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.
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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 Israel.
Syria flag source: Countryaah.com
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 these negotiations.
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 eligible.
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 and medicine.
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.