7 Things to Know About Syria

1.) It was never intended for Bashar al-Assad to take over his father’s rule as president of Syria. A car accident that killed his brother in 1994 led to Bashar’s rise in power. From The New York Times.

2.) Before its civil war broke out in 2011, Syria was seen as a place that provided relatively comfortable lifestyles for its people, where the cost of living was low and an abundance of resources existed. But alongside the civil war, the economy crumbled. From the LA Times.

3.) Israel occupies the area known as Golan Heights, taking over the land during its Six-Day War with Syria in 1967. Amid Syria’s civil war and the rising tension in the region, it has become an epicenter for fear among the nearly 19,000 Israeli settlers, who have gathered gas masks, food and water supplies for “the unknown.” From CIA World Factbook and The Guardian.

4.) Ninety percent of Syrians in the country are Muslim – a significant 74 percent of those align with the religion’s Sunni sect. Other Muslim branches, including the Shiite Muslim Alawites, make up the minority. At the heart of that minority is Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. From CIA World Factbook and USA Today.

5.) Syria’s geographic size is similar to that of North Dakota, and the country’s population is about 22.5 million people – almost three million more residents than the state of New York. Of that 22.5 million, only 8.5 percent of the country is over the age of 55. Comparatively, the United States' 55 and older demographic covers 26 percent of the population. From the CIA World Factbook and U.S. Census Bureau.

6.) After World War I, France oversaw Syria before granting the province its independence in 1946. From the CIA World Factbook:

7.) There was hope within the country that Bashar al-Assad would change course from the police state tactics established by his father, President Hafez al-Assad, who took over rule in the early 1970s. From The New York Times.