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Most of the country has a desertlike climate, with hot, dry summers and milder winters.What little rain there is falls in the winter, mainly along the coast. The population in 2000 was 16,673,282 (not including the 35,150 people living in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, of whom 18,150 are Arabs and 17,000 are Israelis). Kurds are estimated to constitute between 3 and 9 percent of the population.Some ancient languages are still spoken in parts of the country, including Maalua, Aramaic, and Syriac.As a result of colonial influence, French and English (French in particular) are understood and used in interactions with tourists and other foreigners. The coat of arms displays a hawk, which is the emblem of Muhammad, the founder of the Islamic faith.Syria held its first parliamentary elections in 1932.All the candidates were hand-picked by the French, but once elected, they declined the constitution France had proposed for the country.Also represented are Turks; Armenians, most of whom fled Turkey between 19; and small numbers of Circassians, Assyrians, and Jews. They were originally nomadic, but many have been forced to settle in towns and villages. Arabic is the official language, and 90 percent of the population speaks it.
The French drew a straight-line border to separate this territory from British-ruled Transjordan.
There are two natural lakes: Arram in the crater of an extinct volcano in the Golan Heights and Daraa along the Jordanian border.
There are several artificial lakes created by dams that supply irrigation and electrical power.
Syria had experienced a brief period of independence from 1918–1920, and was dissatisfied with French rule, which ignored the will of the people and did little for the country as a whole.
There was a brief insurrection in 19, which the French put down by bombing Damascus.