Demographics of Syria
In 2011, Syria's population was estimated at about 23 million permanent inhabitants, including people with refugee status from Palestine and Iraq. While most modern-day Syrians are commonly described as Arabs by virtue of their modern-day language and bonds to Arab culture and history, they are, in fact, largely a blend of the various Semitic-speaking groups indigenous to the region.
Population density, 1993
|Nationality||noun: Syrian(s) adjective: Syrian|
Since the Syrian Civil War started in March 2011, it has been difficult to gain accurate counts of the Syrian population, as a large percentage left as refugees, many have been killed, and others have been internally displaced. The CIA World Factbook showed an estimated 19,454,263 people as of July 2018.
The first census which focused on the sectarian distribution was carried out in 1932 under the French mandate, however, this census was only carried out in the lands under the short-lived Government of Latakia (the Alawite State established by the French) which covered only 7,000 km2 (2,700 sq mi) out of modern Syria’s total area of 185,000 km2 (71,000 sq mi). A general census of Syria in 1943 gave details of religious groups of the population and the rate of growth of each and estimates of the population in 1953 from an unnamed source were as follows:
|1943 census||1953 census||Growth|
|Sunnis||1,971,053 (68.91%)||2,578,810 (70.54%)||31%|
|Shi'ites||12,742 (0.45%)||14,887 (0.41%)||17%|
|Alawites||325,311 (11.37%)||398,445 (10.90%)||22%|
|Ismailis||28,527 (1.00%)||36,745 (1.01%)||29%|
|Druze||87,184 (3.05%)||113,318 (3.10%)||30%|
|Yezidi||2,788 (0.10%)||3,082 (0.08%)||11%|
|Total Muslims||2,427,605 (84.87%)||3,145,287 (86.03%)||30%|
|Jews||29,770 (1.04%)||31,647 (0.87%)||6%|
|Christians||403,036 (14.09%)||478,970 (13.10%)||19%|
On 1 January 2011, the number of residents of Syria was 24 million, distributed over the 14 governorates. These residents comprised a mixture of many ethnic and religious sects, as shown in the table below:
|Ethnic and religious groups||% of Syrian population||Estimated population (in 2011)||Notes|
|Syrian Arabs||80-85%||est. 19,200,000 to 20,400,000||The Arabs form the majority in all districts except for the Al-Hasakah Governorate.|
|Kurds||10%||est. 2,400,000||The majority of Kurds are Sunni Muslims, with a Yazidi minority|
|Turkmen/Turkoman||4-5%||est. 960,000 to 1,200,000||These figures exclude the Arabic-speaking Turkmen. Only 30% of Turkmen have kept their mother tongue. The majority are Sunni Muslims.|
|Assyrians||3-4%||est. 720,000 to 960,000||Most Assyrians are Christians with a small Muslim minority.|
|Circassians||1.5%||est. 360,000||The majority of Circassians are Sunni Muslims.|
|Armenians||1%||est. 240,000||The majority of Armenians are Christians.|
|Smaller groups of Albanians, Bosnian, Georgians, Greeks, Pashtuns, Persians, Russians.||A significant number of these ethnic groups are Arabized, particularly those that adhere to Islam.|
The CIA World Factbook cites the following figures for ethnic groups as at July 2018: approximately Arab 50%, Alawite 15%, Kurd 10%, Levantine 10%, other 15% (includes Druze, Ismaili, Imami, Nusairi, Assyrian, Turkmen, Armenian). However, Professor John A. Shoup said in 2018 that Kurds made 9% of the population, followed by Turkish-speaking Turkmen comprising 4-5% , Assyrians 4%, Armenians 2%, and Circassians about 1% of the total population.
There has been no Syrian census including a question about religion since 1960, these are thus the last official statistics available:
In 1991 Professor Alasdair Drysdale and Professor Raymond Hinnebusch said that some 85% of Syrians were Muslims and that the remainder were almost all Christians, however, both religious groups were subdivided into many ethnic sects. Among the former, approximately 70% of Syrians were Sunni Muslim, of which, 60% were Arabic-speaking and the remainder of Sunnis included Kurds (8.5%), Turkmen/Turkoman (3%), and Circassians (less than 1%). In addition, Alawis formed 11.5%, Druze 3% and Ismailis 1.5% of the population. In regards to the Christians, they were subdivided into Armenians (4%) and Assyrians.
