Middle East: Demographics - Migration• Large numbers of Kurds, Jews, Assyrians, Greeks and Armenians as well as several Mandeans have left counties like Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey to evade racial and religious persecution.• Several religious minorities including Christians, Baháí and Zoroastrians have left Iran since the Islamic Revolution of 1979.
Middle East: Demographics - Religions• As the origin of three major religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam), the Middle East is very diverse.• Islam is the largest and predominant religion in the Middle East and the religion of a vast majority of Arabs and a number of non-Arab peoples including Iranians and Turks.• Though they are not principle religions in the Middle East, other faiths like Judaism and Christianity are important to the region.• There are also many important minority religions including Baháí, Yazdânism, Zoroastrianism, Mandeanism, Druze, Yarsan, Yazidism and Shabakism.
Middle East: Demographics - Languages• Arabic, Persian and Turkish are the three main languages in terms of numbers of speakers and represent the Afro-Asiatic, Indo- European, and Turkic language families, respectively; a variety of other languages are also widely spoken in the Middle East.• The most widely spoken language in the Middle East, Arabic is the official language of all the Arab countries.• Persian, the second most widely spoken, is the official language of Iran and is also spoken in neighboring Turkey , Iraq, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan.• Turkish, the third most widely spoken language, is the official language of Turkey and nearby Cyprus and has a smaller community of speakers mainly in Iraq, Greece, Bulgaria, the Republic of Macedonia, Kosovo and Albania.
Middle East: Languages (cont.)• Other languages spoken in the Middle East are Semitic languages like Hebrew and Mesopotamian Arabic dialects spoken chiefly by Assyrians and Mandeans.• There are also a number of smaller languages: Armenian, Azerbaijani, Berber, Circassian, smaller Iranian languages, Kurdish, smaller Turkish languages (such as Gagauz), Shabaki, Yazidi, Roma, Georgian, Greek, and several Modern South Arabian languages like Geez; Maltese is also both linguistically and geographically a Middle Eastern language.• English is commonly spoken as a second language, particularly among both the middle and upper classes in several countries such as Egypt, Jordan, Israel, Iran, Iraq, Qatar, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait.
Middle East: Languages (cont.)• French is spoken in former French colonies like Algeria, Lebanon Syria, Morocco and Tunisia as well as in Egypt and Israel.• Urdu is widely spoken in Saudi Arabia (where 20-25% of the population is South Asian), the United Arab Emirates (where 50- 55% of the population is South Asian), Israel, and Qatar.• The largest group of Romanian speakers in the Middle East is in Israel, where at least 5% of the population speaks Romanian as of 1995.• Due to emigration in the late 1990s, Russian is also spoken by a significant portion of the Israel population and is the most widely spoken non-official language in Israel behind English.
Democracy• In terms of civil liberties, Israel is considered the only democracy in the Middle East with the corresponding status of “flawed democracy” and a score of 7.48.• Ranked below Israel are Lebanon and Turkey with scores of 5.82 and 5.73, respectively, and classified as “hybrid regimes”.• Also placed in the “hybrid regimes” categories are the Palestinian territories and Iraq.• The remaining countries (Jordan, Morocco and Syria for example) are classified as authoritarian regimes; scores lower than 2 are held by countries ranked lower (i.e. Iran and Saudi Arabia).
Ongoing violence• Demonstrations and protests in the Arab World for government changes began on 18 December 2010; to date, these have been met with revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt; a civil war in Libya leading to the toppling of its government and killing of its leader for over 40 years; uprisings in Bahrain, Syria, and Yemen; major protests in Algeria, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, and Oman; and only minor protests in Lebanon, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and the Western Sahara.• The Arab countries share a history in common with Russia: Lack of democracy and freedom.• Israel is regularly threatened and targeted by active Palestinian Islamist organizations in the Gaza Strip.