7 fast facts about Syria

TAL ABYAD, SYRIA - JUNE 20: A boy walks past destroyed buildings in the center of the Syrian town of Kobane, also known as Ain al-Arab, Syria. June 20, 2015. Kurdish fighters with the YPG took full control of Kobane and strategic city of Tal Abyad, dealing a major blow to the Islamic State group's ability to wage war in Syria. (Photo by Ahmet Sik/Getty Images)

Combined ShapeCaption
TAL ABYAD, SYRIA - JUNE 20: A boy walks past destroyed buildings in the center of the Syrian town of Kobane, also known as Ain al-Arab, Syria. June 20, 2015. Kurdish fighters with the YPG took full control of Kobane and strategic city of Tal Abyad, dealing a major blow to the Islamic State group's ability to wage war in Syria. (Photo by Ahmet Sik/Getty Images)

For the past six years, the Middle Eastern country of Syria has been in headlines worldwide.

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You may have read about the ongoing civil war that has left hundreds of thousands of Syrians dead or heard stories of the millions of refugee families escaping their homeland, but how much do you know about the country itself?

Here are seven facts about Syria you might not know:

1. Where is it?

Syria is in southwest Asia in the heart of the Middle East. It shares a border with Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, Iraq and Turkey.

2. How big is the country?

Syria spans a total 185,180 square kilometers -- a little more than 1.5 times the size of Pennsylvania.

According to the Central Intelligence Agency's latest population estimates from 2016, Syria’s population is approximately 17,185,170.

3. What are the main religions Syrians practice?

About 87 percent of the Syrian population is Muslim, with Sunni Muslims making up the majority at 74 percent and the Alawi, Ismaili and Shia sects making up about 13 percent.

Christians make up approximately 10 percent and 3 percent of the Syrian population is Druze.

4. Why is there a war in Syria?

Syrians have long complained about high unemployment, lack of political freedom and widespread corruption and repression under the Assad family, according to the Associated Press.

>> Related: Syrian civil war: Why are they fighting in Syria?

Bashar Assad is the reigning president of Syria and has held the office since July 2000, when he succeeded his father, Hafez al-Assad.

The war began with anti-government demonstrations in March 2011 in the city of Deraa that quickly escalated after the government's violent crackdown.

Combined ShapeCaption
KOBANE, SYRIA - JUNE 20: The picture shows the wreckage left by fighting on a street in the center of the Syrian town of Kobane, also known as Ain al-Arab, Syria. June 20, 2015. Kurdish fighters with the YPG took full control of Kobane and strategic city of Tal Abyad, dealing a major blow to the Islamic State group's ability to wage war in Syria.

Credit: Ahmet Sik

KOBANE, SYRIA - JUNE 20: The picture shows the wreckage left by fighting on a street in the center of the Syrian town of Kobane, also known as Ain al-Arab, Syria. June 20, 2015. Kurdish fighters with the YPG took full control of Kobane and strategic city of Tal Abyad, dealing a major blow to the Islamic State group's ability to wage war in Syria.

Credit: Ahmet Sik

Combined ShapeCaption
KOBANE, SYRIA - JUNE 20: The picture shows the wreckage left by fighting on a street in the center of the Syrian town of Kobane, also known as Ain al-Arab, Syria. June 20, 2015. Kurdish fighters with the YPG took full control of Kobane and strategic city of Tal Abyad, dealing a major blow to the Islamic State group's ability to wage war in Syria.

Credit: Ahmet Sik

Credit: Ahmet Sik

The protests, according to the BBC, were inspired by the Arab Spring, a series of demonstrations and uprisings across the Middle East and North Africa that began in 2010.

>> Related: Things to know about the fall of Aleppo in Syria

When the government used overwhelming force to combat the protests, the rebel movement gained support from Syrians opposed to Assad, BBC reported.

This eventually led to civil war as hundreds of rebel brigades and government forces battled for control of the country.

But the battle isn't just between forces for or against Assad -- the intervention of world powers such as Russia and the United States have contributed to the fighting, BBC reported.

This intervention has turned the country into "a proxy battleground," BBC reported, pitting the Sunni Muslim majority against the Shia Alawite sect, intensifying Islamic State involvement and more.

5. How is the United States involved in the war?

The United States believes Assad is responsible for widespread atrocities and supports Syria's main opposition alliance, the National Coalition, according to BBC.

Since 2014, the United States has conducted air strikes on jihadist groups such as the IS, but has avoided conducting any attacks that could benefit Assad’s forces.

On Thursday, President Donald Trump ordered a cruise-missile attack on a Syrian air base in retaliation for Syria's use of banned chemical weapons that killed at least 75 civilians.

6. How many Syrians have died as a result of the war?

Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have died, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution previously reported. In the city of Aleppo alone, anywhere from 250,000 to 270,000 people have been killed, according to humanitarian organizations and United Nations estimates.

>> Related: Image of injured 'Aleppo boy' shared on social media; brings home reality of Syrian airstrikes

In August 2015, the United Nations stopped counting casualties.

7. How many refugees have fled the country and how many are in America?

According to the U.N., there were 5,022,731 registered Syrian refugees as of April 5, 2017.

>> Related: How Syrian refugees get to come to America

They have tried to relocate in Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and western countries, including the United States.

Since 2012, according to the Office of Refugee Resettlement, a total of 14,333 Syrians have been resettled in the United States as of January 2017.

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