Timeline of the Middle East in the Twentieth Century
A printable version of this timeline is available for download at the bottom of this page.
Oil is discovered in Iran.
Death of the great Muslim reformer, Muhammad Abdu.
The first US Druze Society is formed in Seattle.
The Young Turks, an Ottoman nationalist reform movement based in the Balkans, lead a revolt in Macedonia.
Poet and philosopher Mohammed Iqbal (1877-1938) pens Shikva, meaning “Complaint Against God,” a poem attacking Muslim traditionalists.
Boutros Ghali, the Coptic Prime Minister of Egypt, is assassinated.
Italy, desperate to acquire the prestige associated with colonial possessions, invades the Ottoman province of Tripoli (in present-day Libya). The Sanusiyah Sufi brotherhood mobilizes a popular resistance movement, but the Italians, after a brutal campaign, make the area a settler colony.
– Spain occupies the northern tenth of Morocco (the Ifni region on the Atlantic coast and the enclaves of Ceuta and Melila).
After years of increasing financial and political domination by foreign interests — primarily France and Spain — Morocco officially becomes a French protectorate under the Treaty of Fez signed on March 30th. Spanish control over Northern Morocco is also officially recognized. See the article “Frontiers in North Africa” for more about events leading up to this agreement and its consequences in the region.
World War I begins. The Ottomans ally themselves with Germany and the sultan proclaims war against the Entente Powers. Throughout the war, the vast majority of the empire’s Arabs will loyally support the Ottoman empire and the Islamic cause it represents.
– Kuwait, which is part of the Ottoman province of Basra, is declared a protectorate by Britain, with the aim of blocking a potential Ottoman challenge and a planned German-sponsored railway through the region, which might pose a threat to British interests in the area and in India.
The Hussein-McMahon Correspondence. In exchange for a British pledge to support a vaguely-defined Arab state independent of Ottoman control after the war, al-Sharif Hussein, the Emir of Mecca, agrees to lead an Arab rebellion against the Ottoman Empire. However, the Arab revolt he calls for in 1916 receives support only among the few tribes loyal to him. For the majority of Arabs within the Ottoman Empire, Hussein’s actions constitute a treasonous betrayal of the Sultan/Caliph.
-The Ottoman government determines that the Armenian population is a wartime security threat to the empire. Vast numbers of Armenians are uprooted from Anatolia and forced to migrate into Syria. The migration becomes genocidal; as many as one million Armenians die or are killed along the way.
Contrary to the pledge made to Hussein, Britain enters into the Sykes-Picot Agreement with France to divide the Arab Ottoman provinces among themselves. France is granted greater Syria, and Britain takes Iraq. Palestine is to be an international zone.
Under the Balfour Declaration, the British Cabinet promises to facilitate the creation of a Jewish “national home” in Palestine while protecting the civil and religious rights of the area’s existing population of approximately 690,000, made up of 535,000 Muslims, 70,000 Christians (most of whom are Arabs), and 85,000 Jews. In issuing the declaration, Britain seeks to gain wartime support from the Jewish communities in Europe and the U.S., as well as to secure a postwar territory adjacent to the Suez Canal. The declaration contradicts the terms of the Sykes-Picot Agreement and ignores the earlier pledges of Arab independence made to al-Sharif Hussein. Click here for video footage.
World War I ends. Britain and France emerge victorious, but the Arab dream of independence is dealt a severe blow as the colonization of Arab lands continues with more vehemence.
– Yemen gains independence from Turkish rule, and Imam Yahyia is declared ruler. He immediately annexes neighboring lands in what is now Saudi Arabia. The armed clashes over border disputes with the Saudis will continue for decades.
One of the first Sunni Mosques in America is established in Dearborn, Michigan.
An international meeting attended by the prime ministers of Great Britain, France, and Italy, as well as representatives from Japan, Greece and Belgium, is held on April 19th-26th in San Remo, Italy, to decide the fate of territories formerly under Ottoman control. Following this meeting, the League of Nations awards a mandate over Syria to France, and a mandate over Iraq and Palestine to Great Britain. The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is created out of the Palestinian Mandate. This process sets up a regional state system in an area where previously there existed a unified Ottoman administration. Borders are established without regard to natural or human boundaries. In accordance with their new status as distinct territorial entities, the new countries establish armies and adopt flags and anthems. However, these new states are not really independent, and remain under European control.
– In Tunisia, the Liberal Constitutional (Destour) Party presents the Bey and the French government with demands for constitutional reforms that would give the Tunisians the same rights as Europeans.
-Mohandas Gandhi begins his movement of non-cooperation with the British in India.
Faysal, the son of al-Sharif Hussein, becomes King of Iraq with the support of Great Britain, which controls the new country under the mandate system.
– In Moroccco, Abd el-Krim launches a rebellion and sets up the “Rif Republic.” It will require more than 250,000 combined French and Spanish troops to force him to surrender in 1926.
Britain grants Egypt independence and raises the status of the local ruler to that of a king, but reserves for itself control over security, communications, defense, and the protection of foreigners; it also keeps total control over the Sudan.
– Saad Zaghlul founds the Egyptian nationalist party Wafd, which demands greater national autonomy, a constitutional government, control over the Suez Canal, and more civil rights.
– Mustapha Kemal (Ataturk), a former Young Turk and hero of the Ottoman army, proclaims Turkey a republic.
-France determines that the Druze and the ‘Alawites should each have a separate state within the Syrian mandate, effectively cutting the two groups off from political participation in greater Syria.
Mustapha Kemal is elected President of Turkey. The Islamic Caliphate is effectively abolished as the new republic embarks on a program of modernization and secularization.
The renunciation of Turkish claims over non-Turkish territories of the Ottoman Empire is formalized in the Treaty of Lausanne. The British mandate acquires jurisdiction de jure over Palestine. Click here for video.
Lebanese- American poet Khalil Gibran (1883-1931) publishes The Prophet, his most famous work.
Egyptian feminist Huda Sha’rawi founds the Egyptian Feminist Union.
The Wafd party wins overwhelmingly in Egypt’s first elections under the British-sponsored monarchy, and embarks on a program of legal and social secularization.
-Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin dies.
1925 - 1927
The Druze state under the French mandate rises in revolt, driving the French from the territory. Druze actions inspire an all-Syrian revolt, eventually leaving 6,000 dead in the greater Syria area.
