Which of the following countries of Southwest Asia and North Africa has the most diversified economy, and is not reliant on oil: Turkey
The use of landmasses is a common method that geographers use when dividing up the earth into regions. Have a large portion of land that is maybe almost entirely surrounded by water? Let’s make it a region! On the other hand, these kinds of divides might be more challenging to make at times. For example, practically the whole continent of Africa is covered by water, with the exception of a narrow land bridge that connects it to Asia at the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt.
However, the nations of Africa that are located north of the Sahara are unique from those of Sub-Saharan Africa in terms of their physiography, culture, and language. In point of fact, North Africa has a lot more in common with the Arabian Peninsula and Southwest Asia in terms of its physical and religious environment than it does with some of its continental neighbors that are located farther to the south.
Throughout history, this part of North Africa and Southwest Asia was often referred to as the “Middle East,” which is probably an inappropriate moniker for the area. However, this raises the question: what exactly is it that is in the center of? Where does it lie to the east of? Both east and west are relative phrases when referring to a globe. Although it is located west of Europe, California is really east of China. Although it is located in Southeast Asia, Indonesia is farther to the northwest of Australia.
Even while the equator may physically be located in the centre of the earth, the so-called “Middle East” is really located well over 1,000 miles to the north of it. The fact is that Western Europe is where the phrase “Middle East” first appeared. It was usual practice to refer to Eastern Europe and Turkey as being located in the “Near East,” whereas China was considered to be located in the “Far East.” The so-called “Middle East” was thus located in the middle of these two areas.
It seems that privileging a European viewpoint by referring to the area as the “Middle East” is problematic; thus, what other options are there? You could refer to it as the Islamic World, couldn’t you? This would exclude out countries such as Israel and administrations with secular ideologies such as that of Turkey, in addition to the various religious minorities that may be found in the area. You may have overheard some individuals refer to this region as the Arab World; however, this description does not accurately describe Iran, a significant portion of Israel, or Turkey. Therefore, the only geographical designation that remains is a descriptive one: North Africa and Southwest Asia, often abbreviated as NASWA.
No matter what you call it, this part of the planet serves as the spiritual and cultural center for a number of the world’s most significant ancient civilizations and contemporary faiths. The geography of North Africa and Southwest Asia is distinguished by regional diversity in culture, language, religion, resources, and precipitation. These variances are implied by the fact that it is difficult to name this area of the world. Even within nations, regional imbalances occur, both in terms of the physical terrain and the patterns of human activity. These imbalances may be seen in both natural and built environments.
Deserts are widely recognized as one of the most distinctive characteristics of North Africa and Southwest Asia. The Sahara, whose name originates from the Arabic word ar, which means “desert,” is the biggest scorching desert in the world. It covers 9.4 million square kilometers (3.6 million square miles) of territory in North Africa. Even though towering sand dunes are what most people picture when they think of the Sahara, the majority of the desert is really made up of rocks.
The Arabian Desert is the most prominent geographical feature on the Arabian Peninsula’s eastern side. The Rub’al-Khali, which is the world’s biggest continuous sand desert, can be found in the desert’s southern region. It is also one of the landscapes that has the most oil in the globe. In addition, there are a number of highland regions spread across the region, such as the Atlas Mountains, which are located in Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia, and the Zagros Mountains, which are located in Iran, Iraq, and Turkey.
The absence of precipitation is the defining characteristic of the climate of North Africa and Southwest Asia in general. On a map of the world’s climatic regions, there is a distinct band of dry air that extends from 10 degrees to 30 degrees north. This band is responsible for creating the region’s hot desert climate zone, which is designated as BWh in the Koppen climate classification system. The majority of the area has annual rainfall of less than 30 centimeters (12 inches). Due to the presence of a scorching desert climate in the area, the majority of the land there cannot be used for agricultural purposes.
However, there are certain deviations from the norm in this dry climate. The area is home to a diverse collection of oasis and rich river basins. For instance, the Nile River is responsible for the creation of a fertile floodplain in an otherwise highly arid region (see Figure 7.4). Even though there are deserts in certain parts of Iran, the north of the country is covered in lush woods, and there are also a number of beautiful lakes.
Because of its breathtakingly beautiful azure seas, the coast of Turkey that runs along the Mediterranean is sometimes referred to as the Turquoise Coast. In general, however, the regions of North Africa and Southwest Asia that have a greater abundance of plant life are not those that get an abundance of rainfall; rather, these regions have a greater presence of rivers, lakes, and oceans than they have rainfall.