According to Dr. Pierre Beckouche, before 2011, Sunni Muslims accounted for 74% of Syria's population, which included 500,000 Palestinian refugees and the non-Arab Sunni Muslims, namely the Kurds (9-10%) and the Turkmen/Turkoman (4%). Other Muslims included Shias and Alawites (11%-16%), whilst the Christians made up 10% of the population. There were also a few Jewish communities in Aleppo and Damascus.
The CIA World Factbook cites the following figures for religious groups as at July 2018: religions - Muslim 87% (official; includes Sunni 74% and Alawi, Ismaili, and Shia 13%), Christian 10% (mainly of Eastern Christian churches - may be smaller as a result of Christians fleeing the country), Druze 3%, Jewish (few remaining in Damascus and Aleppo).
Arabic is the official, and most widely spoken, language. Arabic speakers make up 85% of the population. Several modern Arabic dialects are used in everyday life, most notably Levantine in the west and Mesopotamian in the northeast. A report published by the UNHCR points out that "while the majority of Syrians are considered Arabs, this is a term based on spoken language (Arabic), not ethnicity."
According to The Encyclopedia of Arabic Language and Linguistics, in addition to Arabic, the following languages are spoken in the country, in order of the number of speakers: Kurdish, Turkish, Neo-Aramaic (four dialects), Circassian, Chechen, Armenian, and finally Greek. None of these languages have official status.
60% of the population lives in the Aleppo Governorate, the Euphrates valley or along the coastal plain; a fertile strip between the coastal mountains and the desert. Overall population density is about 118.3 inhabitants per square kilometre (306/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 86.0% for males and 73.6% for females.
Since 1960, censuses have been conducted in 1960, 1970, 1981, 1994 and 2004.
Civil war's effect on populationEdit
(See CIA World Factbook for updated figures.)
More than six million refugees left the country during the civil war, of whom over five million are registered as refugees by the UNHCR as of mid-2019. Most of them fled to neighboring countries such as Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, and Iraq, as well as European nations like Greece and Germany. Since 2017, tens of thousands have returned.
In April 2016, the UN estimated that 400,000 people had died in the war, and casualties have continued since, with estimates for the total dead by mid-2019 of up to 220,000 civilians, 175,000 government combatants, and 174,000 anti-government combatants (see Casualties of the Syrian Civil War).
The war resulted in large-scale displacement in the country. The UNHCR estimates internally displaced people (IDPs) at seven million. A further 70,000 people were trapped on the border with Jordan at Rukban in 2016-18, with up to 40,000 still there in 2019.
A significant part of the population lives in territory outside government sovereignty. At its peak in 2015, ISIL ruled over ten million people across Syria and Iraq. The Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (NES), commonly referred to as Rojava, has a population of around two million. Areas controlled by the opposition have had a population in the millions. In mid-2017, UN OCHA estimated that around 540,000 persons were trapped in besieged areas as of June 2017, the majority besieged by government forces in Eastern Ghouta. By the time the government retook Ghouta in April 2018, some 140,000 individuals had fled their homes and up to 50,000 were evacuated to Idlib and Aleppo governorates. The latter rebel areas had an estimated population of 3 million (40% of them displaced from defeated rebel areas). Fighting in Idlib has led to further displacements, of up to 250,000 people, and generating new refugee outflows to neighbouring Turkey.
Displacement has led to demographic shifts. One example is the area in the North under control by Kurdish-led and US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). Many human rights groups, including Amnesty International and international organizations  have accused SDF forces of committing ethnic cleansing in Arab areas they were capturing from other war factions.  The accusation was repeated on 8 May 2019 by Russia's foreign minister Sergey Lavrov. NGOs and the opposition have also accused the government of using the conflict to effect demographic restructuring.
The war also affected the birth rate. The annual birth rate in Syria has fallen by more than half since the country plunged into turmoil in March 2011, from about 500,000 births per year before 2011 (according to a medical official speaking to the government loyalist newspaper Al-Watan), to about 200,000 in 2015 (according to a "government report" cited by Press TV).[better source needed]
In 2017, the head of the Syrian Commission for Family Affairs, Mohammad Akram al-Qash, said that the Syrian population was 28 million, of which, 21 million were living in Syria and that 7 million were refugees.