Abdul Aziz ibn Saud conquers Mecca and Medina. The Arabian kingdoms of Najd and Hijaz are unified into modern Saudi Arabia. Abdul Aziz’s victories across the Arabian Peninsula end the rule of the Hashemite family; al-Sharif Hussein is the last Hashemite to rule in Hijaz. Under the rulership of the Saud family, Wahhabism becomes the official Islamic trend in Saudi Arabia, and will later have a profound influence on the Taliban movement in Afghanistan.
– Abd el-Krim’s Rif Rebellion is put down in Morocco, and he is deported to Réunion.
In Egypt, Hassan al-Banna creates the Muslim Brotherhood, which begins as a youth social club and attracts thousands of young Egyptians from all walks of life. It will gradually become a political group and agitate for social and political reforms in Egypt in accordance with a strict interpretation of Islam, as well as for the end of British occupation.
Italy gives the name “Libya” to its North African colony, which consists of Cyrenaica, Tripolitania and Fezzan. The name Libya had previously been used by the Greeks to refer to a larger section of North Africa. This is explained in more detail in Frontiers in North Africa
– An outbreak of violence between Arabs and Jews in Palestine is caused by a dispute over Jewish use of the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem.
Birth of Ali Ahmad Sa’id (Adunis), a Syrian-born Lebanese poet and critic, and a leader of the modernist movement in Arab literature.
– French colonial policy attempts to divide the Arab and Amazigh populations of French-controlled Morocco through the “Berber Dahir” ( Berber Decree ), which puts predominantly Amazigh regions under tribal law. The Moroccan people overwhelmingly reject the divisive decree and Moroccan nationalism gains momentum.
Creation of the Association of Algerian Muslim Ulama under the leadership of Sheikh Abd al-Hamid Ben Badis. Its objectives include opposition to French colonialism and the consolidation of the identity of Algerians as Arab and Muslims. By 1936, it will have 130 schools in the city of Constantine alone, which teach Arabic to pupils and instill in them a national identity based on Ben Badis’ slogan, “Islam is my religion, Arabic is my language, Algeria is my homeland.”
Iraq gains nominal independence from Britain but is obliged to sign a treaty granting Britain privileges similar to those it maintains in Egypt.
The founding of Misr Studios in Egypt would soon make Egypt the Hollywood of the Arab world.
The oldest US mosque still in existence is built in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Sheikh Izz al-Din al-Qassam, the popular leader of a Palestinian Islamic resistance movement, is assassinated by the British police after his group is accused of killing a Jewish policeman. Al-Qassam’s death causes an uproar throughout Palestine and other Arab countries, possibly contributing to the bloody revolt of 1936.
– Birth of the enormously popular female Lebanese singer Fairuz .
With Nazism on the rise in Germany, Jewish immigration to Palestine increases rasing the Jewish population of the region from approximately 8% to around 30%. As a result, many Palestinian Arabs are dispossessed of their land to make room for the newcomers. Against this background, the Arabs launch a spontaneous rebellion against British rule and the increasing Zionist presence in Palestine. The revolt will go on for three years until the British authorities finally succeed in crushing it and dispersing the Palestinian leadership. For video footage from this time, click here.
– France negotiates a draft treaty of independence with both Syria and Lebanon. However, with the collapse of Léon Blum’s Popular Front government in France in 1938, the treaties will never be ratified and France’s heavy-handed occupation of both countries continues. See a video clip here.
– Crown Prince Farouq of Egypt ascends to the throne following the death of his father, King Fouad. Egypt gains formal independence from Britain, but the latter nation continues to control many aspects of Egypt’s affairs.
Pierre Gemayel, a Maronite Christian, becomes leader of the Phalange party, a right-wing militant Christian group in Lebanon.
– The British Royal Commission on Palestine recommends the partition of Palestine to establish separate Jewish and Arab states.
World War II begins. Britain seeks to ensure the cooperation of the Arab states in the conflict by issuing the White Paper of 1939, which disavows Britain’s intention of creating a Jewish State in Palestine. It also imposes temporary limits on Jewish migration to Palestine.
The Ba’th Party is founded in Damascus under the leadership of Michel Aflaq and Salah al-Bitar. With a name that means “revival,” and a secular and pan-Arabist ideology, the party’s objective is to inspire a cultural and political renaissance among Arabs everywhere so as to restore the Arab civilization to its prior glory and free it from foreign encroachment.
– The Vichy government comes to power in France and tries to compel the Moroccan Sultan Muhammad V to comply with his government’s anti-Jewish legislation. The Sultan refuses to do so.
Iraq is shaken by a pro-German coup. The British react by overthrowing the Iraqi government and installing pro-British leaders.
– After Lebanon and Syria fall under the control of the French Vichy government, Britain invades them and put Free French supporters in charge.
British and American forces land in North Africa as “Operation Torch,” commanded by U.S. General Dwight D. Eisenhower and aimed at driving the Axis powers out of the region and mounting an assault on France and Italy. The mission will last until May 12, 1945, after which time North Africa will resume its life under the colonial regimes.
– Birth of Mahmoud Darwish, a leading poet of the Palestinian resistance.
Lebanon achieves independence from France. As with the constitution of 1926, a power-sharing agreement called the National Pact guarantees that the president will always be a Maronite Christian.
– The Casablanca Conference, the first war conference between Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt, takes place in Morocco to establish an Allied Powers strategy. It is the first time any sitting American president has travelled to Africa. See an image here.
The women of the Egyptian Feminist Union spearhead the formation of the Arab Feminist Conference.
World War II ends with an Allied victory and the establishment of the United Nations, the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund.
– The League of Arab States is founded in Cairo by Egypt, Transjordan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Iraq, Lebanon and Syria to work for Arab independence and to oppose Zionist aspirations in Palestine.
– French forces repress a massive demonstration for independence in the eastern Algerian towns of Setif and Kherrata. It is estimated that around 54,000 Algerians are killed.
– The beginning of the Nuremberg trials on October 28th sheds light on the extent of Nazi atrocities in Europe.
The post-World War II era marks a shift in the emigration patterns of Arabs to the United States.
– Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria achieve independence from Britain and France.
– Irgun, a Jewish terrorist organization led by Menachim Begin, blows up the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, the headquarters of the British Palestine Administration, killing 91 people.
Zionist leaders declare war on the British in Palestine in order to get the immigration restrictions of the 1939 White Paper cancelled. Their presence in the area having become untenable, the British hand the Palestine question to the United Nations. A Special UN Commission on Palestine recommends the partition of historic Palestine into two separate states, one Jewish and the other Arab, with Jerusalem placed under international supervision. Palestinian Arabs reject this plan, which they perceive as biased against them. At the time, Jews are approximately half the Palestinian population and own about 7% of the land. The partition plan, which allocates approximately 55% of the most fertile land to the Jewish state, is approved by the UN General Assembly, and Britain agrees to withdraw from Palestine by May 15, 1948.