Changes in the climate on a global scale might have significant repercussions for a region that is generally characterized by its dry and hot weather. The patterns of human habitation and growth in North Africa and Southwest Asia have already been considerably restricted as a result of the region’s climate and physical environment. It is possible that rising temperatures may make droughts worse, and it is also conceivable that heat waves and dust storms will become more common.
Already, tensions have arisen in some regions over the limited water supplies available. For example, the Nile River passes through 10 distinct nations on its way to the Mediterranean Sea, and forty percent of Africa’s total population resides inside its floodplain. However, Egypt uses 99 percent of the Nile’s water supply, which puts pressure on other nations, such as Sudan, to maintain the flow of water downstream. Cotton is a crop that is not often grown in dry environments like Egypt’s, therefore the irrigation of cotton fields accounts for a considerable portion of the country’s total water consumption. Cotton, however, takes a significant quantity of water and is not normally grown there.
The population distribution and cultural practices of North Africa and Southwest Asia have been significantly influenced by the region’s climate and physical terrain. People in the area tend to congregate near the few water supplies in the region, mirroring historic patterns of human habitation (see Figure 7.5).
There are four locations in particular that stand out as having large population densities: the valley of the Nile River, the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, the basins of the Euphrates and Tigris rivers, and the valleys in the northwestern portion of Iran.
Over 10,000 years ago, the first people to inhabit North Africa and Southwest Asia established their communities in what is now known as the Fertile Crescent, which is located in the region bordered by the rivers Tigris, Euphrates, and Nile (see Figure 7.6). Domestication of plants and animals as well as the establishment of the earliest human communities based on agriculture began right here.
In Mesopotamia, and more specifically in the river valleys of the Tigris and Euphrates, developments happened that would alter the course of human history. These developments were particularly significant. This is the location that is credited with the invention of the wheel, the development of the first system of mathematics, and the planting of the first cereal grains such as barley and wheat in the world. In addition, Mesopotamia was the location of the very first urban civilisation, which was known as Sumer.
In the year 2500 BCE, the city of Uruk in Sumer had a population that was more than 50,000 people, making it the most populated city in the world at the time. It is probable that the ancient city of Babylon, which was situated between the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers, was the first metropolis to attain a population of 200,000 people. Babylon was inhabited for thousands of years.
As a result of living in such a dry environment, the inhabitants in this area have devised a variety of strategies to make life easier for themselves. Roofs that are elevated atop buildings are a typical architectural feature. Due to the fact that hot air rises, having a higher ceiling in the living room makes it possible to keep the area reasonably cool.
Additionally, rooms are often organized all around a shared, covered patio. This not only enables air movement throughout the living rooms but also permits the highest possible level of seclusion. The traditional manner of clothing in some areas of this region is also very recognizable, and it often mirrors the surrounding topography.
In order to shield their faces from the sand and the heat, men often wear long, flowing robes in addition to headdresses made of cotton. The traditional garb worn by women in the area is more of a reflection of the community’s religious ideals than it is of environmental considerations.
During the warmer months of the year, members of some cultural groups in the region migrate to locations with lower temperatures in order to adapt to the region’s physical environment. For example, the Berber people are an indigenous people group that dwells in North Africa. Traditionally, they are cattle herders that travel periodically in search of fresh water, pasture space, and safe haven. However, during the last several years, there has been a substantial shift in the way of life for many of the pastoral nomads that live in this area, including some Berbers. These communities have been encouraged by a number of national governments to engage in permanent agriculture rather than seasonal movement. Additionally, traditional migration routes have often been blocked off by international borders.
The Persians, who lived in what is now the country of Iran, came up with a novel means to convey water that was known as a qanat. Qanats are subterranean tunnels that are used to take groundwater from below mountains and convey it downwards, where it is utilized to irrigate agriculture. Qanats were developed in ancient Egypt (see Figure 7.7). They have been around for almost 2,500 years, and even today, Iran and Afghanistan both make use of a significant number of their original qanats.
In such a severe and dry climate, the potential for agricultural production is rather low. River valleys and coastal locations supplied tiny patches of productive land; nevertheless, given the lack of extensive agricultural growth in this region, what other resources may bring prosperity to this area? The discovery of oil in Saudi Arabia at the beginning of the 20th century would turn out to be both a boon and a bane for the surrounding area.
