Like Iraq, Syria evolved out of a League of Nations mandate, in its case granted to France. Britain and France had made a pledge of independence to the Arab peoples if they would rise up against the Ottoman Turks during the Great War. But the ensuing Arab Revolt was relatively small scale and the European powers reneged on their promise. By 1924 the French had cast the country into its current form as the State of Syria with some internal autonomy. The State was transformed into an autonomous republic in 1932 and in 1943 with the Vichy French administration deposed, Syria became a fully independent nation.

Also like Iraq, independent Syria has had a troubled history. A certain stability was afforded by the iron-fisted rule of Hafez al-Assad, who came to power in a 1970 coup, but after his death in 2000 his son, who inherited the presidency, proved incapable of managing the country's political and ethnic tensions, which the Arab Spring of 2011 caused to boil over. The conflict continues today, with more than half a million people, most of them civilians, having been killed so far. As many as ten million Syrians—roughly half the country's population—have been made refugees.




National Flag of the Ottoman Empire  •  Early Nineteenth Century


National Flag of the Ottoman Empire in 1918


Ottoman Merchant Ensign


Ottoman Merchant Ensign  •  Pilgrimage to Mecca

The land that was to become Syria was part of the Ottoman Empire until 1918. Originally it was organized as a single large eyalet (province); later it was divided in two: the Eyalet of Damascus and the Eyalet of Aleppo. So far as is known these provinces had not distinctive flags of their own. The Ottoman national flag was identical to the current flag of Turkey. The merchant ensign was plain red or, for masters of vessels who had made the pilgrimage to Mecca, horizontally striped red-green-red.



Flag of the Arab Revolt


Kingdom of Syria  •  National Flag


Kingdom of Syria  •  Royal Standard

The Arab Revolt against Ottoman rule began on June 10, 1916 at the behest of Sherif Hussein bin Ali at Mecca. Its political aim was to throw out the Turks and create a single Arab state from Aleppo in Syria to Aden in Yemen. Also the Sherif accused the Young Turks, who dominated the Ottoman government, of impiety in that many of their policies violated Islamic law. For their part, the Turks accused the rebels of betraying the Muslim Caliphate by siding with the European imperialist powers who aspired to conquer and carve up Muslim lands in their own interest. (As events would prove, the Turks had a point.) The Revolt failed to attract widespread support, being largely confined to the Arabian Peninsula and the tribes loyal to Sherif Hussein. Arab forces to the number of some 5,000 did, however, play a useful role in support of the British campaign that led to the destruction of Ottoman power in the Middle East.

The flag of the Arab Revolt, also called the Pan-Arab Flag, was a horizontal tricolor of black, green and white stripes with a red triangle at the hoist, these being colors long associated with Islam and the Arabs. It was used by the Arab administration that was set up by the British in Damascus after the ejection of the Turks from Syria and in 1920 when an independent Kingdom of Syria was proclaimed with Sharif Hussein’s son, Faisal bin Hussein, as king, its national flag was the Arab Revolt Flag with a single white star in the red triangle to signify independence. The kingdom, however, lasted only a matter of months, the European powers having agreed that Syria should become a League of Nations mandate territory under French rule.




Mandate of Syria  •  1920-22


Syrian Federation & State of Syria  •  1922-32


State of Damascus  •  1920-24


State of Aleppo  •  1920-24

Under the terms of the mandate (officially the Mandate for Syria and the Lebanon) Syria was, supposedly, to be governed by France with an eye toward the establishment of an independent state. In line with this requirement the French created a Syrian Federation in 1922, reorganized and renamed the State of Syria in 1924. The State united the previously separate states of Damascus and Aleppo along with some other territories to form what eventually became independent Syria. Though the State enjoyed a certain autonomy there was widespread discontent that led in 1925 to a revolt that was put down by the French Army with exemplary brutality.

The flags used during this period were of a colonial type, with a canton of the French Tricolor. The flag of the State of Syria was replaced in 1932 when the constitution of the Syrian Republic came into effect.




National Flag  •  Syrian Republic  •  1932-58
National Flag  •  Syrian Arab Republic  •  1961-63


National Flag •  United Arab Republic  •  1958-61
National Flag  •  Syrian Arab Republic  •  Since 1980


Presidential Flag •  United Arab Republic  •  1958-61

The 1930 constitution of the Syrian Republic made provision for a national flag: horizontal stripes of green, white and black, with three red stars on the white stripe, thus restoring in a different form the colors of the Arab Revolt flag. The three stars symbolized the country's three regions: Damascus, Aleppo and
Deir ez Zor. It was officially hoisted for the first time in 1932, when the Syrian Republic replaced the State of Syria. Syria became independent in 1943 after the suppression of the Vichy French administration, and the last French troops departed in 1946.

In 1958 Egypt and Syria signed a treaty of union. Thus was created the United Arab Republic (UAR), a polity that it was hoped would eventually encompass all Arab states. The flag of the new nation was a horizontal red-white-black tricolor with two green stars for Egypt and Syria on the white stripe. It thus merged the tradition of the Arab Liberation Flag with that of the-Arab Revolt Flag. The coat of arms of the UAR was the Eagle of Saladin with a shield striped red-white-black bearing two green stars. These arms appeared in the upper hoist of the presidential flag. The union proved unworkable and Syria withdrew from it in 1961.


National Flag  •  Syrian Arab Republic  •  1963-72


National Flag  •  Syrian Arab Republic
Member State of the Federation of Arab Republics 1972-80


Presidential Standard  •  Syrian Arab Republic  •  1972-80


Presidential Standard  •  Syrian Arab Republic  •  Since 1980

After leaving the UAR, Syria restyled itself as the Syria
n Arab Republic and readopted the 1932-58 flag. In 1963, however, Army officers associated with the socialist Ba'ath Party engineered a coup, one result of which was the adoption of yet another national flag: essentially the UAR design but with three green stars. These were said to symbolize the three basic principles of the Ba'ath Party: Freedom, Unity, Socialism. But nine years later when Syria joined the Federation of Arab Republics, the 1963 flag was replaced. Under the terms of the Federation all three member states (Egypt, Libya, Syria) were to have the same flag: horizontal stripes of red, white and black with the so-called Hawk of Quraish on the white stripe. The Federation, like the UAR, proved unworkable and was dissolved in 1977 but Syria continued to use its flag until 1980 when as a nod to that elusive ideal, Arab unity, it readopted the 1958-61 United Arab Republic flag.

For the President of Syria, two standard have been used. The first was based on the Federation flag, with the shield on the hawk's breast striped in the national colors. The second is simply a square version of the current national flag.




Ba'ath Arab Socialist Party


National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces

The flag of the ruling Ba'ath Party is derived from the Arab Revolt Flag and is very similar to the flag of the Palestinian Authority. Various flags are used by opposition groups in Syria's bloody civil war but most popular is the original flag of independent Syria, with its green-white-black stripes and red stars. Some of these flags are identical to the official 1932-58 design; others are proportioned 2:3 like the current nationally flag and the stars are smaller. It seems likely that if the Assad regime is ever deposed, the 1923-58 flag or some variant thereof will become Syria's national flag.