Bashar al-Assad


(pronounced "ba-SHARE all ah-SAHD")

"The man who has become president is the same man who was a doctor and an officer and first and foremost is the citizen."

The Syrian Arab Republic covers an area of 184,050 sq km (71,043 sq mi) and is bordered on the north by Turkey, on the east and southeast by Iraq, on the south by Jordan, on the southwest by Israel, and on the west by Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea. The capital of Syria and its major city is Damascus.

Syria's population was estimated in 2002 at 17.2 million inhabitants, with an annual growth rate of 2.5%. Approximately 74% of the people are Sunni Muslims. Other religious groups include various branches of Shi'ism, Druze, and Christianity. Racially, the Syrians are varied, and except where ethnic distinctions have found religious expression, racial types are generally intermixed. It is estimated that Arabs make up about 90% of the population. Other ethnic groups include Kurds, Armenians, Turkomans, Circassians, Assyrians, and Jews. There are approximately half a million Palestinian refugees in Syria. The official language is Arabic, although Kurdish is also widely spoken. Syria has three remote villages where ancient Aramaic, the language of Christ, is still spoken.

The country's GDP is estimated at US $54.2 billion, and per capita income is US $3,200 (2001 estimate). The national currency is the Syrian pound. Despite recent reforms, Syria's economy continues to be dominated by the government. The country's four banks are all state owned, and interest rates are fixed by law. Syria's large public sector industrial firms are unproductive and unprofitable. Agriculture provides a livelihood for 40% of the workforce. Wheat, barley, and cotton are the main cash crops. Although its oil production is small by Middle Eastern standards, oil accounted for 65% of Syrian exports in 1998, the most recent year for which reliable data are available.


Office of the President
Damascus, Syria

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