As of today, Saudi Arabia continues to be the biggest oil exporter in the world, with daily shipments of more than 7.3 million barrels as of 2015. Other countries that rank in the top seven exporters of oil throughout the world are Kuwait, Iran, Iraq, and the United Arab Emirates. Revenues from oil have enabled these nations to achieve greater levels of development by funding industrialisation and infrastructure development while also ensuring high levels of personal income.
For instance, Qatar, a small country that was once a British protectorate and is located on the coast of the Arabian Peninsula, has the highest GDP per capita of any country in the world (as of 2018, according to the International Monetary Fund), at over $130,000 per person. This is largely attributable to the country’s vast oil and natural gas reserves. The Burj Khalifa in Dubai, which is situated in the United Arab Emirates, has just taken the title of the tallest skyscraper in the world. Even while the United Arab Emirates is trying to diversify its economy and earn worldwide attention by erecting this 828-meter (2,717-foot) wonder, the country’s economy is still highly reliant on oil.
Historically, autocratic government, sluggish economic development, widespread corruption, and armed conflict have been common problems in emerging nations that are rich in oil resources. Oil income has been used to support militaries, and corrupt governments have pocketed oil cash rather of reinvesting it in social programs or infrastructure. Oil wealth has also been utilized to build new pipelines and refineries.
In addition, since this area places such a significant focus on exporting a single resource, such as oil, it is susceptible to shifts in the demand for energy on a worldwide scale. The decline in the price of oil in 2015 caused nations in North Africa and Southwest Asia to lose a combined total of $390 billion in income.
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) was established in 1960 by five nations, including Venezuela, Iran, Iraq, and Kuwait, with the goal of coordinating oil output and pricing. These nations were joined by Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Today, OPEC is comprised of 14 countries and controls more than 40 percent of the world’s oil exports (see Figure 7.8).
Rather of attempting to undercut one another via competition, members of OPEC work together to establish how much oil should be produced and to negotiate prices for the commodity as a whole. Over the last several years, the United States and a number of other nations have boosted their own domestic oil production, which has led to a fall in OPEC’s share of the worldwide market for oil exports.
The presence of oil throughout North Africa and Southwest Asia has not only contributed to the legacy of colonialism, but it has also rendered these nations susceptible to the control and influence of outside parties. In addition to this, the unequal distribution of oil resources and income has contributed to inequality not just within nations but also between them. Ethnic disparities have also surfaced as a consequence of the unequal access that different groups have to oil reserves and wealth.
Oil has also altered the pattern of human settlement in the area by luring people from other countries, who are drawn to the region by the promise of better economic opportunities, to move there.
It is widely believed that North Africa and Southwest Asia served as one of the primary incubators for the development of human civilisation. In addition to this, it serves as the spiritual epicenter for a number of the world’s most prominent faiths. These faiths have not only altered the cultural landscape of the world, but they have also contributed to increased tension and warfare across the area. Abraham is believed to have been a tribe patriarch who lived somewhere in the second millennium before the common era. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam can all trace their lineage back to Abraham. Abraham may have been alive.
Judaism is the oldest of the Abrahamic religions, dating back to the time of Abraham. The notion that there is only one deity lies at the heart of Judaism, which classifies it as a monotheistic faith. The Torah, the most important book in the Jewish religion, contains a discussion not only of the creation of the universe but also of the establishing of the first agreement that was made with God. Jews believe that Abraham was the one who made this covenant.
Solomon is credited with building the first Jewish temple, which is believed to have been established in the area that is now Israel about 832 BCE. In the year 587 BCE, the city of Jerusalem and the Temple of Solomon were both destroyed by the Babylonians. Many academics believe that this catastrophe was a driving force behind the composition of the written Hebrew Bible, which Christians refer to as the Old Testament.
Herod began the process of rebuilding the temple around the beginning of the first century BCE. However, this area has a long history of being prone to invasion and conquest, and in the year 70 CE, the Romans were the ones who were responsible for destroying the Second Temple. This catastrophe was the catalyst for the mass departure of Jewish people from the area.
Both of Jerusalem’s temples were primarily used for offering sacrifices, and it was widely believed that God actually resided inside the buildings themselves. Therefore, early Judaism was a religion that concentrated on the temple. The destruction of the Second Temple represented a decisive transition in Jewish history from the ancient form of Judaism practiced in temples to the more contemporary form of Judaism practiced by rabbis.
If a person’s status as a Jew is not determined by the sacrifices they perform in the Temple, then what characteristics distinguish Jews from non-Jews? The interpretation of Jewish religious texts by rabbis and other Jewish religious leaders became of key importance in the process of developing new concepts of Jewish identity.
