Early history and antiquity
The area of today’s Syria was probably already from the 8th millennium BC. settled. Around the middle of the 3rd millennium BC. Gradually Semitic tribes migrated from the Arabian Peninsula (Canaanites, Amorites, Aramaeans). Due to its location between the early civilizations of Mesopotamia (two-stream country, now Iraq) and Egypt, the area was a subject of controversy for centuries. Despite changing foreign rule, developed from 3000 BC. in the area of today’s Syria several city-states such as Aleppo in northern Syria and Ugarit in the northwest.
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A foreign rule of the Accadians from Northern Babylonia followed around 2000 BC. the realm of the Amurru (Amorites). In the 2nd millennium BC Syria was fought between Egyptians and Hittites. After the decline of the two great empires from 1220 BC. The Assyrians from Mesopotamia gradually rose to become the leading power in the Near East. 732 BC it was around 2500 BC. founded the kingdom of Damascus conquered by them. The Assyrian rulers were followed by the Babylonians, who around 539 BC. were exposed by the Persian Achaemenid king Kyros II.
In the 4th century BC Alexander the Great conquered almost the entire Persian Empire, which also included Syria. After Alexander’s death, the former Persian Empire was divided between his diadoches (successors) Ptolemy and Seleucus. Syria, along with Asia Minor and Mesopotamia, belonged to the Seleucid Empire (after the ruler Seleucus I Nikator). Wars with the Ptolemies and the Parthians invading from the northeast were followed by battles with the Romans, who wanted to expand their sphere of influence. 64 BC Syria was conquered by the Romans as the last part of the Seleucid Empire and became the province “Syria”. The rich trading cities on the coast (eg Tripoli and Berytus) made Syria one of the wealthiest Roman provinces.
After the division of the Roman Empire in 395 AD Syria became part of the Byzantine Empire and administered from Constantinople (Byzantium). In the 7th century, the area was conquered by the Islamic Arabs under the second caliph Omar I. Under the caliph Muawiya ibn Abi Sufyan, the founder of the Umayyad dynasty, Damascus became the political center of the Arab Empire. In the middle of the 8th century, the Sunni Abbasids took power and moved the center to Baghdad (now the capital of Iraq). For the next two centuries, Syria was ruled first by the Tulunids, who also ruled Egypt, and then by the Fatimids.
In 1076 the Seljuks, an Islamic Turkic people, conquered the Syrian areas. According to AbbreviationFinder, their expansion of power triggered the features of the Christian crusader movement, the aim of which was to liberate the “Holy Land” (Palestine) from the hands of the unbelievers. They conquered parts of Syria and Palestine, but could not keep them in the long run. In the 13th century, the Mongols conquered almost the entire Near East, but were in turn driven out of Syria by the Turkish-born Mamelukes. The Crusaders also had to give the Mamelukes their last possessions in Syria and Palestine and withdraw (Akkon’s fall in 1290/91).
In 1517 Syria was conquered by the Ottoman Sultan Selim I, who finally drove out the Mamelukes. This made the area part of the Ottoman Empire, the Ottoman (Turkish) caliphs were both secular and spiritual leaders of the Muslims.
Arab nationalists’ independence movements, such as those that emerged in the course of the 19th century, were quickly suppressed by Ottoman troops. In World War I, the Arab nationalists fought alongside Britain against the Ottoman Empire, which had allied itself with Germany and Austria-Hungary. In return, Britain pledged its support in establishing a Greater Arab Empire. By this time, the European powers had already agreed on a division of the Ottoman Empire after the war. The plan was to split Lebanon, which was predominantly populated by Christians, from Syria and to divide Palestine into a Jewish and an Arab part.
In March 1920, the “Syrian Congress” elected a year earlier declared the independence of the “United Kingdom of Syria”, which included Lebanon and Palestine. Nevertheless, the individual areas were declared mandate areas of the League of Nations. While Britain administered Palestine and Mesopotamia (Iraq), France was given a mandate over Syria and Lebanon. In Syria, there were riots and uprisings after the division, and an independent state was included, including the whole of Lebanon. In the 1920s, Syria was given its own constitution and more self-government.