– Violence between Arabs and Jews reaches uncontrollable levels as Jewish forces begin to remove the Arabs from the territory allotted by the UN partition plan to a Jewish state. The resistance of Palestinian irregulars and volunteers from neighboring Arab countries is no match for the experienced Irgun and Hadanah Jewish groups. By the spring of 1948, more than 400,000 Arabs will have fled their land or been expelled. A human disaster has begun, with thousands of Palestinian refugees pouring into neighboring Arab states.
On May 14th, Great Britain withdraws its military and administrative personnel from Palestine. A few hours later, David Ben Gurion declares the independence of the state of Israel, which is quickly recognized by the USSR and U.S. On May 15th, a poorly-coordinated invasion of Israel by five neighboring Arab armies takes place. Superior in firepower, organization, and determination, Israel pushes back the invading armies and a cease-fire is declared in July. For two newreel clips of these events click here and here. In the course of the war, Israeli forces expel thousands of Palestinian Arabs and seize territory allotted to the Arab state under the UN Partition plan. for newsreel footage on the Palestinian refugee problem click here. See, also, Edward Said’s article on The Consequences of 1948.
Israel is admitted to the United Nations, which passes a resolution placing Jerusalem under international authority. Israel rejects the resolution and declares Jerusalem its eternal capital. East Jerusalem remains under Jordanian rule, under the terms of the 1948 cease-fire.
– Transjordan is renamed the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.
– Hassan Al-Banna, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, is assassinated.
-Mao Zedong declares the formation of the People’s Republic of China.
The West Bank is annexed by Jordan, while the Gaza Strip falls under Egyptian control. Approximately 960,000 Palestinian refugees (mostly in Gaza, Jordan and Lebanon) are registered for relief by the UN.
– Birth of the Lebanese lutist Marcel Khalifa, one of the most prominent composers and performers of modern Arabic music.
In Egypt, the political situation is rapidly deteriorating. After violent anti-British demonstrations in Cairo and elsewhere, the Wafd government led by Mustafa al-Nahhas abolishes the 1936 treaty with Britain, and the movement for total independence gains momentum. A group of young Egyptian officers calling itself the “Free Officers Movement,” led by Colonel Gamal Abdel Nasser and General Muhammad Naguib, overthrow the monarchy, ending the reign of the family dynasty established in 1841 by Muhammad Ali Pasha. King Farouq goes into exile in Italy, where he will die a few years later. Click here for video.
– Hussein Ibn Talal, grandson of the assassinated King Abdullah, is declared King of Jordan at age sixteen.
The once-complacent Sultan Muhammad V of Morocco has become difficult to manage, and the French plot with Abd al-Hayy Kittani (leader of the Kittaniya religious brotherhood) and some tribal leaders from the south to depose him. The Sultan is exiled in August, and Moulay Ben Arafa is installed on the throne. Muhammad V becomes a hero to most Moroccans, and pro-independence agitation increases.
– King Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia dies.
– General Muhammad Naguib is granted a three-year term as dictator in Egypt.
– Democratic elections are held in the Sudan.
– Soviet leader Joseph Stalin dies.
On November 1st, the National Liberation Front (FLN) in Algeria instigates a war of independence against French colonial rule.
– Colonel Gamal Abdel Nasser seizes power in Egypt. Click here for video footage. During the next two years, the governing Revolutionary Command Council, led by Nasser, will suspend the constitution, disband parliament, abolish political parties, and initiate an ambitious and widely popular plan for agrarian reform which confiscates land held by the rich and redistributes it to poor peasants. Negotiations with the British will eventually lead to an agreement for total evacuation of British forces from the Suez Canal Zone by 1956 Click here for video footage. In the early years of the Nasser regime, the Muslim Brotherhood is viewed favorably by Egypt’s leadership, but as their opposition to government policies increases, the Muslim Brothers will be forcibly repressed and their organization banned. Hundreds of Muslim Brothers will be imprisoned and tortured, and thousands will flee to other Arab countries.
– The first democratic Sudanese government takes office; Sudan is now officially an independent republic.
Israel and Jordan are involved in a number of border skirmishes.
– Moroccan Sultan Mohammed V returns from exile in triumph after being deposed by the French in 1953.
Nasser is officially elected President of Egypt. In response to the United States’ refusal to fund his plan to build the Aswan High Dam, he nationalizes the Suez Canal. Though relations between Nasser and the United States were initially warm, Nasser’s policies of positive neutralism, his antagonism towards oil-rich Gulf monarchies, his call for Arab nationalism, and his opposition to the Baghdad Pact have angered the United States, which comes to view him as an obstacle to its objectives in the Middle East. After nationalizing the Suez Canal, Nasser offers monetary compensation to the canal’s shareholders and promises that it will remain open to all countries, including Israel. These acts of national sovereignty cement Nasser’s popularity among Arabs but outrage Great Britain, France, and Israel. All three invade Egypt in an attempt to regain control of the canal and to topple Nasser; they will ultimately fail to achieve their objectives, due mainly to pressures from the United States and the Soviet Union. The Aswan High Dam, which will become a symbol of Egyptian national pride and economic prosperity, will be realized with the assistance of the Soviet Union.
– Morocco gains independence from France on March 2nd and King Muhammad V returns triumphant from exile. See an image here.
– Tunisia gains independence from France on March 20th.
– A truce is established between Jordan and Israel.
– Israeli troops seize the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt.
Habib Bourguiba, perceived as the father of modern Tunisia, is elected as the first president of the country. Bourguiba will mold his country into a largely secular state; he is credited with implementing some controversial laws that appear to contradict Islamic law, such as the ban on polygamy, which is permitted by the Qur’an.
– The Maghreb Unity Congress, held in Tangier on April 27th-30th and attended by Moroccan, Algerian and Tunisian nationalists, recommends the establishment of an Algerian government-in-exile and the establishment of a permanent secretariat to promote Maghreb unity. On June 2nd, American Senator John F. Kennedy delivers a speech before the Committee on Foreign Relations of the U.S. Congress in which he calls for the independence of Algeria. This public stand annoys the French and some American officials, but encourages Algerian nationalists. A Provisional Government of the Algerian Republic (GPRA) is set up on September 19th.
– Israeli forces withdraw from the Sinai Peninsula and hand Gaza over to UN control.
– In Jordan, King Hussein declares martial law.
– Algerian novelist and filmmaker Assia Djebar publishes her first novel, La Soif (The Thirst) .
