Country Profile - Syria
The Syrian Arab Republic is a country located in the Near East, South West Asia, and borders Turkey, Iraq, Jordan, Israel and Lebanon. It has a population of 18.02 million, making it the 63rd most populous country in the world.
The capital is Damascus, with a population of roughly 2.56 million people, whilst the most populous city, Aleppo, contains 3.56 million people. Arabic is the official language of Syria, although Kurdish, Armenian, French and English are also spoken. The majority religion is Sunni Islam, with Shi’a sects being a minority. Further minorities include various sects of Christianity and Druze communities.9
Syria remains a high-risk country, continuing to be gripped in the midst of a brutal civil war that has seen over 470,000 deaths, including 55,000 children.10 The political-military situation is extremely complicated and the country is divided in physical, ethnic, political and religious terms as full-scale warfare continues in much of the country. The risk of terrorism remains high owing to the presence of Daesh and designated terrorist groups such as Tahrir al-Sham.
Syria is viewed as one of the most corrupt countries in the world, being ranked at 173 of 176 countries by Transparency International’s 2016 Corruption Index.11 Corruption exists in every aspect of the Syrian state, stemming from the regime itself, and particularly in its judiciary. Anti-corruption legislation is occasionally passed through government, but this would appear to be merely symbolic.
The Syrian economy is in turmoil. Syria’s GDP has been estimated by the World Bank at just US$15 billion in 2016 with poor forecasts owing to the ongoing conflict. The main currency is the Syrian Pound.
Syria is officially a semi-presidential republic. Bashar al-Assad is the current President, Head of State and Commander-in-Chief, who holds executive power and appoints the cabinet. The current head of government is Prime Minister Imad Muhammad Dib Khamis. The president is elected every seven years by a majority popular vote, the last of which occurred in 2014. al- Assad won with 88.7% of the vote; although the Gulf Cooperation Council, EU and United States condemned the election as meaningless’, an international delegation of thirty countries including Brazil, Russia, Iran and Venezuela stated that the election was free and transparent.12
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