Since before 2000 BC, Syria has been an integral part of, or the seat of government for, powerful empires. The ancient city of Ebla existed at the center of an expansive empire around 2400 B.C. After the King of Akkad (Mesopotamia) destroyed Ebla, Amorites ruled the region until their power was eclipsed in 1600 B.C. by the Egyptians.
The Coming of Islam
Syria remained at the center of the new Christian religion until the seventh century, when the area succumbed to Muslim Arab rule. The Muslim Arab conquest in A.D. 635 was perceived as a liberating force from the persecution of Byzantine rule, to which Syria had been subjected since A.D. 324. Syrian prestige and power declined after 750 when the Abbasids conquered the Umayyads and established a caliphate in Baghdad. Syria then became a mere province within an empire.
Muslim control of Christian holy places was elemental in provoking the first major Western colonial venture in the Middle East, when European Crusaders established the principalities of Edessa, Antioch, Tripoli, and the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem between 1097 and 1144. The ensuing jihad against the foreign occupation was a unifying force for Arabs in Greater Syria until the area became a province of the Ottoman Empire in 1516.
A Brief Period of Independence
The period between the outbreak of World War I in 1914 and the granting of France’s mandate over Syria by the League of Nations in 1922 was marked by a complicated sequence of events during which Syrians achieved a brief period of independence (1919– 20).
Ultimately, Syria and Lebanon were placed under French influence, and Transjordan and Iraq, under British mandate. The termination of Syria’s brief experience with independence left a lasting bitterness against the West and a deep-seated determination to reunite Arabs in one state. This quest was the primary basis for modern Arab nationalism.
The French Mandate
The period of French Mandate brought nearly every feature of Syrian life under French control.
Syria endured decades of strife and turmoil as competing factions fought over control of the country’s government following independence in 1946. From February 1958 to September 1961, Syria was joined with Egypt in the United Arab Republic (UAR).
The Arab Socialist Resurrection (Baath) Party (hereafter, Baath Party), with a secular, socialist, Arab nationalist orientation, took decisive control in a March 1963 coup, often referred to as the Baath Revolution. Factionalism continued within the Baathist regime until the assumption of power by then Minister of Defense Lieutenant General Hafiz al Assad following a bloodless military coup in November 1970.
Assad, approved as president by popular referendum in March 1971, quickly moved to establish an authoritarian regime with power concentrated in his own hands.Hafiz al Assad died in 2000 and was promptly succeeded by his son, Bashar al Assad, after the constitution was amended to reduce the mandatory minimum age of the president from 40 to 34.
2011 Syrian Uprising
Syria was under an Emergency Law since 1962, effectively suspending most constitutional protections for citizens. Its President Hafez al-Assad led Syria for nearly 30 years, banning any opposing political party and any opposition candidate in any election. In reacting to the largest uprising to take place in the country for decades, Syrian security forces have killed hundreds of protesters and injured many more.
Reasons for immigration
- There is Civil war in Syria, and thus the economy has been declined, the education has been destroyed, and the whole community is very unsafe. They are desire to escape the negative circumstances.
- Fleeing from oppressive conditions, being a refugee and seeking asylum to get refugee status in a foreign country, may lead to permanent emigration.
- In America, Syrians can get a better and safer life for their children.
- Lack of employment or entrepreneurial opportunities.
- Struggling or failing economy.
- Expulsion by armed force or coercion.
- There are better welfare programmers in America.
As for some individuals:
- Syrians who are educated believe that they can achieve their dream in the United States.
- Syrians married American, and thus they choose to immigrate to America.
- They already have relatives or friends moved to America; Chain migration.
Hardships experienced in the US
- At first, they did not know English and would sometimes have people take advantage of them financially.
- They might face discrimination by Native Born White Americans.
- Finding a job and slowly moving up the ladder is incredibly difficult.
- Given lousy low paying jobs with long hours.
- Safe, affordable hosing is expensive. So large families choose to live together, creating stressful, noisy environments that are hardly conducive to studying or resting.
- Raising children and helping them succeed in school.
- Having difficult time accessing services.
- Because of language barriers, trouble with transportation is an issue that affects their life.
- Cultural barriers transcend each and every aspect of life for refugees and immigrants. For example, according to our interview, Mr. Zada cannot accept his daughter wear hot pants like other young American teenagers. In addition, Rama does not like expressing amity by hug.
Language characteristics, similarities and differences
- Each letter has a basic form, but this form often changes depending on whether the letter is placed at the beginning, middle or end of the written word.
- Short vowels are indicated by marks placed above or below the letters in a word; however, these short vowels aren’t included in all Arabic writing.
- Arabic is unique in that there are not groups of letter creating completely unguessable sounds.
- Arabic has two “varieties”. The first is modern Arabic, which is the language used in writing and formal speech; the second is colloquial Arabic, which is used in everyday speech.
- In Arab-speaking countries, children speak colloquial Arabic as their first language, studying modern Arabic almost in the way one would study a second language.
- Common Arabic dialects include Levantine, Moroccan, Najdi, and Iraqi. While all of these dialects technically are the ame language, most dialects are so different that speakers of one dialect cannot understand speaker of another.
