Demographics of Syria

Ethnic Syrians are of Semitic stock. 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.

Arabic is the official, and most widely spoken, language. Arabs, including some 400,000 Palestinian refugees, make up 90% of the population. Many educated Syrians also speak English or French, but English is the more widely understood. The Kurds, many of whom speak Kurdish, make up 9% of the population and live mostly in the northeast corner of Syria, though sizable Kurdish communities live in most major Syrian cities as well. Armenian and Turkic are spoken among the small Armenian and Turkoman populations.

Most people live in the Euphrates River valley and along the coastal plain, a fertile strip between the coastal mountains and the desert. Overall population density is about 140 per sq. mi. Education is free and compulsory from ages 6 to 11. Schooling consists of 6 years of primary education followed by a 3-year general or vocational training period and a 3-year academic or vocational program. The second 3-year period of academic training is required for university admission. Total enrollment at post-secondary schools is over 150,000. The literacy rate of Syrians aged 15 and older is 78% for males and 51% for females.

Ancient Syria's cultural and artistic achievements and contributions are many. Archaeologists have discovered extensive writings and evidence of a brilliant culture rivaling those of Mesopotamia and Egypt in and around the ancient city of Ebla. Later Syrian scholars and artists contributed to Hellenistic and Roman thought and culture. Zeno of Sidon founded the Epicurean school; Cicero was a pupil of Antiochus of Ascalon at Athens; and the writings of Posidonius of Apamea influenced Livy and Plutarch. Syrians have contributed to Arabic literature and music and have a proud tradition of oral and written poetry. Although declining, the world-famous handicraft industry still employs thousands.

> 16,305,659
note: in addition, there are about 38,200 people living in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights - 18,200 Arabs (16,500 Druze and 1,700 Alawites) and about 20,000 Israeli settlers (July 2000 est.)

Age structure:
0-14 years: 41% (male 3,410,417; female 3,210,215)
15-64 years: 56% (male 4,688,967; female 4,476,022)
65 years and over: 3% (male 254,448; female 265,590) (2000 est.)

Population growth rate: 2.58% (2000 est.)

Birth rate: 31.11 births/1,000 population (2000 est.)

Death rate: 5.29 deaths/1,000 population (2000 est.)

Net migration rate: 0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2000 est.)

Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.06 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.96 male(s)/female
total population: 1.05 male(s)/female (2000 est.)

Infant mortality rate: 34.86 deaths/1,000 live births (2000 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 68.46 years
male: 67.35 years
female: 69.64 years (2000 est.)

Total fertility rate: 4.06 children born/woman (2000 est.)

Nationality:
noun: Syrian(s)
adjective: Syrian

Ethnic groups: Arab 90.3%, Kurds, Armenians, and other 9.7%

Religions: Sunni Muslim 74%, Alawite, Druze, and other Muslim sects 16%, Christian (various sects) 10%, Jewish (tiny communities in Damascus, Al Qamishli, and Aleppo)

Languages: Arabic (official); Kurdish, Armenian, Aramaic, Circassian widely understood; French, English somewhat understood

Literacy:
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 70.8%
male: 85.7%
female: 55.8% (1997 est.)

See also : Syria

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