SYRIA (Syrian Arab Republic), republic, SW Asia, bounded on the N by Turkey, on the E by Iraq, on the S by Jordan, on the SW by Israel, and on the W by Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea. Including the Golan Heights, which Israel occupied (1967) and later annexed (1981), Syria has a total area of 71,498 sq mi, (185,180 sq km).
In 2000, Hafez al-Hassad, Syria's ruler since 1970, died and was succeeded by his son, Bashar. In his inaugural speech, the younger Assad promised to push forward with democratic reform, including increased freedom of speech and modernization of the state run economy.
Syrian President Hafez al-Assad died after 30 years in power. His son, Bashar al-Assad was elected president in a national referendum in which he ran uncontested!
Hafaz al-Assad rose to power in Syria as an army officer backing a coup by the Ba'th party against the military regime in 1963. By 1966, he had consolidated his position as the nation's president, and purged the government of leaders who had initially helped to form it. Assad replaced many of these purged leaders with family relatives. Though a dictator, Hafiz al-Assad (the father) initiated several popular social reforms, including an expanded public education system.
He granted equal rights to women. During Assad's rule, Syria's foreign policy was dominated by a resistance to Israel's occupation of the Golan Heights, which the Jewish state had won in the Six-Day War.
Assad was 34 years old when he became president, Assad was studying in England in order to become an ophtalmologist. He presented new ideas in his speeches and he seemed to be willing to reform the country. But apparently all his effort at reform have been suppressed by the "Syrian old guard", established politicians in the government who are against change.
Bashar al-Assad is an inexperienced diplomat and he is unable to balance the competing demands of the public. Therefore, Bashar al-Assad pledge to pursue increased democratic reforms has never been fulfilled!