- Modern Arabic is standardized, however, it can be used for communication between speakers who cannot understand each others’ dialects.
Differences between Arabic and English
- Arabic is written and read from right to left. But English is written and read from left to right.
- The Arabic alphabet comprises 28 letters. But English alphabet comprises 26 letters.
- There are not groups of letter creating completely unguessable sounds in Arabic, which means anyone who knows the Arabic letters, the sounds they make and the short vowel markings can “sound out” every word. English, in contrast, has many spellings that do not correspond to individual letters sounds, as in the word “rough”.
Similarities between Arabic and English
- Arabic and English letters comprise consonants and vowels.
- Arabic and English belong to phonetic language, which means letters correspond to sounds.
Education system of Syria
Lessons are taught in Arabic, with English and French taught as the first and second foreign languages. According to the 2007 census, 98 percent of schools in Syria are state-run against 1.8 percent which are private. In 2007, there were 8 million students in the education system of Syria (4 million in primary education, 1.4 million in secondary and 2.3 million in higher). Given the current growth rate in the school age population, it is estimated that by 2015, the education system in Syria will need to provide for an additional one million pupils in primary and secondary education.
The school system in Syria is divided into primary and secondary education levels; schooling consists of 6 years of primary education followed by a 3-year general or vocational training period and a 3-year academic or vocational program. The second 3-year period of academic training is required for university admission. Schools are divided into three levels:
1st to 6th grade: Primary Education Level
7th to 9th grade: Lower Secondary Education Level
10th to 12th grade: Upper Secondary Education, equivalent to the sixth form in the UK
Final exams of the 9th grade are set nationally and are taken at the same time. The result of these exams determines if the student moves to the secondary schools or to the vocational secondary schools. Vocational secondary schools include those for male students studying industry and agriculture, arts and crafts school for female students, and business and computer science schools for both.
At the beginning of the 11th grade, those who go to secondary school have to choose whether to study either Arts or Sciences. The final exams of the 12th grade (the baccalaureate) are also set nationally and are all taken at the same time. The result of these exams entitles the student access to university according to his/her category of baccalaureate.
Syria is an examination-oriented country, and thus Syria immigration or refugee students have been adapted to the strict and demanding education style. Therefore in order to help Syria students accommodate to America education style, teachers can tell them that class participation is also important and teachers can ask them to express their ideas in class.
Values and Beliefs
75 % of Syrians are Muslims, 13 % are Christian and 12 % are of different religious sects. Although Syria is a Muslim country, Islamic law does not govern it. People are free to practice their beliefs as long as it does not interfere with public life and the security of others. Syrians are more connected with their Arab heritage rather than their religion and historical religious sites of both religions (mosques, churches, and other monuments) are spread all over the Syrian landscape, Muslim and Christian.
In any discussion of Islam, the topic of terrorism, murder, mass murder by a radical, violent wing of Islam is often carried out. However, terrorists and their supporters only represent a small percentage of followers within the religion who follow a type of Islam that has little regard for human life. It is also important to recall that most victims of these terrorists are fellow Muslims. Therefore, it is important for teachers to make sure that students understand and respect each other.
In Syria, men and women have equal access to the labor market at all levels of the workplace, including high positions in public and private sector and they receive equal pay.
While women’s active participation in political decision-making positions in public life is being promoted, and equal access to education and health have greatly improved, barriers to women’s full enjoyment of rights in society remain.
Barriers to women’s equal rights and full participation in society also refer to persisting stereotypes on women and men’s roles in the family and in society. Inherited traditions that put women in an “inferior” position to men still impregnate mentalities in Syrian society.
As a teacher, we should give all students equal attention in advising and mentoring. Besides, give each student equal attention and equally specific feedback. If necessary, include female experiences and to include them in more than just stereotypical ways.
In Syrian culture, decisions are made from top to bottom. Feedback does not exist. Decisions are made and executed. It is the same as in the classroom, students put all of their focus on the teacher. The teacher talks while the students exclusively listen. During activities, students work alone, and collaboration is discouraged. It does not allow students to express themselves, ask questions and direct their own learning.
Since Syrians do not have experience of communicative learning environments and may expect the teacher to spend a lot of time lecturing, it is crucial to encourage and motivate them to speak out and participate. Teachers need to help reduce their fears and provide a comfortable environment for them to learn and to make them feel more at ease.
The communication style in Syria is usually indirect, especially when not conversing with close friends and family. It is common to hear people speaking in loud voices and becoming animated during conversations. This usually does not signify anger; people just tend to be expressive.
Men shake hands when greeting one another in formal settings. Good friends and family usually kiss once on each cheek in more informal settings. Women are the same as men, but the kiss on the cheek is much more prevalent.
Physical contact between unrelated men and women is very uncommon and might be offensive to religious people. A handshake is the norm in more secular circles, cheek kissing is usually unacceptable. It is best to allow the woman to extend her hand first. If the hand is not extended, then a slight nod while placing her hand on her chest is the polite thing for men to do.
