Forgotten World (189): Syria

Syria is home to diverse ethnic and religious groups, including Kurds, Armenians, Assyrians, Alawite Shias and Druze, as well as the Arab Sunnis who make up a majority of the Muslim population. Modern Syria gained its independence from France in 1946 but has lived through periods of political instability driven by the conflicting interests of these various groups.
For a while, from 1958-61, it united with Nasser’s Egypt, but an army coup restored independence before the Alawite-controlled pan-Arab Baath (Renaissance) party took control in 1963. It rules over the nation of 22 million to this day.
On the world stage, Damascus has been increasingly isolated in recent years, having come under fire for its alleged support for insurgents in Iraq, and over its role in Lebanon. That isolation appears to be easing after efforts by France to bring Syria back into the international fold.
Syria is one of Israel’s staunchest enemies and supports a number of militant groups that carry out attacks against Israel. Their current relationship flounders on the continued occupation by Israel of the Golan Heights – Syrian land taken in the 1967 war.


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