– Rawiya Attiya is elected as Egypt’s first female member of parliament, after women in Egypt have had the right to vote since the year before.
Egypt and Syria join forces to form the United Arab Republic (UAR), which was approved by popular referendum in both countries. Gamal Abdel Nasser is elected president of the UAR. In Syria, programs to redistribute land and implement socialist policies similar to those already in place in Egypt irritate a large section of the conservative Syrian populace. For video footage click here.
– Abdul-Karim Qasim, an army officer, becomes the ruler of Iraq after overthrowing the pro-Western monarch and prime minister.
Construction of the Aswan High Dam begins in Egypt with the financial and technical assistance of the Soviet Union.
– Oil is discovered in Libya.
-Fidel Castro leads the Cuban Revolution.
Disagreements and mutual suspicion between Egypt and Syria lead to dissolution of their union, the UAR.
– Kurds in northeastern Iraq rebel against the rule of Abdul-Karim Qasim, whose inability to put down the revolt will contribute to his downfall two years later.
– Hassan II becomes king of Morocco after the death of his father, Muhammad V.
Imam Muhammad al-Badr is overthrown by Yemeni army officers less then a week after assuming power following his father’s death. The monarchy is abolished and a civil war erupts between republicans and royalists. Egyptian dispatches troops to support the new socialist republican regime, but they are met by the fierce resistance of royalist Yemeni tribal forces, which are themselves supported by Saudi Arabia, Iran and Jordan. See video here.
– Algeria wins independence from France after 132 years of colonial rule and a seven and a half year war which left 1.5 million Algerians dead and the country devastated. Ahmad Ben Bella, one of the leaders of the Algerian revolution, is declared president of a new regime characterized by populism and a socialist orientation.
– St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital is founded in Memphis, Tennessee.
-Anti-Apartheid activist Nelson Mandela is jailed in South Africa until 1990.
Syria’s Ba’ath party seizes power in a coup.
– Moroccan forces invade Algeria’s Tindouf area in the southwest in an attempt to capture territory that it argues was annexed to Algeria by colonial France. A short war ensues and Algeria seizes Moroccan territory in the northeast. A deal brokered by the Organization of African Unity makes both countries relinquish the captured territories. However, the border agreements between the two countries will not be ratified by Morocco until more than twenty years after they are signed.
The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) is created by the Arab League. The organization will come to include a variety of Palestinian groups and will become the primary political representative of the Palestinian people. See video here.
Colonel Houari Boumediene, Defense Minister of Algeria, overthrows President Ahmed Ben Bella in a bloodless coup on June 19th. He sets up a Council of the Revolution, which will run the country for more than a decade.
Sayyid Qutb, a radical Islamist ideologue, is executed in Egypt by Nasser’s regime.
-China’s Cultural Revolution.
Outbreak of the Six-Day War, following the intensification of border clashes between Israeli and Syrian forces. Five Syrian fighter jets are shot down and Syria asks Egypt for military support. Egyptian troops are put on high alert and moved into the Sinai Desert. Nasser asks the United Nations to withdraw its observers, and Egypt closes the Gulf of Aqaba on the Red Sea to Israeli navigation. The Israelis consider this action a threat to their security and an act of deliberate provocation. In the meantime, Jordan has entered into a mutual defense treaty with Egypt, and mobilized its troops. On the morning of June 5th, in a preemptive strike, Israeli warplanes destroy almost all of Egypt’s air force and air bases, leaving Egyptian troops in the Sinai without air defenses. Israeli ground troops destroy the Egyptian military units in the Sinai and advance on the Suez Canal. A chaotic withdrawal of what remains of the Egyptian army is hastily arranged. The entire Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza strip fall to Israeli military rule, and thousands of Egyptian troops are either killed or captured. On the Syrian front, the Israeli forces destroy the Syrian defenses and capture the strategic Golan Heights, which will later be annexed to Israel. On the Eastern front, Israeli forces seize control of the entire West Bank and East Jerusalem extending Israeli sovereignty over Islamic and Christian holy sites. For some documentary footage from this time click here.
-The Association of Arab-American University Graduates is formes as a pan-Arab representative lobby.
The UN Security Council passes Resolution 242, calling for the withdrawal of Israeli forces from all occupied territories captured during the Six-Day War, declaring the right of all states to live in peace and security, and calling for a just resolution to the Palestinian “refugee problem.” The PLO rejects the reference to the Palestinians as merely a “refugee problem.” Egypt and Syria accept the resolution, but Israel rejects it.
– In Iraq, The Revolutionary Command Council takes power in a coup. They hold absolute authority in the country. General Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr, the council’s chairman, become president of Iraq. Saddam Hussein became vice chairman of the council in 1969.
Israel finally accepts Resolution 242 as the basis for a peace settlement in the Middle East.
– Yasser Arafat is elected chairman of the PLO Executive Committee. No longer a passive organization under the Arab League control, the PLO, inspired by its largest constituent group al-Fatah, emerges as a political organization committed to armed struggle for the liberation of Palestine. Thousands of young men and women from the refugee camps join al-Fatah, and Arafat becomes a major player on the Middle East scene.
– On September 1st, Colonel Mu’ammar Al-Qadhafi leads a military coup that overthrows the Libyan King Idris. All American and British military personnel stationed in Libya are expelled from the country; by 1970, their military bases (Wheelus, Tobruk and al-Adam) will be closed. Al-Qadhafi allies himself with Nasser and begins a wave of nationalizations, especially in the oil industry.
– General Jafar Numayri leads a military coup in Sudan that overthrows the Mahdi government.
Work is completed on the Aswan High Dam in Egypt.
– King Hussein of Jordan, viewing the PLO’s increasing power and influence among his Palestinian subjects as a threat to his regime, orders his forces to attack Palestinian militants in refugee camps. Thousands of Palestinians, both civilians and military personnel, are killed in what comes to be known as “Black September.” Nasser calls for an emergency Arab Summit in Cairo to arrange for cease-fire. The PLO apparatus and leadership are expelled from Amman and forced to relocate to Beirut, in Lebanon.
– President Nasser of Egypt dies of a heart attack owing in part to a severe fatigue he suffered while trying to arrange the Jordanian-Palestinian truce at the Arab Summit in Cairo. Video footage of Nasser’s funeral can be seen here.
– Nasser’s vice president, Anwar al-Sadat, is elected president of Egypt. As one of the original Free Officers of the 1952 coup, Sadat has held many official positions: editor of the newspaper Al-Jomhouriyya, Head of the Nation’s Assembly, Secretary General of the Conference of Islamic States, and Vice President. Prior to the 1952 coup, Sadat had been engaged in violent activities against the British presence in Egypt, and was imprisoned for his role in the assassination of Amin Othman.
