This is where 500 random Web users thought Syria's capital was located. (Screenshot

It's a common conceit of international news coverage that everyone has a basic working knowledge of whatever country happens to be in the news that day. For foreign affairs nerds like me, it can be easy to forget that there are lots of smart, curious people out there who might not  know that the Syrian civil war began in 2011 when the government violently suppressed peaceful protests. Or that there's a Syrian civil war. Or that Syria is a country in the Middle East.

It's okay, really: not knowing where Syria is located does not make you a terrible person. In fact, based on a Web game called "Where's Damascus?" lots of people can't correctly identify the country on a map, much less its capital city. The game asks players to find Damascus on an unlabeled Google map of the Earth. The heat map up top shows where the 500 most recent users clicked.

A lot of them got it generally right (presumably, some number cheated), although, like Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, many seemed to confuse Lebanon for a part of Syria. There are also big clusters who mistook Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq and weirdly Turkmenistan for Syria. I raise this not to mock people who don't know where Syria is but because apparently there are a lot of you, and most journalists are not going to deign to answer a question so basic. But someone has to.

Here, then, is the location of Syria, indicated clearly on a map so you don't have to go on pretending to know where it is:

syriaForMax (2)

It's in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea. It's between Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan and Israel. It has deserts and mountains and rivers and forests. There's much more information here.