There are around 14 million Jews living in the globe today. Of them, approximately 42 percent call Israel home, another 42 percent call North America home, and the remaining Jews are mostly concentrated in Europe. In addition, Judaism established a number of other branches, such as Orthodox, which adheres to a more traditional interpretation of the religion, Reform, which is also known as Progressive Judaism, and Conservative, which adheres to a more moderate interpretation of the religion.
Conservative Judaism is practiced by the greatest number of Jews around the globe. On the other hand, millions of Jews all over the globe consider themselves to be unaffiliated or secular. These individuals place a greater emphasis on the historical and cultural aspects of their religion than they do on its theological underpinnings.
Christianity is a monotheistic Abrahamic religion like Judaism and Islam. The life and teachings of Jesus, a Jewish preacher who was born in Judea, which is now a part of Israel, in the year 4 BCE served as the inspiration for its development. Jesus was of the opinion that the end of the world was drawing close, and he placed a strong emphasis on love as the primary tenet of his religion. Around the year 30 CE, the Romans crucified him, which was a kind of punishment that was traditionally reserved for people who opposed the existing social order.
Christianity emerged from inside Judaism as an unique religious movement throughout time, although its roots may be traced back to the practice of a Jewish sect. During the early years of Christianity, a number of councils were conducted in order to develop a theology that was accepted by the majority, despite the fact that some of these conclusions were contested. Through the course of its history, Christianity has evolved into a variety of unique branches and denominations.
The first of these splits, which is also known as the Great Schism, occurred in the year 1054 CE and was caused by geography as much as it was caused by theology. The Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches went their own ways as a result of this division. The Ninety-Five Theses, written by the German monk Martin Luther in the year 1517 CE, were critical of the theology of the Roman Catholic Church and marked the beginning of the Protestant Reformation.
With more than 2.2 billion followers, Christianity is now the religion with the most followers in the world. Although there is a great range of diversity in the beliefs held by individual Christians, the vast majority of Christians believe that Jesus is a divine person and that he was raised after his death. Roman Catholicism continues to be the biggest single denomination of Christianity, with around 1.2 billion adherents, the majority of whom are located in Brazil, North America, Western Europe, and some regions in both Africa and South America.
Islam is the religion that most accurately represents the people and culture of North Africa and Southwest Asia in the modern era. The religion of Islam places a strong emphasis on the concept that Muhammad was the last prophet and teaches that there is only one God. Muslims are those who adhere to the teachings of Islam. The Islamic religion draws heavily from both Jewish and Christian theological traditions. Abraham, Noah, Moses, and other people are regarded as prophets of God in Islam, just as they are in Judaism.
A monotheistic conception of God is central to both Judaism and Islam. In Islam, God is referred to just by the name Allah, which derives from the Arabic word al-ilh, which means “the God.” It is a central tenet of Islam that Jesus was a prophet, and the account of his life and death that is included in the Qur’an is strikingly similar to the one that is found in the New Testament.
At the year 570 before the common era, Muhammad was born in Mecca, which is now located in Saudi Arabia. Muslims believe that Muhammad started receiving revelations from God when he was 40 years old, and shortly after that, he began preaching in the town in which he lived. The Qur’an is considered to be the holiest book in Islam, and Muslims are of the belief that it contains the verbatim words of God as they were revealed to Muhammad. In Arabic, the word “Qur’an” translates directly to “the recitation.
” In the year 622 CE, after widespread persecution, Muhammad was compelled to travel to Yathrib, which is the name of what is now the city of Medina in the Saudi Arabia. The Islamic calendar officially started at the beginning of this year. Muhammad was able to win converts and establish his political power in Yathrib. Eventually, Muslim armies from Yathrib would go on to take Mecca, which is where Muhammad would pass away in the year 632 CE.
Almost immediately after Muhammad’s death, debates sprang out on who should take over as the spiritual head of the Muslim community and continue Muhammad’s work. The vast majority of Muslims are of the opinion that the leader of Islam should be the one who has the highest merit. This organisation now serves as a representative for the Sunni branch of Islam. Others, however, were of the opinion that in order to be a legitimate leader, one needed to be Muhammad’s blood related.
This sect is known as the Shia, which comes from the Arabic term shi’atu Ali, which translates to “followers of Ali.” Ali was Muhammad’s cousin and son-in-law. Shia draw their name from this phrase. Shia Muslims make up around 10 percent of the total Muslim population, making Sunni the dominant school of Islam in the modern era. Sunnis make up approximately 90 percent of all Muslims.
The Five Pillars of Islam serve as the basis for both daily living and religious activity for Muslims. To begin, the term “statement of faith” (Shahada) is meant to allude to the first pillar of the Shahada. The phrase is often chanted in Arabic, although its literal meaning is “There is no deity but God, and Muhammad is the messenger of God.” Simply believing what you are saying and saying it with conviction is all that is necessary to become a Muslim.
The act of praying five times each day is referred to as the pillar of Salat. When Muslims pray, they turn their faces toward the Kaaba, which is a cube-shaped building in Mecca that is believed to be the holiest location for Muslims everywhere in the world (see Figure 7.10). The act of donating to charitable causes is known as zakat, which is the third and final pillar of Islam. Donating two and a half percent of one’s wealth annually is a religious obligation for Muslims.
In order to fulfill the requirements of the Sawm, the Muslims must abstain from food and drink throughout the month of Ramadan. Adult Muslims observe the month of Ramadan by fasting during daylight hours from eating, drinking, and sexual activity. Those individuals who are unable to fast due to age, illness, pregnancy, or other circumstances are excluded from the obligation. The purpose of the month-long fast is to draw Muslims closer to God, but it is also intended to get them back in touch with what it is like to be hungry in the hopes that it would help them remain conscious of those who are less fortunate during the rest of the year.
The fifth and final pillar of Islam is the hajj, which is a pilgrimage to Mecca that all Muslims who are able to do so both physically and financially are required to accomplish at least once in their lives. During the pilgrimage known as the hajj, which lasts for many days, Muslims carry out a range of rites, some of which date back to Abraham’s time.
The number of pilgrims who completed the hajj in 2012 set a new high of 3.16 million, and as the number of pilgrims has increased, crowd management has become a key problem. Since 1990, there have been many stampedes, the worst of which happened in 2015 and claimed the lives of almost 2,000 people.
With the exception of Israel, every state in this area has a population where Islam is the predominant religion. Islam is the religion with the most adherents and the quickest rate of growth worldwide, with over 1.8 billion members. Despite the fact that a belief in Islam serves as the primary unifying factor in this part of the world, the existence of a significant number of religious minorities as well as internal disputes within Islam have often resulted in violent conflict.
Following Muhammad’s passing, the religion of Islam was spread across the area by Arab armed forces. Under the Umayyad Caliphate in the 7th and 8th centuries, the Islamic Empire reached its greatest extent and covered an area of approximately 15 million square kilometers (5.79 million square miles), stretching from the Iberian Peninsula in the southwestern corner of Europe, which includes Spain and Portugal, all the way across North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula and into Pakistan. During this time, the Islamic Empire was ruled by the Umayyad Dynasty.
A number of centuries were spent in the existence of the Islamic Empire. Its capital was originally located in Medina, but then relocated to Damascus, which is now the capital of Syria, and subsequently to Baghdad, which is the capital of modern-day Iraq. However, by the year 1259 CE, the Mongols had taken control of a large portion of this area, including Baghdad. This marked the beginning of a pattern of occupation and conquest that would continue right up to current times.
The Ottoman Empire, which had its capital in what is now Turkey, came next and eventually came to dominate a significant portion of North Africa as well as the coastal regions of Southwest Asia by the 15th and 16th century. Even though it fell into decline over time, the Ottoman Empire retained control of a significant portion of the area right up until it was defeated in World War I together with the other Central Powers of Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Bulgaria. After the end of World War I, the allied powers of Europe partitioned the land that had once belonged to the Ottoman Empire and established colonies throughout the region.
The League of Nations was an intergovernmental organization that existed from the end of World War I until the beginning of World War II. During its existence, the League of Nations partitioned what was formerly the Ottoman Empire and granted mandates to European powers so that they could control portions of the empire’s territory. For instance, the French government was granted a mandate over Syria. The British were assigned the responsibility of controlling Iraq in addition to Palestine. The Italians were also successful in acquiring a portion of the Ottoman Empire in the early 20th century when they took control of Libya from the Ottomans.
When the colonies of North Africa and Southwest Asia were established, as was the case in a great deal of other regions of the globe, little consideration was given to the underlying ethnic problems or resource difficulties. Some cultural groups discovered that they were dispersed throughout many distinct European colonies, while others were compelled to share newly established territory with ethnic groups who were hostile to them. These problems stemming from the colonial past would not go away even after the colonies achieved their independence. The uneven distribution of oil riches in the area, which was not found in considerable amounts until after European countries had withdrawn from the region, would further complicate the region’s efforts to maintain political and economic stability.
The political landscape of North Africa and Southwest Asia as it exists now is a reflection of borders that were artificially created and the legacy of colonialism. Nations in this area have a history of being prone to political instability and war, and violence has often erupted as a result of religious tensions that have existed not just among Muslims living in these countries but also with the region’s various religious minorities.
Because of the nature of this area, development and transportation are sometimes limited to very small channels, which is one of the primary challenges. Control of these choke points is typically a source of conflict in situations like these. A choke point is a point at which a path to another area becomes more congested and difficult to travel through. There are several choke points that are strategically significant in North Africa and the Middle East. Two of these choke points are the Hormuz Strait, which is the only sea passage into the Persian Gulf, and the Suez Canal, which was constructed to connect the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea. Both of these choke points are located in North Africa. It has often been a source of controversy to determine who controls these choke points and, more importantly, who they let to pass through.
In general, European conquerors were hesitant to give up control of the territory once they had established themselves there. When local factions attempted to ensure their independence, they often resorted to violent methods. As a direct consequence of this, many of the recently formed administrations in the area were composed of military factions. In other instances, kings obtained either military backing or the alliance of local religious authorities in order to maintain their power. The discovery of oil not only provided enormous income to many regions in this region, but it also revived interest and participation from the West in these countries. During the time of the Cold War, for instance, the United States made it a priority to restrict the influence of the Soviet Union in the area and to safeguard its supply of oil.
There have been instances when conservative Christian doctrine has offered a response to Westernization and other forms of foreign influence. For instance, the Islamic Revolution of 1979 that took place in Iran was mostly a response to the country’s Shah, who was supported by the United States. Iran became a theocracy as a result of the revolution, which means that the country is ruled by religious authorities. The Grand Ayatollah, a Shia religious cleric, now holds the position of supreme leader.
Following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the ruling family of the Saud dynasty joined forces with the spiritual head of the Wahhabi movement to lay the groundwork for the current state of Saudi Arabia. Wahhabism is a stringent school of Sunni Islam that upholds very rigid interpretations of Islamic morality. Women are required to have male guardians, often a father, brother, uncle, or spouse, and they need the approval of their guardian in order to make significant choices or travel. The clothing code for women is quite rigorous and places an emphasis on modesty. Until 2018, women were barred from driving. Wahhabism prohibits a variety of other activities as well, such as viewing secular shows on television, playing games like chess, and dancing. When one of these restrictions is broken, one often faces serious consequences.
In Afghanistan, a group of militant Sunnis known as al-Qaeda battled against the invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union. This conflict took place throughout the 1980s. Osama bin Laden is credited with establishing the group, which went on to forge an alliance with the Taliban, an Islamic fundamentalist political force that is also headquartered in Afghanistan. Between the years 1996 and 2001, the Taliban were able to maintain their hold on power in Afghanistan with the assistance of al-military. Qaeda’s They are notorious for the violent tyranny they inflict on women as well as the terrorist attacks they carry out on civilian targets. As nations have become more contemporary, Westernization and traditional religious beliefs have continued to come into conflict with one another.
The topography of North Africa and the Middle East is still in the process of changing. In recent years, the wave of demonstrations and revolutions known as the “Arab Spring” has been responsible for the most extensive political upheaval. A fruit seller in Tunisia who felt he was being harassed by police on a regular basis lit himself on fire in 2010, marking the beginning of the Arab Spring. Following his passing, Tunisians took to the streets in large numbers to demand that the government address the country’s systemic problems, including rampant corruption, high unemployment, a lack of political and personal freedom, and high food costs. Ben Ali, the president of Tunisia, resigned after just 10 days of protests, after having been in power for 23 years. Ben Ali departed the country in exile. Protests, which originated in Tunisia, quickly swept across the region, eventually bringing down administrations that had been in power for decades.
Inequality is the driving force underlying many of the factors that led to the Arab Spring. In a significant portion of this part of the globe, a relatively small number of people own the majority of the money and power. The area’s young people, in particular, had high education levels but also high unemployment rates; yet, they played a vital role in bringing about change in the region. In addition, social media was utilized to organize and gather support, which contributed to the quick spread of the revolution. There have been several subsequent waves of political transition in a number of the nations that went through an initial change in regime. This is due to the fact that interim administrations often proven to be just as unsuccessful as the leadership that came before them.
However, in Syria, President Bashar al-Assad has not only refused to stand down despite huge early demonstrations and requests for a change in the country’s leadership, but he has also brutally resisted demonstrators. Since the 1960s, the Ba’ath political party, which is a socialist and nationalist organization that seeks Arab unification, has been the ruling party in Syria. The fact that Bashar al-Assad was elected president in a referendum in the year 2000 and ran uncontested is an indication that there is little to no political freedom in the nation. Many civilian protesters were murdered or tortured after soldiers were given the order to open fire on them by superiors. At some point, the situation in the nation deteriorated to the point that it descended into civil war, with the government battling rebel organizations that attempted to topple it and citizens becoming caught in the crossfire.
The civil war in Syria presented an opening for another organization in the area to seize control of land, and they took advantage of that opportunity. ISIS, or the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, also known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) or simply the Islamic State (IS), was founded in 2014 as a Sunni extremist group that opposed the invasion of Iraq by the United States. Other names for ISIS include the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and just the Islamic State (IS). Prior to the toppling of then-President Saddam Hussein, who was also a member of the Ba’ath party, the minority Sunni population of Iraq had been in control of the country for hundreds of years. However, the majority Shia population now rules the country. The attempts to form a coalition government that would have included Sunnis in addition to the other minority groups that exist in the nation were unsuccessful. ISIS was created by a subset of Sunnis who had previously served as political leaders or military troops under Saddam Hussein. Eventually, they were successful in driving out Iraqi government forces from numerous important cities.
The organization used this location as a springboard to seize control of further territory in Syria. A significant portion of Iraq and Syria functioned for a time as an insurgent state, which is a term that refers to an area that is not under the jurisdiction of government troops. ISIS is notorious for its use of cruel techniques, such as beheadings, sexual assault, and a fundamentalist interpretation of Islam. These practices have gained widespread notoriety. The goal of the organization was to establish a global Islamic state that would rule over all countries that identify as Muslim. The United States government announced in 2019 that ISIS had been defeated; however, researchers point out that despite the fact that the United States did indeed take control of the last bits of territory held by ISIS, thousands of ISIS fighters are still dispersed across Iraq and Syria, and the organization continues to have the support of other affiliate groups and fighters from all over the world.
Since 2011, the people of Syria have been subjected to assaults by both their own government and by rebel factions as well as strikes by ISIS. There have been approximately 400,000 deaths in Syria, the most of which have been civilians, and over 13 million people have been forced to from their homes. Some refugees have chosen to stay in Syria despite being prevented from receiving help by the Syrian government and other rebel factions. Approximately 4.8 million people have fled their homes in Syria. Many people have lost their lives while attempting to make the dangerous trek to Turkey and Greece by sea. Both Europe and North America have discussed whether or not they should take in these refugees. While some nations have expressed concern that refugees from Syria may in fact be terrorists, others have acknowledged that it is the responsibility of the international community to assist those who are in need.
The growth of ISIS is emblematic of a number of significant geographical challenges that are prevalent in this area. These challenges include the junction of religious ideals and political instability, as well as the control of territory and resources. ISIS is a manifestation of Islamism, which is a hardline interpretation of Islam. Islamism is defined by a rigorous, literal interpretation of the Qur’an, conservative moral ideals, and the goal to impose Islamic norms over the whole of the globe. These characteristics come together to form the word “Islamism.” Jihadism is a violent ideology that tries to battle dangers to the Muslim community. Jihadism was inspired by militant Islamist groups that sought to resist these concerns.
Islamism and jihadism, on the other hand, only make up a minor part of the ideas held by Muslims worldwide. According to the findings of a poll conducted by the Pew Research Center, more than three quarters of the Muslim community in the majority of nations do not support Islamic extremism, and the majority of respondents voiced worry over religious extremism. Furthermore, even in North Africa and Southwest Asia, only one quarter of Muslims held the belief that tensions within the Muslim community between more religious and less religious Muslims constituted a significant challenge. This was the case even though these regions are home to the largest populations of Muslims. There are essential readings of scripture and understandings of theology that range from conservative to liberal in each and every religious group.
The personal and religious lives of traditional Muslims are inextricably connected, and as a result, the governmental institutions in this area have often mirrored religious norms and principles. Sharia law, often known as Islamic law, is in effect in the legal systems of many countries in North Africa and Southwest Asia as a result of those countries’ adoption of sharia (see Figure 7.13). Particularly Islamist parties have often adopted a rigorous and severe interpretation of sharia in their legal practices. The majority of Muslims in many nations feel that sharia should be the official legal system of such countries, but many of them also believe that it should solely apply to the Muslim population of those countries. In addition, there are a variety of ways in which Muslims interpret sharia, with some Muslims merely recognizing its application to personal disagreements but rejecting the severe penalties that sharia prescribes for a variety of transgressions.