– Hafez al Assad, the Alawite commander of the Syrian Air Force, leads a coup in the wake of the resignation of President Nur al-Din Attasi, and takes his place. He will remain president and supreme ruler of Syria and the Ba’ath Party until his death in 2000. Under his regime, Syria becomes tightly controlled by the Alawite minority and remains a secular state. The Ba’ath Party is the only existing political organization and all forms of free expression are severely curbed by a notoriously brutal secret police.
– In Morocco, Abdelkrim Moutii and Kamel Ibrahim create Jam’iyat al-Shabiba al-Islamiyya (Association of Islamic Youth), a radical Islamist group, which does not, however, succeed in mobilizing people for a regime change.
In Algeria, President Boumediene initiates a program of agrarian reform and nationalizes all foreign interests in the hydrocarbons industry.
– Anwar al-Sadat in Egypt seeks to consolidate his hegemony over the squabbling factions of the Revolutionary Command Council. In the skillfully orchestrated “May Reform Movement,” he accuses the council’s members of plotting to overthrow his government, and imprisons or exiles most of his fellow former Free Officers.
– Sheikh Ahmad Yasin, a Palestinian refugee in Gaza, founds Mujamah (Congregation) and campaigns against the PLO and its secular nationalism. This social welfare movement receives support from Israel.
– Britain completes its withdrawal from the small princedoms of the Persian Gulf region. The United Arab Emirates is declared an independent state under the leadership of Abu Dhabi’s ruler, Sheikh Zayid Ben Sultan Al Nahayan.
– King Hassan II of Morocco survives a military coup attempt.
– East and West Pakistan (later Bangladesh) erupt into civil war.
Palestinian guerrillas from the Black September organization take 11 members of the Israeli Olympic team hostage at the Munich Olympic Games. All 11 athletes are killed during a botched rescue attempt at the airport.
– King Hassan II survives a second military coup attempt and executes or jails all those who participated in the plot or who are connected somehow to its authors, including their families.
On October 6, the Jewish holy day Yom Kippur, and during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, Egypt and Syria launch joint surprise air and land attacks on the Israeli forces in the Sinai Desert and the Golan Heights. First Egyptian warplanes bombard Israeli positions in the Sinai, and then artillery and water pumps demolish the Barlev Line, which Israel had erected along the Eastern bank of the Suez Canal as a defensive measure and an early warning system. Pontoon bridges are run across the waterway and Egyptian troops and tanks cross the Suez Canal into the Sinai to recapture parts of the occupied lands. The Syrian forces attack Israeli positions in the Golan Heights and achieve similar initial victories. See video here. Israeli leaders ask for help from U.S. President Richard Nixon, who immediately orders a massive airlift of military equipment. Israel regains the upper hand in the war, and the Egyptian and Syrian advances are halted. An Israeli unit led by General Ariel Sharon crosses the Suez Canal and advances toward Cairo. The UN Security Council passes Resolution 338 which calls for a cease-fire on all fronts. All Arab oil-producing nations decide to impose an oil embargo on the United States and the European countries that support Israel. The embargo causes economic hardship in the West and increases oil prices.
– Death of Taha Hussein on October 28. Hussein was a pioneer in the modernist movement in Arabic literature. Born on November 14, 1889, poor and blind from a young age, he became best known as a novelist. Hussein, who served as Egyptian Minister of Education from 1950 to 1952, was also the author of a very controversial thesis on pre-Islamic poetry.
– Libya invades the Aouzzou strip in northern Chad, claiming it as Libyan territory. The action fails, though it will be tried again later, twice. See also Frontiers in North Africa
– Libya and Algeria sign the Hassi Messaoud Accords of Union, but they are never implemented.
– Mu’ammar al-Qadhafi, leader of Libya, proclaims in a speech at Zuwara the “Third Universal Theory,” which comprises four elements: socialism, popular democracy, Arab unity, and progressive Islam. This theory will form the backbone of Libya’s official ideology and is published in Qadhafi’s Green Book .
Israel and Egypt engage in negotiations on a Separation of Forces Agreement and then sign a Disengagement Agreement with Israel that Syria opposes,
– Yasser Arafat addresses the General Assembly of the United Nations, which recognizes the Palestinians’ right to sovereignty and grants the PLO the status of Observer in the General Assembly.
– Libya and Tunisia sign the Djerba Treaty of Unity, under the terms of which Tunisia will hold the presidency and Libya the defense ministry. The Tunisian leader, Habib Bourguiba, quickly comes to realize that such a union is likely to work against Tunisia, denounces the treaty, and pulls Tunisia out of it within a month of its signing.
– King Hassan II of Morocco is challenged on religious and historical grounds by a school teacher, Abdesslam Yacine, who will later become the leader of the most important Islamist movement in Morocco, Adl wa Ihsan (Justice and Benevolence) . Yacine sends Hassan II an open letter admonishing him to accept a six-point program for the “religious political redemption and salvation” of king and community. Yacine questions the legitimacy of King Hassan II and suggests that he redeem himself by doing away with injustice, by committing himself to the renovation of Islam, and by making himself accountable to a council elected according to Islamic principles. This public challenge earns Yacine several years’ internship in a psychiatric hospital and in jail, and he is later placed under house arrest. He will be released by King Muhammad VI in the year 2000.
– US president Nixon resigns.
Saudi King Faisal is assassinated by a member of the royal family. King Faisal, who had played a vital role in the implementation of the 1973 Arab oil embargo, is succeeded by his brother, King Khalid.
– Oum Kalthoum, the most important singer in the history of Arabic music, dies.
– Moroccan King Hassan II orders “The Green March” in November. Thousands of Moroccans march into the western Sahara to assert Morocco’s claim to the territory being vacated by Spain. The indigenous population, led by the Polisario Front, with backing from other countries in the region begins an armed struggle for an independent Sahrawi state. A cease-fire will be agreed upon in 1991, but as of this writing Morocco and the Polisario have not yet reached an agreement on the conduct of a U.N.-sponsored referendum to determine the final status of the territory. Read more here.
– Maronite Christian leaders in Lebanon, seeking to maintain the political and economic status quo and to contain PLO guerilla attacks, which are being launched against Israel from south Lebanon, clash with reformist Muslim groups, including poor Shi’ites whose plight the government has ignored. The PLO is drawn into the conflict when Maronite militias attack Palestinian refugee camps in and around Beirut. The civil war that ensues will last fifteen years and result in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, as well as the destruction of Lebanon’s economy and infrastructure. 30,000 Syrian troops, initially sent to protect the Christian militias, become permanently stationed in strategic locations in Lebanon. See, also, “The Tragedy of Lebanon” for more about these events.
