20.3 The Modern Middle East Takes Shape

The Middle East, as we use the term in this lesson, is the region stretching from Egypt in the west to Iran in the east and from Turkey in the north to the Arabian Peninsula in the south. Although the majority of people in the region today are Muslims, there are also Christian communities and the mostly Jewish nation of Israel.

Photo of several young middle eastern women in hijab, wearing other modern clothing and accessories.

These Iraqi women wear the modified hejab covering their hair. Hejab is required by law in Iran and Saudi Arabia, but it has been freely adopted by many Muslim women worldwide as a sign of their faith.


  • Analyze the development of modern nations in the Middle East.
  • Describe the founding of Israel and the impact of the Arab rejection of Israel.
  • Understand how oil has affected nations of the Middle East.
  • Examine the impact of Islam on government, law, and the lives of women.
  • Define the “Arab Spring.”

Key Terms

  • kibbutz
  • Golda Meir
  • Suez Canal
  • Gamal Abdel Nasser
  • Anwar Sadat
  • Ruhollah Khomeini
  • theocracy
  • secular
  • hejab

The Challenges of Diversity

As a world crossroads since ancient times, the Middle East is home to many ethnic groups. Arabs are a majority in some countries, such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Syria. In other countries, the majority populations are non-Arab Muslims, such as the Turks of Turkey and the Persians of Iran.

Mandates Gain Independence

At the end of World War I, the Treaty of Versailles and other agreements parceled out many of the lands once dominated by the defeated Central Powers. Britain and France were given mandates over large parts of the Middle East.

Under the mandate system in the Middle East, territories taken from the defeated Ottoman empire were administered, or run, by Europeans. Britain, for example, controlled the Palestine mandate and three provinces of the old Ottoman empire that were joined together into modern-day Iraq. The stated goal of the mandate system was to move the mandates gradually toward independence.

From the outset, Arabs resisted the mandates. In British-ruled Palestine, tensions also grew between Arab and Jewish residents. In the Balfour Declaration, Britain had supported a Jewish national home in part of the Palestine mandate, while Arabs in the region demanded self-rule.

End ofPage 829

Table of Contents

World History Topic 1 Origins of Civilization (Prehistory–300 B.C.) Topic 2 The Ancient Middle East and Egypt (3200 B.C.–500 B.C.) Topic 3 Ancient India and China (2600 B.C.–A.D. 550) Topic 4 The Americas (Prehistory–A.D. 1570) Topic 5 Ancient Greece (1750 B.C.–133 B.C.) Topic 6 Ancient Rome and the Origins of Christianity (509 B.C.-A.D. 476) Topic 7 Medieval Christian Europe (330–1450) Topic 8 The Muslim World and Africa (730 B.C.-A.D. 1500) Topic 9 Civilizations of Asia (500–1650) Topic 10 The Renaissance and Reformation (1300–1650) Topic 11 New Global Connections (1415–1796) Topic 12 Absolutism and Revolution Topic 13 The Industrial Revolution Topic 14 Nationalism and the Spread of Democracy (1790–1914) Topic 15 The Age of Imperialism (1800–1914) Topic 16 World War I and the Russian Revolution (1914–1924) Topic 17 The World Between the Wars (1910–1939) Topic 18 World War II (1930–1945) Topic 19 The Cold War Era (1945–1991) Topic 20 New Nations Emerge (1945–Present) Topic 21 The World Today (1980-Present) United States Constitution Primary Sources 21st Century Skills Atlas Glossary Index Acknowledgments