In 1987 Syria was divided into thirteen provinces: Halab, Dimashq, Dar'a, Dayr az Zawr, Hamah, Al Hasakah, Hims, Idlib, Al Ladhiqiyah, Al Qunaytirah (which includes the Golan Heights), Ar Raqqah, As Suwayda, and Tartus. Damascus, as the national capital, was administered separately as a governorate until 1987, when it was designated as a province; the areas outside the city, which had constituted the separate Dimashq Province, were brought under the jurisdiction of the capital and were referred to as the "Province of Damascus rural area." In addition, Syrian maps included the Turkish province of Hatay, which the Syrians call Iskenderun. Each province is divided into districts, which in turn have subdistricts. Under Assad, government power remained highly centralized in Damascus, giving provincial governments little autonomy.
Each province is headed by a governor nominated by the minister of the interior and appointed by the central government. The governor is responsible for administration, health, social services, education, tourism, public works, transportation, domestic trade, agriculture, industry, civil defense, and maintenance of law and order in the province. The minister of local administration works closely with each governor to coordinate and supervise local development projects.
The governor is assisted by a provincial council, threequarters of whose members are popularly elected for a term of four years, the remainder being appointed by the minister of the interior and the governor. In addition, each council has an executive arm consisting of six to ten officers appointed by the central government from among the council's elected members. Each executive officer is charged with specific functions.
Districts and subdistricts are administered by officials appointed by the governor, subject to the approval of the minister of the interior. These officials work with elected district councils to attend to assorted local needs and serve as intermediaries between central government authority and traditional local leaders, such as village chiefs, clan leaders, and councils of elders.
Since Assad's 1970 Corrective Movement, the government has sought systematically to strengthen its control over local politics. The central government's firmer grasp on power has eroded the autonomy of both nomadic beduin and settled villagers who have until recently been allowed to practice self-government according to their own traditions and customs.
In urban areas, local municipal councils license businesses, control public services and utilities, and levy taxes. Some members of these councils are elected and some appointed. The councils are headed by mayors, who, in small towns, are responsible to the central government's district officer. If the town is the seat of the provincial government, the council is answerable directly to the governor of the province.
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