Syria (Arabic: سوريا Sūriyā or سورية Sūriyah), officially the Syrian Arab Republic (Arabic: الجمهورية العربية السورية ), is a country in Southwest Asia, bordering the Mediterranean Sea and Lebanon to the west, Israel to the southwest, Jordan to the south, Iraq to the east, and Turkey to the north. The modern state of Syria was formerly a French mandate and attained independence in 1946, but can trace its roots to the fourth millennium BC; its capital city, Damascus, was the seat of the Umayyad Empire and a provincial capital of the Mamluk Empire.
Syria has a population of 20.3 million. The majority are Arabic-speaking Sunni Muslims at 74% of the population. Other Muslim groups include Alawites 11%, Druze and other Muslim sects 5%. There are also various Christian sects constituting 10% of the total population. Since 1963 the country has been governed by the Baath Party; the head of state since 1970 has been a member of the Assad family. Syria's current President is Bashar al-Assad, son of Hafez al-Assad, who held office from 1970 until his death in 2000. Historically, Syria has often included the territories of Lebanon, Israel, the West Bank, Gaza Strip and parts of Jordan, but excluded the Jazira region in the north-east of the modern Syrian state. In this historic sense, the region is also known as Greater Syria or by the Arabic name Bilad al-Sham (بلاد الشام). The Syrian Government has relinquished its claim over the region of İskenderun, now part of the Turkish province of Hatay. The area used to be part of Syria, but Damascus agreed to recognise Turkish soverignty as part of a peace deal within the last decade. In the Six-Day War of 1967, Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria.