Syria is a
country geographic region in the Middle East, located between Turkey, Iraq, Jordan, Israel, and Lebanon. It is currently being fought over by a psychopathic dictator, beheader lunatic Islamists, international Islamist terrorists, Iranian proxies, a hodgepodge of other Islamists from who knows where, persecuted minorities trying to secede, Turkish proxies, and moderate rebels.
Oh, and various oil rich Sunni theocrats, oil rich Shia theocrats, oil rich borderline dictators, people who reeeally need to know when not to get involved, and Allah knows who else are backing one or more of the various groups.
Syria was inhabited thousands of years before Creation Week. It has been part of numerous empires, including the Egyptian, Sumerian, Assyrian, Babylonian, Hittite, Persian, Roman, Ottoman, and French ones.
In Classical times Syria was a wealthy, populous province of the Greek-speaking part of the Roman Empire. Saul was on his way to Damascus, Syria to arrest Christians when he fell off his ass and became one himself. Christian, that is.
The confusing history of Syria in the 20th century can be illustrated in narratives such as Sykes-Picot carved Syria into existence through borders with no concern for the inhabitants, French
colony mandate, Syria gained its independence from France when Free France liberated Syria from Vichy France. It then entered a period of instability, and once briefly united with Egypt as the United Arab Republic from 1958-1961. After that, the Baathists took over, and they later split into the Iraqi faction (eventually led by Saddam Hussein) and the Syrian government faction led by Bashar al-Assad today.
Syria (led by Shias) was part of the coalition against Iraq (led by Sunnis) during the 1991 Gulf War. Part of the reason why is Syria hoped to gain a Shia ally in southern Iraq and weaken the Sunnis.
Today Syria is predominantly Muslim, with a significant Christian minority. Al-Sham, or the region that incorporates Syria and some neighboring territories, is considered as much of an Islamic holy land on the journey to Mecca, as Mecca itself. Syria has been an active competitor in the tourist trade with religious pilgrims for much of its history. In the current political environment and stalemate among warring belligerents, many fighters and religious pilgrims view Mecca as under occupation by the takfir Saudi state. Syria is seen as an alternative site for the hajj by some to fulfil their religious obligation, awaiting the day the caliph has amassed a strong enough force to march on the Hejaz (the Red Sea coast of the Arabian peninsula) and retake Mecca.
Syria and al-Sham play an important role in several Islamic apocalyptic traditions. Belief in the return of the Mahdi is not limited to Shi'a; it's just a difference in understanding who he is. Numerous hadiths connect up the return of the Mahdi, who is going to make things right again, with the land of al-Sham. The disorder and chaos at the start of the Syrian Civil War in 2011 marked the beginning of an apocalyptical revival with more than half of respondents to a Pew Research survey in the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia expecting the imminent return of the Madhi. Foreign jihadis from all corners of the earth have flocked into Syria to be part of the End Times events.
Relations with Israel
Like many Arab countries, Syria has been defeated on the battlefield by Israel several times. In 1948 Syria was part of the Arab coalition that failed to stop Zionists who in that year founded Israel, taking over (most of) previously British-administered Mandate Palestine from indigenous Arabs. In the 1967 Six-Day War, Israel chased Syrian troops deep into Syrian territory, then kept and occupied the Golan Heights. Most of the nearly 150,000 Arab inhabitants fled or were expelled, and this land continues to be occupied and colonized by Israel to this day.
Israel bombed an alleged "terrorist training camp" in Syria in 2003 and bombed an alleged nuclear reactor research station in Operation Outside the Box in 2007. Syria in turn funds and arms groups in Lebanon that fight against Israel. Israeli airplanes also periodically bomb Syrian military sites in the Golan Heights near the front lines with rebels, alleging they are being used by Iranian military forces in a threat to Israel (which is partly true). Additionally, Israel sometimes targets Hezbollah leaders during these strikes, which are technically illegal under international law.
From 2016 to 2018, Israel shared a 15 kilometer (9 mile) de facto border with a Daesh branch called Khalid ibn al-Walid Army. This group controlled a 150 square kilometer area (57 square miles) and 12 villages along the border. It fought al-Qaeda and other rebel fighters in Syria as it held out along this shared border. Despite Israel conducting numerous drills of a mock Syrian invasion scenario, it refused to attack these Daesh fighters at all, even though they were within shooting and artillery range. This was because of a longstanding Israeli policy to not attack foreign groups, even if it's Daesh, as long as they don't attack Israel. For some time, Israel provided hospital care to al-Qaeda fighters and other rebels fighting along the border in Syria in Operation Good Neighbor.
Relations with Lebanon
With its capital and largest city, Damascus, having lost its ancient direct links to the Mediterranean Sea in Beirut and Tripoli, Syria has long depended on and used Lebanon as an economic resource. Syria invaded Lebanon in 1976 and occupied it until 2006. Syria is frequently accused of being behind political assassinations in Lebanon. Today, Syria has good relations with Lebanon, as they have both cooperated in fighting terror cells along their shared border.
There are many diverse religious groups in Syria, complicating politics and giving the government an excuse to keep a tight lid on everyone.
- Sunnis are the majority, about 68% of the population.
- Shi'as are about 16% of the population, most of whom are Alawis, a minority sect within a minority sect that most of the ruling class belong to. The Alawis (Alawites) splintered off of Shi'a Islam in the 9th century and integrated pagan, gnostic, and Christian doctrines. Alawi literally means "those who adhere to the teachings of Ali," the son-in-law of the Prophet Muhammad. Sunnis consider the sect heretical (just like they consider all Shi'as to be heretics). This has been used as a justification for sectarian killings and execution of government soldiers. Often, if a soldier is captured, Sunni jihadi groups will ask "Sunni or Nusayri" (a slur for Shi'a), and kill you if you say Shi'a. Sometimes you will be told to pray, as Shi'as and Sunnis pray differently.
- Druze are about 3% of the population; they are an ethnic group with their own monotheistic religious outlook separate from others. They are mostly centered in a certain area in the south of the country.
- Christians make up about 11% of the population, including the Assyrians, the people the area is actually named after.
- There are also 40,000 or so Yazidis in Syria, whose religion consists of a "Gnostic core belief structure with other elements of Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity, Manichaeism, and Islam," and who are often persecuted for the unintentional (but mythologically related) resemblance of their object of worship, the Peacock Angel, to Satan in Christianity and Iblis in Islam. In August of 2014 Daesh started trying to kill their men and turn their women and children into sex slaves. They partially succeeded.
In 1973 Hafez Assad introduced a new constitution which deleted any reference to Islam as the religion of the state and was seen by opponents of the Assad government, primarily the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, that the Alawite-Ba'athists were not only secularists, but anti-Islamic as well.
There are hardly any Jews left, except for maybe some Mossad spies...
Syrian people speak primarily Arabic, spoken by 87% of the population. 9% of people, mostly in the north, speak Kurdish, although many of these speak Arabic as a second language. Assyrians, who speak Neo-Aramaic, comprise 1% and live in small communities in the northeast.
Beginning in 2011, there has been an ongoing conflict with Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad and multiple forces. See the main article for more information.
- Syria: Muslim Brotherhood Pressure Intensifies. Defense Intelligence Agency. 22 April 1982. Declassified document regarding Hama massacre with background of Ba'athist-Syrian Muslim Brotherhood tensions dating back to 1963.
- Syria's war: Who is fighting and why, Vox
- See the Wikipedia article on Syria.
- How Syrians Are Dying - The New York Times
- Army of the Lavant>The End of French Rule