The presidency of Bashar al-Assad, which began in 2000, saw the rise of new elites, young urban professionals from different ethnic or religious backgrounds, who share a high level of education as well as Bashar’s aspiration to modernize the country, that is, to raise the technological level and to develop the economy.
Results for Category: Syria
Syria is not a tribal society, except for the semi-nomadic Bedouins, most of whom live in the Syrian deserts. Syria is – at least formally – a state in which ethnic or religious backgrounds are not supposed to play a role. It is a secular state; the President insists secularity should be maintained, even strengthened – hence the ban on wearing a veil for university students, introduced in July 2010.
Syria’s ethnic and religious composition is fairly homogenous. The population is overwhelmingly Arab and of Sunni Muslim religious denomination. Its dominant culture is Arab Islamic. Ethnic and religious minorities have nonetheless left a significant mark on Syrian society. The population distribution is uneven, with most of the Syrians living in the western part of the country. An extensive desert stretches across most of Syria’s eastern territory.
In 2012, Syria’s Human Development Index (UNDP) was 0.648. Over the past thirty years, it rose by 0.77 percent annually from 0.603 in 1980. Still, Syria’s HDI is lower than might be expected from an oil-producing country, especially given Syria’s GDP. In this respect, Syria ranks 116 out of 187, below Egypt and just above Morocco, Iraq and Yemen.
There are notable – regional and other – imbalances in Syria in regard to the distribution of age, work, wealth and – inversely – poverty. According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP, Poverty in Syria, data for 2003-2004), almost two million inhabitants (11.4 percent of the population) cannot meet their basic food and non-food needs. Using a broader definition of poverty, 30.1 percent of the population (5.3 million individuals) may be considered poor.
In mid-March 2011 the Syrian authorities faced mass protests as people demanded basic rights. These protests soon led to violent clashes with the Syrian security forces, and many protestors were killed or arrested. The uprising culminated in a large-scale conflict in which the opposition took up arms to defend itself against the government forces, leading to severe destruction and many casualties. The conflict has increasingly attracted the involvement of outside forces, leading to growing sectarian tensions in the region. As of October 2015, more than 4 million Syrians had fled the country and the death toll since 2011 had passed 250,000.
Syria has formed the centre of many civilizations, from the Early Bronze Age kingdom of Ebla, a city with 15,000 inhabitants, to the Umayyad Empire with its capital in Damascus. In mid-March 2011 the Syrian authorities faced mass protests as people demanded basic rights. These protests soon led to violent clashes with the Syrian security forces, and many protestors were killed or arrested.