President Anwar Sadat of Egypt visits Jerusalem. It is the first official visit by an Arab head of state to Israel since the latter’s creation in 1948. The visit is strongly condemned by all Arab states, even though some leaders, like the kings of Jordan and Morocco, have already secretly met Israeli officials. Egypt is shunned by its fellow Arab states and expelled from the Arab League, whose headquarters are consequently moved to Tunis. Howver, in Egypt, the hope for economic prosperity as a divided of peace helps to make the Egyptian populace amenable to the visit. During his visit to Jerusalem, Sadat addresses the Israeli Knesset, and prays at the al-Aqsa mosque, accompanied by Palestinian religious authorities. He reasserts the Palestinian right to sovereignty over their land, including East Jerusalem and the Islamic and Christian holy sites therein. Sadat’s visit causes massive public euphoria among Israelis, who, for the first time, see an Arab leader coming to them offering peace and coexistence. Although Sadat’s bold step towards final peace with Israel is vehemently opposed in intellectual and religious circles in Egypt and other Arab countries, Sadat earns the admiration of the West for his courage and vision for peace.
President Sadat, Prime Minister Menachem Begin of Israel, and President Jimmy Carter of the United States sign the Camp David Peace Accords after two weeks of intense negotiations. The Camp David Accords will result in the 1979 signing of a treaty stipulating Israel’s return of the Sinai territory to Egypt. Relations between Israel and Egypt are to be normalized and full diplomatic relations established. Israel is to recognize the Palestinians’ right to full autonomy. Further negotiations involving the Syrians and the Palestinians are called for. As a result of the Accords, Egypt begins to receive economic and military aid from the United States, as both a reward for the peace treaty and a compensation for the billions of dollars in economic aid that Egypt used to receive from the oil-rich Arab countries. Click here forvideo.
– Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin are both awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts to reach a peace agreement.
– Civil war breaks out in Yemen.
– President Houari Boumediene of Algeria dies of illness. The army replaces him with Colonel Chadli Bendjedid. Over the next several years, Bendjedid’s policies will strengthen the power of the sole legal party, the National Liberation Front (FLN), and will engage in liberal economic reforms intended to dismantle the socialist system build by his predecessor.
– Edward Said, a prominent Palestinian-American intellectual, publishes Orientalism, one of the most influential works of cultural criticism to appear in the latter half of the 20th century. The book critically examines Western depictions of the Orient — in particular, the Islamic World.
Saddam Hussein, vice-president of the Revolutionary Command Council, declares himself president of Iraq and leader of the Iraqi Ba’ath Party when President al-Bakr retires from eh post.
– The Shah of Iran is ousted by a popular rebellion led by Ayatollah Khomeini, who assumes leadership of the new Islamic Republic of Iran on his return from exile in France. American embassy staff will be held hostage until 1981. The Iranian revolution becomes an inspiration for Islamist movements worldwide.
– Soviet forces enter Afghanistan in December to prop up the allied regime there. The United States begins to train and support resistance forces. Muslims from all over the world, and particularly from Arab nations, go to Afghanistan to help join in the struggle against the Soviets.
– In November, an Islamic radical Juhayman al-Oteibi and a band of armed followers seize control of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, charging the Saudi royal family with un-Islamic behavior and allowing Western influence to permeate society. The scandal shakes the foundations of the Saudi dynasty, whose claim to legitimacy rests on their protection of the holy places. After two weeks police raid the Grand Mosque, causing approximately 200 casualties on both sides. Two months later, Juhayman and 63 followers are publicly beheaded, but the incident leads to an “Islamic Awakening” led by Wahabi clerics.
-The National Association of Arab Americans is formed as a foreign policy lobby group, which advocates for a nonpartisan US policy in the Middle East.
Iraq attacks Iran over a minor border dispute, and a nine-year war between the countries begins. Despite the violence and hardship visited on both nations by their conflict, there will be no significant border changes.
– Libya again invades the Aouzzou strip in northern Chad, and this time goes on to a full invasion and occupation of the capital city, Njamena, on behalf of the Chadian opposition, the Transitional National Government (GUNT). The action is again a failure, due primarily to local resistance and to active French and American opposition to the Libyan effort. Libya loses thousands of men and millions of dollars in military equipment.
– Amazigh (Berber) Spring in Algeria. After the government forbids a March 9th lecture on Amazigh poetry by writer Mouloud Mammeri at the Tizi Ouzou University in the Kabyle region, people take to the streets in a massive protest march, the first of its kind in the history of independent Algeria. The protest is brutally suppressed by security forces. In later years, the event will be commemorated annually as the “Amazigh Spring,” and will serve as a yearly opportunity to demand that Tamazight, the Berber language be considered an official national language of Algeria and be taught in schools. For more perspectives on this issue listen to the interview with Rachid Aadnani.
-The American Arab Anti-Discrimination committee is formed by US senator Jim Abourezk to advocate for Arab-American rights and a balanced US policy in the Middle East.
Islamist militants in the Egyptian army assassinate President Sadat during a military parade commemorating the October 1973 War. Video footage is available here. His vice-president, Hosni Mubarak, becomes president of Egypt. The assassination is seen as a consequence of Sadat’s peace treaty with Israel, as well as his “open door” liberal economic policies, which in the minds of Islamists render Egypt vulnerable to negative Western influences. The group responsible for Sadat’s assassination is called al-Jihad al-Islami (Islamic Jihad) ; it infiltrated the army and recruited officers to carry out the plot. Prior to his death, Sadat had angered many segments of the Egyptian population by imprisoning thousands of intellectuals, writers, and Muslim and Christian clerics. The potential threat of a regime overthrow by religious militants, as in Iran, prompts President Mubarak to adopt martial law and to use military tribunals to try Sadat’s assassins and their sympathizers. All of those linked to Sadat’s assassination are executed.
Syrian forces repress an uprising led by the Muslim Brothers. After the group allegedly attacks and kills a number of Syrian policemen in the northern town of Hama, President Hafez al Assad sends in thousands of troops, which besiege the town for days and bombard it with heavy artillery, killing between 5,000 and 25,000 civilians and reducing the town to rubble. The massacre is viewed as emblematic of Assad’s unwillingness to tolerate challenges to his rule and to the secularity of the state.
