Syria, officially the Syrian Arab Republic, is a country in Western Asia bordered on the southwest by Lebanon, on the west by the Mediterranean Sea, on the north by Turkey, on the east by Iraq, on the south by Jordan, and on the southwest by Israel. Syria, a country of fertile plains, high mountains, and deserts, is home to a diverse ethnic and religious population, including Syrian Arabs, Kurds, Turkmens, Assyrians, Armenians, Circassians, Mandeans, and Greeks, who make up the majority of the population. Sunnis, Christians, Alawites, Druze, Isma'ilis, Mandeans, Shiites, Salafis, and Yazidis are among the religious communities. The largest ethnic group is Arabs, and the largest religious group is Sunnis. Syria is a unitary republic of 14 governorates and is the only nation in the world that adheres to Ba'athism politically. It is a member of one international organization other than the United Nations, the Non-Aligned Movement; it was suspended from the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in November 2011, and self-suspended from the Union for the Mediterranean.Historically, the term "Syria" applied to a larger area known in Arabic as al-Sham. The current state includes the ruins of many ancient kingdoms and empires, including the 3rd millennium BC Eblan civilization. Aleppo and Damascus, the capital, are among the world's oldest continuously inhabited cities. Damascus was the seat of the Umayyad Caliphate and a regional capital of the Mamluk Sultanate in Egypt during the Islamic period. After centuries of Ottoman rule and a brief French mandate, the modern Syrian state was founded in the mid-20th century. The newly formed state was the largest Arab state to emerge from the former Ottoman provinces of Syria. Although French troops did not leave the country until April 1946, Syria gained de jure independence as a parliamentary republic on October 24, 1945, when the Republic of Syria became a founding member of the United Nations, effectively ending the former French Mandate. From 1949 to 1971, the post-independence era was turbulent, with numerous military coups and attempted coups shaking the country. Syria and Egypt established the United Arab Republic in 1958, but it was short-lived due to the Syrian coup d'état in 1961. After a constitutional referendum on December 1, 1961, the republic was renamed the Arab Republic of Syria, and the country became increasingly unstable before the 1963 Ba'athist coup d'état, which has kept the Ba'ath Party in power ever since. From 1963 to 2011, Syria was under Emergency Law, which legally suspended certain civil rights for residents. Bashar al-Assad has been the president of Syria since 2000, succeeding his father, Hafez al-Assad, who served from 1971 to 2000.