Syrians stand close to each other and may hug or clasp hands. People of the same gender sometimes walk hand in hand. They may also touch you on the shoulder. This does not indicate homosexual tendencies.
Role of the family
Because of its extensive history and religious zeal, Syria is a traditional society that prides itself on several significant factors of life. The culture focuses on the importance of respect, self-discipline, education and above all, family. Syrians usually define family as their extended relations- parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, great aunts and uncles, cousins, nephews and nieces, children, etc.
Even with other significant aspects of life, including business and social duties, Syrians put family above everything else. The family background of an individual is the main reason for their reputation and social status. Furthermore, a great amount of honor and respect is placed on the family.
Since the family is the most important thing for Syrians, teachers should encourage parent involvement and offer them many ways to get involved. Furthermore, explain to parents that they can communicate their interest to be involved in school events as well as communicate their goals for their children and ask how to help the child to reach these goals.
In Syrian culture, there are topics that are difficult to discuss, such as debating religious beliefs or sexuality related topics especially between genders. As a result, teachers should take into consideration the nature of Islamic culture as influencing student behaviors, and, particularly when supervising students of a different gender.
Syria is the cradle of civilization where you will encounter a warm but dignified courtesy. You will often be invited into homes and be offered coffee or tea. This may be convention, but underlying it are kindness and a curiosity that are genuine and you soon relax into its mood. You will definitely be invited to a Syrian home for a meal. Try not to refuse.
Syrian cuisine makes use of a wide range of ingredients and styles of preparation; lemon, garlic, onions, and spices are often featured prominently. Kibbeh—ball-shaped or flat diamond-cut bulgur (cracked wheat) shells filled with ground beef or lamb, spices, and pine nuts—are enjoyed, oftentimes served with yogurt. Grapevine leaves are stuffed with spiced mixtures of lamb or beef and rice and simmered with lemon juice; variants also exist using cabbage leaves and a lemon-tomato broth. Meat pies and spinach pies are also enjoyed, and fruits, vegetables, and grains are staples in Syrian dishes. Flat bread, cheeses, salads, and olives are often a fixture of the mazzah (mezes), a spread of smaller dishes served together. Syrian pastries, some of which require substantial skill to prepare, are of a wide variety.
The Syrian music is included in culture and also includes several styles and genres of music that ranges from Arabic pop music to Arab classical and from sacred to secular music. The Syrian music is mostly characterized by an emphasis on rhythm and melody rather than harmony. Some genres are polyphonic of the music of Syrian but most of it is homophonic.
Syrian music is known because of the predominance of the vocal music. The musical instruments that the Syrians use include violin, rabab, Ney, oud, tableh, kanun, and riq. The Jews who lived in Syria sang the pizmonim. The modern Syrian music has also incorporated some other instruments from the West which include the cello, electric guitar, oboe and double bass and this includes influences from other jazz and also other foreign musical styles.
The Dabke is a dance that has been passed down over time and still resonates with many people all over the world. Like many other dance forms, Dabke started in a culture that was going through struggles, looked for ways to make things enjoyable, and turned to dance.
The Dabke is a line dance where everyone stands in a line holding hands. The dance usually starts with a musician playing a solo and then the dancers start to move together creating a synchronized movement and step. This usually consists of stepping with the left foot and right foot and then crossing the left foot and right foot over. Each of these steps has a little hop. While dancing the Dabke, there is one main leader, usually a male called the “Lawweeh” who is expected to be the most skilled in the group of dancers.
Football is the Syria’s most popular sport, and Syrians closely follow both Arab and European matches broadcast on national television. Weight lifting, judo, and karate are popular in the cities, and health clubs and gyms are becoming increasingly common in the capital. There are stadiums in Damascus, Aleppo, and Latakia, where occasional sporting events are held. The government-run Institute for Sports Education is in charge of organizing these sporting events, and the General Union of Sports, which is also funded by the government, promotes sports in rural areas to underprivileged children.
- Eid al-Fitr (End of Ramadan)
Followers of the Islamic faith make up 87 percent of the Syrian population which means that Islamic holidays in the country are a big deal. One of the most well-known events is Eid al-Fitr which takes place in August every year. Eid marks the end of the month of fasting during the holy month of Ramadan. The event is characterized by family and friends gathering for a great feast, the exchanging of gifts, the wearing of new clothes and of course, attending mosque.
- Eid al-Adha (Feast of the Sacrifice)
Another Islamic holiday, this time held in October, is the Feast of the sacrifice. An important in Islamic countries worldwide, this festival lasts for two-to-three days and commemorates the decision of Ibrahim to sacrifice his first-born son to God. Locals slaughter a sheep to this effect and together, as families and friends, hold great feasts all over the region.
- Don’t point the toe or heel or any part of the foot at any person.
- Don’t show the sole of your foot or use the foot to move anything as it is viewed as the lowliest body part.
- Homosexuality is against the law and carries a heavy penalty.
- Public displays of affection/partial nudity/ are completely unacceptable.
- Lewd or indecent behavior, (including consumption of alcohol) in conservative/religious areas and places of worship is completely unacceptable.