Demographics of Syria
In 2011, the Syrian population was estimated at roughly 23 million permanent inhabitants, including people with refugee status from Palestine and Iraq and are an overall indigenous Levantine people. 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|
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.
There is no detailed information about the ethnic and religious groups in Syria. 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 out of modern Syria’s total area of 185,000 km2.
Albert Hourani published statistics from a general census of Syria in 1943 giving details of religious groups of the population and the rate of growth of each (citizens were not allowed to declare their ethnicity or mother tongue):
|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 1st 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|
|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.|
By 2017 the head of the Syrian Commission for Family Affairs, Mohammad Akram al-Qash, said that there was 21 million Syrians living in the country and that there was also 7 million Syrian refugees.
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 Palestinan 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.
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 live 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
This section needs to be updated.(October 2018)
More than four million refugees have left the country during the course of the civil war. Most of them fled to neighboring countries such as Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, and Iraq, as well as European nations like Greece and Germany.
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, to about 200,000.
Total fertility rateEdit
Marital fertility rateEdit
Prior to the civil war, the life span in Syria was 75.9 years, but that number has since fallen to an estimated 55.7 years.
|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
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.
35.2% (male 4,066,109/female 3,865,817)
15–64 years: 61% (male 6,985,067/female 6,753,619)
65 years and older: 3.8% (male 390,802/female 456,336) (2011 est.)
21 years male
21.7 years female
22.1 years (2011 est.)
Population decline rateEdit
0.797% (2012 est.)
|Source: 2016 estimate|
21.2 births/1,000 population (2017 est.)
4 deaths/1,000 population (July 2017 est.)
Net migration rateEdit
-27.82 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2012 est.)
under 15 years: 1.06 male(s)/female
15–64 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
65 years and older: 0.89 male(s)/female
total population: 1.05 male(s)/female (2009 est.)
Life expectancy at birthEdit
male: 69.8 years
female: 72.68 years (2009 est.)
definition: age 15 and older can read and write
- total population: 79.6% (2004 census)
- male: 86.0%
- female: 73.6%
- urban population: 56% of total population (2010)
- rate of urbanization: 2.5% annual rate of change (2010-15 est.)
Major urban areas - populationEdit
As of 2011:
- Aleppo: 3.164 million
- Damascus (capital): 2.65 million
- Homs: 1.369 million
- Hama: 933,000
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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 Arabised 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...
There are also a small number of other ethnic groups in Syria, including Greeks, Persians, Albanians, Bosnian, Pashtuns, Russians and Georgians...
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Given the lack of accurate census data, it is only possible to estimate the ethnic and religious composition of the current Syrian population. While the majority of Syrians are considered Arabs, this is a term based on spoken language (Arabic), not ethnicity. Around nine to ten percent of Syria’s population is Kurdish (close to two million people), followed by Turkmen,...
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