– Israeli army units, under the direction of Israeli Defense Minister Ariel Sharon, invade Lebanon in order to drive the PLO out and prevent further attacks on northern Israel. After months of heavy shelling of Beirut and other Lebanese cities, as well as hundreds of casualties, Israel withdraws from all of Lebanon except southern border regions. During the course of the Israeli invasion, Phalangist militia, allies of Israel, massacre hundreds of Palestinians in the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila under the watchful eyes of the Israeli forces. Defense Minister Ariel Sharon will be forced to resign in 1983 after a commission of inquiry finds him indirectly responsible for failing to take action to prevent the massacre. Hizbu Allah (Hizbullah), an organization of Lebanese Shi’ites in the southern border area of the Biqaa Valley, calls for an armed resistance movement. Hizbullah quickly develops into a powerful political organization whose influence among poor Shi’ite Muslims in Lebanon is increased through the group’s benevolent social and economic services. The organization will become the main instrument of resistance to the Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon.
The U.S. Embassy and Marine barracks in Lebanon are bombed.
Libya and Morocco sign the Oujda Treaty of Union. The Treaty promises close economic and political cooperation between the two countries. France and the United States are critical of the accord, the main purpose of which is to boost the Libyan and Moroccan positions in regional political maneuverings. Morocco needs to neutralize Libyan support for the Polisario Front, and Qadhafi needs to polish his international image and wants Morocco to surrender active Libyan dissidents to him. The treaty will last less than two years.
The Israeli air force bombs the PLO headquarters in Tunis.
– Raï music, formerly banned in Algeria, begins to get radio play in that country. Artists like Cheb Khaled and Cheb Mami will eventually give this music worldwide appeal. For much more about Raï music, see the unit on music, popular culture and the performing arts
– The Arab American Institute is founded by James Zogby to increase Arab American access to and participation in US politics.
Oil prices in the world market drop by 40%, creating serious difficulties for developing countries that rely largely on income from hydrocarbons.
An ailing and mentally incompetent President Habib Bourguiba is ousted in Tunisia by his prime minister Zine al-Abidin Ben Ali, who seizes the reins of government for himself and will rule Tunisia with an iron fist.
– The beginning of the Intifada (uprising) in Palestine catches Israel (and perhaps even the PLO) off-guard. The Palestinians, armed mostly with stones, are vastly outgunned and thousands will be killed in the first three years alone.
– The Moroccan Tahar Ben Jelloun becomes the first Francophone writer from the Arab World to receive the prestigious Prix Goncourt in France, for his novel La Nuit Sacré (The Sacred Night) .
The Islamic Resistance Movement (HAMAS) is founded in Gaza to support and sustain the Intifada in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories. Because of its military tactics against Israeli occupation and its political rhetoric, Hamas quickly gains the support of the disenfranchised Palestinian masses. Its leaders accuse the PLO leadership of defeatism and a lack of will to engage the Israelis militarily.
– A declaration of independence for a Palestinian state is issued in November by the 19th session of the Palestine National Council (PNC). Within days, more than 25 countries recognize the Palestinian government-in-exile. In December, Arafat announces that the PNC recognizes Israel as a state and condemns terrorism in all its forms — including state terrorism, i.e, that being perpetrated by Israel. At a special meeting of the UN General Assembly convened at Geneva, Arafat publicly accepts UN Resolutions 242 and 338, implicitly recognizing the State of Israel.
– Iraqi forces use chemical weapons to attack Kurds in the north of the country.
– Young people riot in the Algerian capital as a result of increasing economic hardship and lack of freedom. The riots, which soon spread to other major cities in Algeria, are harshly repressed, at the cost of the lives of hundreds of young people. President Chadli Bendjedid initiates a series of rapid political reforms that opened the door to multipartism and to the freedom of association and expression. Dozens of magazines and newspapers spring up, and 62 new political parties are born in a country that has until this point been governed by only one party, the FLN.
– The Egyptian Naguib Mahfouz becomes the first Arab writer to win the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Death of Ayatollah Khomeini, the political and spiritual leader of Iran since the 1979 revolution.
– Death of Michel Aflaq, the Syrian scholar and nationalist militant who played a key role in the development of an Arab nationalist ideology at the end of the colonial era. He believed that the nationalist struggle had to fight against the native aristocracy as well as foreign rulers.
– The Arab Maghrib Union (UMA), which is meant to be an integration scheme involving Algeria, Mauritania, Morocco, Libya and Tunisia, is established. The UMA will largely lie dormant, however, blocked by rivalries between the two main players, Algeria and Morocco, and by their opposing views on the resolution of the western Sahara problem. For more on the Maghrib Union listen to the interview with Azzedine Layachi.
North and South Yemen are reunited and become the Republic of Yemen; Sanaa is its capital, and Ali Abdallah Salah is its president.
– The new Algerian Front of Islamic Salvation (FIS), a broad coalition of various Islamist organizations, wins most offices in the first multiparty local elections, effectively displacing the former ruling party, the FLN.
– Iraq invades and annexes Kuwait. These actions are based on the Iraqi claim that Kuwait was historically part of Iraq before the British created it artificially as a means of protecting their interests in the Arabian Peninsula. Iraq also claims that Kuwait has been cheating on its exploitation quota for a jointly-owned oil well located on their common border. The international community condemns the invasion, and on August 6th strict economic sanctions are imposed. These sanctions will have a devastating effect on the Iraqi economy. A 32-country international coalition, led by the United States and including some Arab forces, gathers 500,000 soldiers in Saudi Arabia in preparation for a military action to push the Iraqi forces out of Kuwait. A list of UN Security Council Resolutions relating to Iraq can be found here.
“Operation Desert Storm,” the U.S.-led war against Iraqi occupying forces in Kuwait, is launched. Jordan, Yemen, and the PLO condemn the war, but all other Arab countries either support the action (Egypt and Syria contribute sizable forces) or adopt a neutral stance. After massive air strikes paralyze Iraqi forces in both Iraq and Kuwait, a ground offensive begins, and lasts 100 hours. Iraqi forces in Kuwait are decimated, and the coalition troops enter the city of Kuwait and restore the ruling family. See video footage here. The international sanctions against Iraq are modified in August and September in order to allow Iraq to sell oil for the purpose of acquiring food. However, many observers indicate that this modification does little to lessen the hardships imposed on the Iraqi people by the sanctions regime. Visit the web page for the UN oil-for food Program here. See, also, Arabia 1989-1995 for the effect of the war on the countries of the Arabian Penninsula.
