Country Specific Information: Syria

July 17, 2011

Country Specific Information: Syria
Source: U.S. Department of State

July 12, 2011

COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Given the uncertainty and volatility of the current domestic situation, in the wake of the most significant civil unrest in Syria in 30 years, the Department of State has issued a Travel Warning advising U.S. citizens to defer all travel to Syria at this time and has ordered all eligible family members of U.S. government employees as well as certain non-emergency personnel to depart Syria.

Since March 1963, the Syrian Arab Republic has been ruled by an authoritarian regime dominated by the Socialist Ba’ath Party. The Ba’ath party espouses a largely secular ideology; however, Islamic traditions and beliefs provide a religious foundation for the country’s customs and practices. While the 1963 Emergency Law, which authorized the government to conduct preventive arrests and override constitutional and penal code provisions against arbitrary arrest and detention, was rescinded on April 19, 2011, the practice of arbitrary arrest and detention has not abated.

Since March 2011, anti-government demonstrations throughout Syria have been violently suppressed by Syrian security forces, resulting in over 1,000 deaths with many thousands wounded and over 10,000 displaced persons.

The Syrian government conducts intense physical and electronic surveillance of both Syrian citizens and foreign visitors. U.S. citizens visiting Syria should be aware that any encounter with a Syrian citizen could be subject to scrutiny by the General Intelligence Directorate (GID) or other security services. Sustained interactions with average Syrians – especially if deemed to be of a political nature – may subject that Syrian to harassment and/or detention, and other forms of repressive actions by state security elements. Furthermore, loitering or photographing of facilities or buildings or behavior deemed suspicious may result in U.S. citizens being arrested or detained by security services. Since 1979, the United States has designated Syria a State Sponsor of Terrorism due to its support for organizations such as Hezbollah, Hamas, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. The combination of terrorist organizations, a porous border with Iraq and long-standing border issues with all of its neighbors (Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Turkey and Israel) have made Syria a destabilizing factor in the region and a potential target for reprisal. Tourist facilities are available and vary in quality depending on price and location. Many establishments will only accept cash. Read the Department of State’s Human Rights ReportTrafficking in Persons Report,Country Report on TerrorismInternational Religious Freedom Report, andBackground Notes on Syria for additional information.

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