Before 1981 all schooling was free of charge but not
compulsory. However, they have long had a high proportion of
the age groups in primary school, and efforts are being made
to reach 100% participation. The primary school is 6-years
old and is followed by a 3-year middle school, which
concludes with a degree that forms the basis for admission
to the 3-year higher secondary school. In 1990, 90% of the
age group graduated from middle school. It is therefore
planned to integrate the middle school with the primary
school into a 9-year primary school. The secondary school
has two lines, one general and one vocational. See TOPSCHOOLSINTHEUSA for TOEFL, ACT, SAT testing locations and high school codes in Syria.
The higher education system consisted in 1994 of four
universities and a number of vocational training institutes.
Higher education is also free of charge, but only for those
who pass their degree. The language of instruction at the
universities is Arabic and in some subject areas English. In
the early 1990s, less than a third of the adult population
was estimated to be illiterate.
In April 1991, Hafez al-Assad met in Damascus with
Iranian President Akbar Ashemi Rafsanjani. Following the
meeting, on April 29, Assad declared that Syria would
maintain its military presence in Lebanon. A decision that
was supported by Hezbollah (the Party of God) and the
Iranian Revolutionary Guard. In the same month, Syria
attended the Middle East Peace Conference, which was held in
Madrid with the participation of the United States and the
Soviet Union. Syria endorsed the proposal to negotiate with
Israel on the basis of UN resolutions 242 and 338 condemning
that country's occupation of land. The Arab countries
maintained the ground for "peace of land" rejected by
In May, Lebanon and Syria signed a cooperation agreement
in which Syria recognizes Lebanon as a free and independent
country - for the first time since both countries gained
their independence from France.
On December 2, Assad was re-elected for a fourth term.
This time with 99.98% of the vote, but he was also the only
candidate. By agreement with international human rights
organizations, the Syrian government gave amnesty to 2,800
political prisoners 15 days later - predominantly members of
the Muslim Brotherhood.
In 92, the government abolished the death penalty and
gave 4000 Jews permission to emigrate. When the PLO and
Israel signed a peace treaty in September 93, Syria
reiterated its support for the implementation of full peace
negotiations in the region, and at the same time demanded
Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories to initiate
A short time later, Al-Assad confirmed that he supported
the use of violence to liberate the occupied territories. It
was a clear support of the Hamas movement's activities and
promptly triggered a condemnation by the United States. This
tension was not to the benefit of the Syrian government,
which had otherwise benefited diplomatically from its
support for the anti-Iraqi coalition during the Gulf War.
Syrian GDP grew by 92% by 7% and oil and oil exports
reached over $ 2 billion. dollars. The government
implemented a very liberal investment policy that exempted
investment from paying taxes and duties. The result was that
in 93 almost 1,000 investments were made for a total sum of
DKK 2.5 billion. dollars.
Syria did not participate in the first round of the peace
process in the region, resulting in limited Palestinian
autonomy and the signing of a peace agreement between Israel
and Jordan in July 94. In January, however, a "historic"
meeting took place in Geneva between US President Bill
Clinton and al-Assad, and in September the Syrian Foreign
Minister was interviewed for the first time on Israeli TV.
When Assad's eldest son and suspected successor, Basel
al-Assad died, uncertainty about the country's political
future increased. In August, the ruling Progressive National
Front won the election, but turnout was only 49% of those
In June 95, official negotiations with Israel for the
return of the Golan Heights drove into the sand as Israel
demanded a continued limited military presence in the area
indefinitely. When Hezbollah carried out an ambush attack on
Israeli soldiers in southern Lebanon in October,
negotiations became even more complicated. In mid-96,
al-Assad participated in a summit of Arab countries aimed at
developing a joint negotiation strategy for Israel.
As part of stimulating the private sector in the Syrian
economy, a number of key sectors for private investment were
opened. It involved the production of electricity, cement
When the United States threatened renewed military
attacks on Iraq in late fall, Syria made a surprising
approach to Baghdad. Apparently in response to the
Turkish-Israeli alliance being in rapid development. If it
came to a military confrontation on the Golan, Syria would
face pressure from both countries, and if Iraq collapsed,
new states would emerge - either religious or linguistic
divides - and it would allow Turkey to bring the oil fields
in Iraqi Kurdistan under Turkish control.
The Israeli-Turkish military alliance planned to produce
1,000 new tanks. The threat from this new military bloc led
Iran in April 98 to join the Syrian-Iraqi security talks.
Damascus - architecture and museums
The pattern of buildings in the old town typically appears Islamic, but the
street network has its origins in a Hellenistic-Roman city plan with a
chessboard-like street network. The city's main architectural monument, the
Umayyad Mosque, is one of the most significant buildings in Islamic art. The
mosque with the large arcade-encircled courtyard contains wall sections from a
Roman temple complex, which was later converted into a Christian church. The
mosque was completed in 715 and was magnificently decorated with mosaics; it
suffered badly during a fire in 1893. Among other important buildings are
numerous mosques and a number of mattresses from the 1100-1200-t., usually
combined with the mausoleum of the founder; Zahiriye, Adiliye and Nuriye
al-Kubra are the finest. Under Ottoman rule, trading centers such as the Azad
Pashas khan were built, as well as upscale settlements, of which the Azam Palace
is the largest. Outside the city, some typical Turkish mosques were erected,
including by the famous architect Sinan. The extraordinarily rich Syrian
National Museum houses finds from the country's long history; here is also the
rebuilt synagogue from Dura Europos, the portal from Qasr al-Hayr and a tomb
crypt from Palmyra.