A barrel bomb dropped by forces loyal to Bashar al-Assad in Aleppo

People inspect a site hit by what activists said was a barrel bomb dropped by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad on al-Marjeh neighborhood of Aleppo

People inspect a site hit by what activists said was a barrel bomb dropped by forces loyal to Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad on al-Marjeh neighborhood of Aleppo.

An injured girl lies on a bed, following reported air strikes by Syrian government

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An injured girl lies on a bed at a makeshift hospital, following reported air strikes by Bashar Al Asad government forces in Syria.

A wounded Syrian child is carried into a makeshift hospital in the rebel-held town of Douma

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A wounded Syrian child is carried into a makeshift hospital in the rebel-held town of Douma near Damascus on September 9, 2014, after reported airstrikes by Syrian government forces that killed over 10 people and wounded dozens. Douma is a rebel bastion northeast of Damascus, which has been under suffocating army siege for more than a year. Syria’s war has killed more than 170,000 people, and forced nearly half the population to flee their homes. AFP PHOTO/ABD DOUMANY (Photo credit should read ABD DOUMANY/AFP/Getty Images)

History of Syria

Syria سوریه‌Sûrî), officially the Syrian Arab Republic, is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordanto the south and Israel to the southwest. A country of fertile plains, high mountains and deserts, it is home to diverse ethnic and religious groups, including KurdsArmeniansAssyriansTurksChristiansDruzeAlawite Shias and Arab Sunnis. The latter make up the majority of the population.

In English, the name “Syria” was formerly synonymous with the Levant (known in Arabic as al-Sham) while the modern state encompasses the sites of several ancient kingdoms and empires, including the Eblan civilization of the third millennium BC. In the Islamic era, its capital city,Damascus, the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world,[6] was the seat of the Umayyad Caliphate, and a provincial capital of the Mamluk Sultanate of Egypt. The modern Syrian state was established after the First World War as a French mandate, and represented the largest Arab state to emerge from the formerly Ottoman-ruled Arab Levant. It gained independence in April 1946, as a parliamentary republic. The post-independence period was tumultuous, and a large number of military coups and coup attempts shook the country in the period 1949–1971. Between 1958 and 1961, Syria entered a brief union with Egypt, which was terminated by a military coup. Syria was under Emergency Law from 1963 to 2011, effectively suspending most constitutional protections for citizens, and its system of government is considered to be non-democratic.[7] Bashar al-Assad has been president since 2000 and was preceded by his father Hafez al-Assad, who was in office from 1970 to 2000.[8]

Syria is a member of one International organization other than the United Nations, the Non-Aligned Movement; it is currently suspended from theArab League[9] and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation,[10] and self suspended from the Union for the Mediterranean.[11]Since March 2011, Syria has been embroiled in civil war in the wake of uprisings (considered an extension of the Arab Spring, the mass movement of revolutions and protests in the Arab world) against Assad and the neo-Ba’athist government. An alternative government was formed by the opposition umbrella group, the Syrian National Coalition, in March 2012. Representatives of this government were subsequently invited to take up Syria’s seat at the Arab League.[12] The opposition coalition has been recognised as the “sole representative of the Syrian people” by several nations including the United States, United Kingdom and France.[13][14][15]

Etymology

The name Syria is derived from the ancient Greek name for Syrians: Σύριοι, Sýrioi, or Σύροι, Sýroi, which the Greeks applied without distinction to the Assyrians.[16][17] A number of modern scholars argued that the Greek word related to the cognate Ἀσσυρία, Assyria, ultimately derived from the Akkadian Aššur.[18] Others believed that it was derived from Siryon, the name that the Sidonians gave to Mount Hermon.[19] However, the discovery of the Çineköy inscription in 2000 seems to support the theory that the term Syria derives from Assyria.

The area designated by the word has changed over time. Classically, Syria lies at the eastern end of the Mediterranean, between Arabia to the south and Asia Minor to the north, stretching inland to include parts of Iraq, and having an uncertain border to the northeast that Pliny the Elderdescribes as including, from west to east, CommageneSophene, and Adiabene.[20]By Pliny’s time, however, this larger Syria had been divided into a number of provinces under the Roman Empire (but politically independent from each other): Judaea, later renamed Palaestina in AD 135 (the region corresponding to modern day Israel, the Palestinian Territories, and Jordan) in the extreme southwest, Phoenicia corresponding to Lebanon, with Damascena to the inland side of Phoenicia, Coele-Syria (or “Hollow Syria”) south of the Eleutheris river, and Iraq.[21]Since approximately 10,000 BC, Syria was one of centers of Neolithic culture (known as Pre-Pottery Neolithic A) where agriculture and cattle breeding appeared for the first time in the world. The following Neolithic period (PPNB) is represented by rectangular houses of Mureybet culture. At the time of the pre-pottery Neolithic, people used vessels made of stone, gyps and burnt lime (Vaiselles blanches). Finds of obsidian tools from Anatolia are evidences of early trade relations. Cities of Hamoukar and Emar played an important role during the late Neolithic and Bronze Age. Archaeologists have demonstrated that civilization in Syria was one of the most ancient on earth.

Around the excavated city of Ebla which is near present day Idlib in northern Syria, a great Semitic empire spread from the Red Sea north to Anatolia and east to Iraq from 2500 to 2400 BC. Ebla appears to have been founded around 3000 BC, and gradually built its empire through trade with the cities of Sumer andAkkad, as well as with peoples to the northwest.[22] Gifts from Pharaohs, found during excavations, confirm Ebla’s contact with Egypt. Scholars believe thelanguage of Ebla to be among the oldest known written Semitic languages, designated as Paleo-Canaanite.[22]However, more recent classifications of the Eblaite language have shown that it was an East Semitic language, closely related to the Akkadian language.[23] The Eblan civilization was likely conquered by Sargon of Akkad around 2260 BC; the city was restored, as the nation of the Amorites, a few centuries later, and flourished through the early second millennium BC until conquered by the Hittites.[24]