Independence and Middle East conflict
In 1938, the French National Assembly rejected Syria’s assured independence given the threat of war in Europe. A national government was formed in Syria after the parliamentary elections in 1943. The independence of the Republic of Syria had already been proclaimed in 1941, but the country was in fact still under French administration. Only after international pressure did France refrain from extending the mandate and began withdrawing troops. In 1945 Syria was one of the founding states of the “Arab League” and the UN. It was only after the end of World War II that the remaining French soldiers left Syria, which now gained full sovereignty.
In the 1st Israeli-Arab War in 1948/49, Syria, along with Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Egypt, tried unsuccessfully to prevent the establishment of the newly created state of Israel. At the end of the 1940s, the elected government was overthrown by a military coup, and domestic crises shook the country. Social tensions between ethnic and religious groups and rivalries between the individual political parties repeatedly led to riots and several coups in the 1940s and 1950s.
In 1958, Syria and Egypt decided to merge to form the “United Arab Republic” (VAR). After another coup in Syria, which increasingly lost influence within the VAR, the new leadership declared the union with Egypt to have ended in 1961. The “Syrian Arab Republic” was proclaimed in Damascus.
In 1963, the Arab socialist Baath (rebirth) party, which had been founded in 1943, came to power through a coup and formed the “National Council of the Revolutionary Command”. In the 3rd Israeli-Arab War in 1967 (the so-called Blitzkrieg), Syria lost the Golan Heights to Israel, which are still occupied today.
In November 1970, General Hafiz Al-Assad, a member of the Alawi minority in Syria, took power in Syria through a bloodless coup. He succeeded in stabilizing the country’s domestic politics by suppressing the ideological conflicts within the Baath party in favor of moderate politics. Assad attempted to improve relations with the surrounding Arab states and the country’s economic situation through liberal economic policies. In 1973 a new constitution was adopted that declared Syria a “democratic socialist people’s state” and is still valid today.
In 1973 Syria suffered another defeat in the so-called Yom Kippur war against Israel. In 1976, Syrian troops intervened in the civil was in Lebanon, and Syrian troops continued to remain in the country as a recognized “regulatory force” (Taif Agreement 1989). When Egypt began peace negotiations with Israel in 1977, this led to renewed tensions between Egypt and Syria. In the second Gulf War in 1990/91, Syria participated in the anti-Iraqi coalition that, under the leadership of the United States, liberated the Emirate of Kuwait from the Iraqi occupation.
Hafiz Al-Assad has been repeatedly confirmed as President. In the first half of the 1990s, he first signaled his willingness to negotiate peace with Israel. The prerequisite for any agreement was the return of the Golan Heights occupied by Israel in 1967 and annexed in 1981. Because of this, the repeated discussions failed repeatedly.
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In July 2000 (re-election in May 2007), Bashar Al-Assad took over the post of his late father as the new President of Syria. He announced extensive economic and administrative reforms. He also insisted that the Golan Heights occupied by Israel be fully returned. Relations with western countries, particularly with the United States, continued to be difficult. Syria sees the United States as a one-sided party supporter of Israel and protagonist of violent regime changes in the Middle East. Relations with Turkey, on the other hand, improved enormously. The close ties to Iran established under Hafiz Al-Assad remain. The long-standing occupation of Lebanon on the grounds of protecting it from Israel was gradually abolished under Bashar Al-Assad;in October 2008, Syria recognized Lebanon’s independence. This ends approximately three decades of Syrian intervention in Lebanon.
President Bashar Al-Assad has long been spared protests because of his increasingly autocratic rule. From March 2011, however, demonstrations also increased in Syria, which openly demanded a regime change based on the protests in Tunisia and Egypt. Assad reacted increasingly repressively to the democratic efforts and bloodily suppressed demonstrations by police and military. Military clashes between insurgents and government forces repeatedly occurred in the months that followed. Nevertheless, the regime held parliamentary elections in May 2012 based on the new constitution. Subsequently, violence escalated into a bloody civil war. The rebels managed to bring various cities and regions under control.According to the UN, at least 93,000 people had been killed up to and including April 2013, and around two million Syrians had fled abroad.