In a region where political borders have often been fabricated by forces from outside the country, administrations have had a difficult time navigating their relationships with religious and ethnic minority groups. A proposal devised by the United Nations after World War II to divide the territory of Palestine under British rule into Jewish and Arab regions, for instance, resulted in the establishment of the current state of Israel. As a result of a series of wars fought between Israel and the Arab governments that are its neighbors, Israel is now an independent state that controls the areas that were supposed to be a part of Palestine. These regions include the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Jerusalem, which is significant to a number of the world’s faiths and would thus be considered a neutral, international city under the proposal proposed by the United Nations, has been designated as the capital of Israel.
Palestinians who are now living in land that is controlled by Israel and Israelis who continue to assert their sovereignty over the whole region continue to be at odds with one another (see Figure 7.14). Israel has constructed a number of walls to separate the regions it controls in the West Bank and Gaza from those in the West Bank and Gaza it does not control. Israel claims that these barriers are necessary to protect Israelis from Palestinian terrorists. However, for Palestinians, these barriers restrict their freedom of movement and often cut them off from the means by which they might support themselves. The Gaza strip continues to be entirely cut off from the rest of the world because to its confinement on all sides by walls and an Israeli naval blockade of the sea. Israeli building of houses in the West Bank has hampered the viability of a two-state solution and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, despite the fact that some people have proposed these options.
This part of the globe, which includes North Africa and Southwest Asia, is known as the birthplace of ancient civilizations as well as the origin of contemporary faiths; nevertheless, its resources are limited and their distribution is unequal. There has been an ongoing presence of both religious strife and political turmoil. Some organizations, such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), have carved out control over territory and financed armed insurgencies by taking advantage of unstable conditions and lucrative resources, such as oil. Traditional religious beliefs often stand in striking contrast to the behaviors of immigrant communities and visitors in nations that have undergone modernization and industrialization.
The seismic activity in Turkey is higher than any other nation in Southwest Asia or North Africa. In the arid regions of Southwest Asia and North Africa, pastoral nomadism is rather uncommon. Turkey’s economy is one of the most diverse in all of Southwest Asia and North Africa, and it is not dependent on the sale of oil in any way.
Oil, natural gas, and water all have an impact on the economic activities that take place in North Africa, Southwest Asia, and Central Asia. Although just a tiny portion of the land in the region is suitable for crop production, a significant number of people in the area find employment in agricultural-related occupations.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has one of the world’s populations that is expanding at one of the quickest rates. The vast majority of Saudi Arabia’s migrant laborers are from countries located in South Asia. Despite the fact that migrants make up just 33 percent of the entire population, they account for 56.5 percent of the total number of workers and 89 percent of the workers who are employed in the private sector.
Significant deposits of oil, natural gas, and key minerals may be found in the regions of North Africa, Southwest Asia, and Turkestan, respectively. It seems to reason that not all nations have the same reserves and that some of the countries have very little or none at all. However, this does not mean that all countries have the same reserves.
a body of water that connects the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea.
Because the amount of groundwater being extracted exceeds the amount that can be restored, this resource cannot be considered sustainable.
an irrigation technique that was invented in Iran that uses a network of tunnels with shallow gradients to access groundwater for watering crops.
Saudi Arabia’s interior
by drilling huge deep-water irrigation wells
The nations that may be found between Iran in the east and Tunisia and Morocco in the west are known as the MENA region. MENA is an acronym that stands for the Middle East and Northern Africa.
There is no agreed-upon definition of the countries that make up the MENA Region; however, in common parlance, it is understood to include at the very least the following: Algeria, Bahrain, Djibouti, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, Palestine, and Yemen. Other countries may also be included in this grouping. Ethiopia, the Sudan, Malta, Somalia, and Western Sahara, in addition to Mauritania, are sometimes included as well.
In common parlance, all of the nations that are located on or in close proximity to the Arabian Peninsula are collectively referred to as the Middle East. These nations include Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Syria, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Israel, Lebanon, Oman, the Palestinian territories, Kuwait, Qatar, and Bahrain. [Citation needed] Turkey, Afghanistan, and Pakistan are often categorized as part of the Middle East, despite the fact that these countries are not normally taken into account when discussing the MENA area.
Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt are the usual nations that are considered to be part of Northern Africa. This definition might possibly be broadened to include all or part of the following countries: Western Sahara, Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti, and Somalia.