Syria سورية sūriyya or سوريا sūryā, officially the Syrian Arab Republic (Arabic: الجمهورية العربية السورية), is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest.
The name Syria formerly comprised the entire region of the Levant, while the modern state encompasses the site of several ancient kingdoms and empires, including the Eblan civilization of the third millennium BC. In the Islamic era, its capital city, Damascus, was the seat of the Umayyad Empire and a provincial capital of the Mamluk Empire. Damascus is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. The population is 74% Sunni Muslim, with a 13% Shia and Alawite population, 10% non-Muslim Christian and 3% Druze minorities. Since the 1960s, Alawite military officers have tended to dominate the country's politics. Ethnically, some 90% of the population is Arab, and the state is ruled by the Baath Party according to Arab nationalist principles, while approximately 10% belong to the Kurdish, Armenian, Assyrians, Turkmen, and Circassians minorities.
Modern Syria was created as a French mandate and attained independence in April 1946, as a parliamentary republic. The post-independence period was rocky, and a large number of military coups and coup attempts shook the country in the period 1949-1970. Syria has been under Emergency Law since 1962, effectively suspending most constitutional protections for citizens, and its system of government is considered non-democratic. Since 1971 the power has been concentrated first to Hafez al-Assad and then to his son Bashar al-Assad. The ruling elite, military and the secret police are largely filled with loyal Alawites, a Syrian minority.