Total fertility rateEdit
Marital fertility rateEdit
|Period||Live births per year||Deaths per year||Natural change per year||CBR1||CDR1||NC1||TFR1||IMR1|
|1950–1955||187 000||75 000||112 000||51.2||20.5||30.6||7.23||180.1|
|1955–1960||212 000||77 000||136 000||50.1||18.1||32.0||7.38||150.5|
|1960–1965||241 000||76 000||165 000||48.5||15.3||33.3||7.54||121.8|
|1965–1970||275 000||74 000||201 000||46.8||12.5||34.2||7.56||98.8|
|1970–1975||322 000||70 000||252 000||46.3||10.1||36.2||7.54||77.3|
|1975–1980||373 000||69 000||304 000||45.4||8.3||37.0||7.32||63.1|
|1980–1985||417 000||66 000||351 000||42.8||6.7||36.1||6.77||49.9|
|1985–1990||440 000||61 000||379 000||38.4||5.3||33.1||5.87||36.2|
|1990–1995||441 000||58 000||383 000||33.3||4.3||28.9||4.80||26.1|
|1995–2000||447 000||58 000||389 000||29.7||3.8||25.8||3.96||20.8|
|2000–2005||451 000||62 000||389 000||26.2||3.6||22.6||3.39||17.4|
|2005–2010||465 000||69 000||396 000||23.9||3.5||20.4||3.10||15.0|
|1 CBR = crude birth rate (per 1000); CDR = crude death rate (per 1000); NC = natural change (per 1000); TFR = total fertility rate (number of children per woman); IMR = infant mortality rate per 1000 births|
CIA World Factbook demographic statisticsEdit
This section needs to be updated.December 2018)(
17,951,639 in 2014, a massive decline due to nearly 4 million Syrian refugees leaving the country because of the Syrian Civil War and furthermore because of the death in the war. This is a drop of 9.7% from the previous year.
19,454,263 estimated in 2018.
0–14 years: 31.4% (male 3,132,619/female 2,974,394)
15–24 years: 19.5% (male 1,933,185/female 1,863,991)
25–54 years: 39.3% (male 3,807,664/female 3,829,150)
55–64 years: 5.5% (male 531,455/female 542,738)
65 years and older: 4.3% (male 379,360/female 459,707) (2018 est.)
total: 24.5 years
male: 24 years
female: 25 years (2018 est.)
Population decline rateEdit
0.797% (2012 est.)
|Source: 2016 estimate|
20.7 births/1,000 population (2018 est.)
4 deaths/1,000 population (2018 est.)
Net migration rateEdit
57 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2018 est.)
at birth: 1.06 male(s)/female
0–14 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
15–24 years: 1.03 male(s)/female
25–54 years: 0.99 male(s)/female
55–64 years: 0.98 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.82 male(s)/female
total population: 1.01 male(s)/female (2017 est.)
Life expectancy at birthEdit
total: 75.2 years
male: 72.8 years
female: 77.8 years (2018 est.)
definition: age 15 and older can read and write
total population: 86.4% (2015 est.)
urban population: 54.2% of total population (2018)
rate of urbanization: 1.43% annual rate of change (2015-20 est.)
Major urban areas - populationEdit
As of 2018:
Damascus (capital): 2.32 million
Aleppo: 1.754 million
Homs: 1.295 million
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Arabs constitute the major ethnic group in Syria, making up between 80 and 85% of the population.
Kurds are the second largest ethnic group in Syria, making up around 10% of the Syrian population and distributed among four regions...with a Yazidi minority that numbers around 40,000...
Turkmen are the third largest ethnic group in Syria, making up around 4–5% of the population. Some estimations indicate that they are the second biggest group, outnumbering Kurds, drawing on the fact that Turkmen are divided into two groups: the rural Turkmen who make up 30% of the Turkmen in Syria and who have kept their mother tongue, and the urban Turkmen who have become Arabized and no longer speak their mother language...
Assyrians are the fourth largest ethnic group in Syria. They represent the original and oldest inhabitants of Syria, today making up around 3–4% of the Syrian population...
Circassians are the fifth largest ethnic group in Syria, making up around 1.5% of the population...
Armenians are sixth largest ethnic group in Syria, making up around 1% of the population...
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