– Ali Belhadj and Abassi Madani, top leaders of the Front of Islamic Salvation in Algeria, are arrested and jailed for having called for mutiny in the army, and for inciting people to revolt. Thousands of other Islamists are also arrested and interned in camps specially set up in the south of the country. These arrests follow the first major clash between the Islamists and the government, when the army had to intervene to end a long sit-in organized by the FIS in support of early presidential elections and a change in the new electoral districting law, which was believed to have been tailored to benefit the FLN. In spite of these clashes and tension, on December 26th Algeria holds the first balloting of its first multiparty elections since independence. The Islamist party, the FIS, seems to be on its way to a landslide victory; the second balloting is scheduled for January 1992.
– The collapse of the USSR deprives many Arab states of a major diplomatic ally and a supplier of military and other assistance.
Fearing a landslide victory for the Islamists in the parliamentary elections, the Algerian military intervenes by pushing President Bendjedid — who is suspected of a willingness to cooperate with an FIS-dominated parliament — to resign, and by canceling the elections. A High State Council is set up to govern the country until a new president can be appointed. The FIS party is banned and more of its leaders and militants arrested. The Islamists, who had already once instigated a violent campaign against the government and military, decide to unleash an all-out war against the regime in order to reclaim their electoral victory and establish an Islamic order in Algeria. Their violent campaign is met with an equally brutal military response. In the decade to come, close to 200,000 people will be killed in a period marked by terror attacks against both security personnel and innocent civilians, and by the assassinations of intellectuals, artists, politicians, and foreigners.
Muhammad Boudiaf, a well-respected leader of the Algerian war for independence who has been living in self-imposed exile in Morocco, is invited by the Algerian military to return and lead the country out of the crisis. He returns on January 16th. Six months later, on June 29th, President Boudiaf is assassinated by one of his security guards during a public meeting in the eastern city of Annaba.
– In Egypt, an Islamist insurgency begins which will eventually leave more than 1,000 Egyptians and foreigners dead. Details are in a report from the Ploughshares Project
– War breaks out in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo
– UN Resolutions 731 and 748 impose sanctions on Libya for its alleged role in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, and for the bombing of a French UTA plane that exploded over Niger.
The Oslo I agreement is signed following secret negotiations between the PLO and Israel in Norway. The agreement, labeled a “Declaration of Principles,” sets up a framework for negotiations on a permanent Israeli-Palestinian Peace settlement.
– In May, Libya sends a delegation to Israel for pilgrimage to the al-Aqsa mosque. The rest of the Arab world is shocked.
King Hussein of Jordan and Prime Minister Rabin of Israel sign a peace treaty ending the state of war between their two countries.
– Yasser Arafat and other Palestinian leaders return to Jericho in the West Bank, as stipulated by the Oslo I agreement, and create the Palestinian Authority, which will assume administrative and security control over the areas evacuated by Israel in the West Bank and Gaza.
– Twenty-nine Palestinians are murdered in the Hebron Mosque by a Jewish extremist. Hamas decides to retaliate by beginning a campaign of suicide bombings against Israelis.
– In August, King Hassan II of Morocco permits a new fifteen-minute TV news broadcast in Tamazight (the Berber language), every five minutes of the segment to be delivered in one each of the three major Berber dialects.
The Oslo II accords are signed in December at the White House in Washington, D.C. by Chairman Yasser Arafat and Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in the presence of President Bill Clinton. These accords, which the Israelis call an “Interim Agreement,” gives the Palestinians full control over parts of the West Bank and Gaza. It includes provisions for the establishment of a permanent Palestinian self-rule. The final status is to be negotiated according to a preset calendar. However, for most Palestinians, the Oslo II accords mark the beginning of widespread disillusionment with the peace process, as their living conditions worsen substantially after the signing of the accords.
– Yitzhak Rabin, the Israeli Prime Minister and co-recipient (with Yasser Arafat) of the Nobel Peace Prize, is assassinated at a rally for peace in Israel on November 4th by a Jewish radical. Arab leaders were among the foreign dignitaries who attended his funerals.
Yasser Arafat is elected President of the Palestinian Authority.
– In Morocco, a major constitutional reform adds a House of Counselors (upper house) to the parliament and alters the structures of representation and election to make them more accountable.
The liberal and reformist cleric Hojjat ul-Islam Sayyid Khatami is elected President of Iran by a landslide victory.
– In Algeria, the Army of Islamic Salvation (AIS), the military wing of the banned Front of Islamic Salvation, decides to observe a unilateral truce in the war it has been waging against the state and the civilian population.
A series of military victories moves the Taliban, a radical Islamist movement in Afghanistan, closer to power in Kabul.
– Abd al-Rahman Youssoufi, a socialist and opposition leader, is appointed Prime Minister in Morocco. This is a unique event in Morocco’s modern history, being the first time the opposition has been allowed to lead the government.
Abdelaziz Bouteflika is elected President of Algeria on April 15th. His electoral victory is received with suspicion because all of the other candidates pulled out of the elections when the government refused to investigate fraud allegations. His first task as president is to implement a “National Concord” plan to grant amnesty to all surrendering armed rebels who did not commit blood crime or rape. The National Concord is approved by popular referendum and thousands of armed rebels surrender. However, two main radical Islamist groups remain active and continue their killing and destruction: al-Jama’at al-Islamiyya al-Moussalaha (Armed Islamic Groups, known as GIA), and the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat known as GSPC).
– King Hussein of Jordan dies of cancer after forty-six years of rule. Two weeks before his death, he designated his eldest son, Abdullah, as successor, replacing his brother Hassan who was Crown Prince for over four decades. Abdullah is crowned King of Jordan.
– King Hassan II of Morocco dies after a thirty-eight year reign. Although the end of his rule was marked by a few steps towards political opening and acknowledgement of human rights, King Hassan had largely ruled Morocco with a strict authoritarianism, crushing political dissent and allowing only occasional truces with the opposition. His son, Prince Muhammad VI, succeeds him, and will exhibit a much different style of leadership and a willingness to deal with the country’s most pressing problems, such as poverty and illiteracy.
President Hafez al-Assad of Syria dies. The Ba’ath Party selects his son, Bashar, a London-trained ophthalmologist, to succeed him. The death of al-Assad is expected to bring about more political openness, but his son quickly assumes the tight control his father had exercised on the country.
– Abdesslam Yacine, a leader of the Moroccan Islamist movement Adl wa Ihsan is released in May from a six-year house arrest. By this time, most opposition figures jailed or exiled during the reign of the late Hassan II have been released or allowed to return to Morocco.
– The Muslim Brothers are allowed to participate in parliamentary elections in Egypt.
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