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The Middle East’s Restive Minorities - by Hilal Khashan - for Geopolitical Futures – 17.11.22

Ruling elites in the region aim to subdue minorities rather than include them in the political process.

The Middle East is a religiously and ethnically diverse region. Its complex history has only intensified these divisions, especially after the rise of modern nation-states in the 20th century. In each of these countries, a dominant ethnic and religious group seized power, invariably failing to integrate the other components of society into the political system. Discrimination, exclusion and prejudice are prevalent, and the concept of universal citizenship has failed to take hold, having devastating consequences in places like Syria and Iraq.

The legacy of the distant past continues to shape politics today, as evidenced by the widespread disenfranchisement of minority groups throughout the region. Leaders of various coups and revolutions claimed that they would establish a partnership with all segments of society, regardless of ethnic and religious differences. Though some were sincere in their pledges, they all failed, as religious, sectarian and ethnic divisions proved insurmountable.

Lingering Questions

The concept of power sharing has no roots in the Middle East. There is no evidence to suggest that the region’s countries take the minority question seriously. Ruling elites aim to subdue minorities and silence their demands rather than include them in the political process. The regimes often interpret minority activism as foreign conspiracies and a betrayal of their countries. Their insistence on stalling legitimate demands is likely to exacerbate the frustration of minority groups. Resisting change will take a heavy toll on the viability of these countries, as we’ve already seen through the disintegration of Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya and Lebanon.

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The Middle East’s Restive Minorities - by Hilal Khashan – for Geopolitical Futures – 17
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Hilal Khashan is a Professor of political science at the American University of Beirut. He is a respected author and analyst of Middle Eastern affairs. He is the author of six books, including Hizbullah: A Mission to Nowhere. (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2019.) He is currently writing a book titled Saudi Arabia: The Dilemma of Political Reform and the Illusion of Economic Development. He is also the author of more than 110 articles that appeared in journals such as Orbis, The Journal of Conflict Resolution, The Brown Journal of World Affairs, Middle East Quarterly, Third World Quarterly, Israel Affairs, Journal of Religion and Society, Nationalism and Ethnic Politics, and The British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies.

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