusations, saying they are an Israeli manoeuvre aimed at slowing any rapprochement between Washington and Damascus.
The State Department stopped short of directly accusing Syria of having shipped the Scuds, saying the meeting with Zouheir Jabbour, the deputy chief of mission at the embassy, was to review Syria's "provocative" behaviour "concerning the potential transfer of arms to Hizbollah".
Later, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said the US had not yet reached a judgment on Syria's role in the affair. But the meeting was the fifth time of late that the Obama Administration has officially raised the issue with Syria, while Senator John Kerry, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, also voiced Washington's objections during a meeting with Syrian President Bashar Assad in Damascus this month.
The Senate is also delaying confirmation of Robert Ford as Washington's new envoy to Syria.
Ford, an Arab specialist who is deputy ambassador to Iraq, would fill a vacancy open since February 2005, when the Bush Administration withdrew the previous envoy after the assassination in Beirut of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Syria was widely believed to have had a hand in the killing.
The decision to send a new ambassador was thus a signal of the Administration's keenness to re-engage with Syria, to help its efforts to get the deadlocked Middle East peace process moving again. But those efforts were already beset by the row over Israel's continuing settlement building in East Jerusalem.
Israeli reports claim that Hizbollah fighters were trained by Syria last year in the use of Scuds. The weapons are assumed to be Scud Bs with a range of 300km, enabling them to hit most of Israel. But Syria's claim that the plot is an Israeli fabrication has now been echoed by the Lebanese Prime Minister, Rafik Hariri's son, Saad Hariri.
Hariri likened the Scuds to Saddam Hussein's non-existent weapons of mass destruction which served to justify the 2003 invasion of Iraq. In doing so, he implicitly raised the prospect of a third Israeli war against Lebanon, after those of 1982 and 2006.
Ehud Barak, Israel's Defence Minister, has denied that Israel had any intention of starting a new war.
Nonetheless, analysts say that Syria, and Hizbollah's other key backer Iran, have rearmed the radical group since the July 2006 war with Israel.
By Rupert Cornwell

Hezbollah slams Gates' remarks over weapons

This is the link to an article that was just posted (04-28-10) about Hezbollah, Israel and the United States in regards to Syria.

History of Syrian Flags

We saw that the Iranians had changed their flag multiple times during the Iranian Revolution. Syria too has had several flags, that changed during the French control of Syria.

external image flag1.jpg
1918: Flag of the Great Arab Revolution, it was adopted after Arab troops liberated Syria from the Turkish rule.
external image flag2.jpg
1920: Flag of the short lived Kingdom of Syria under King Faisal.
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1920: The flag imposed by the French authorities in the first month of the French mandate.
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1925: The flag imposed by the French authorities after the Syrian Revolution against the mandate.
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1936: The flag adopted by the Syrian government following the signing of the Franco-Syrian treaty which gave Syria partial independence.
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1958: Flag of the United Arab Republic, with the two stars symbolizing the union of Egypt and Syria.
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1961: When the union with Egypt was split, Syria readopted the 1936 flag.
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1963: The Flag adopted by the Baath Party after it came to power in March 1963.
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1971: Flag of the Federation of Arab Republics, which consisted of Egypt, Libya and Syria.
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1982: The Federation of Arab Republics split after Egypt made separate peace agreement with Israel. This current Syrian flag was adopted in 1982.
The colors of the flag each symbolize something else. The red stands for the blood of the Syrians martyrs, the other 3 remaining colors each represent a different dynasty. The current flag of Syria was first introduced in 1958 by the president of Egypt, Gamal Abd al-Nasser as a union of the two countries. This was symbolized by the two stars. The green symbolizes the Fatimid dynasty of Syria, that was an Shi'a Arab dynasty that ruled of many neighboring countries from 909-1171. The white symbolizes the Umayyad dynasty, which placed Damascus as the capital of the Caliphates from 651-750. The final color is black, which symbolizes the Abbasid dynasty. They took over in 750 and were the reason that Damascus was no longer the capital of the Caliphates. This is a brief history about the colors of the flags and next to the pictures of the flags there is a brief description about the flags coming about.

There is also a very good time line of Syrian History at http://lexicorient.com/e.o/syria.history.htm#pre-history
Flags from http://www.damascus-online.com/history/flags.htm