During the 1930s, independence movements and nationalist calls for an end to European control grew. Following World War II, the former mandates became the independent countries of Iraq, Syria, and Jordan. The Palestine mandate was partitioned into Arab areas and Israel.

Religious and Ethnic Divisions

The borders of the new nations were artificially drawn and lumped together diverse ethnic and religious communities. Some ethnic minorities demanded self-rule, or even independence.

Different religious sects, or groups loyal to their own set of beliefs, further divided the new nations. Many countries were home to both Shiite and Sunni Muslims, along with Alawites, Druze, different Christian sects, and Jews. In Iraq and Bahrain, for example, the Shiite majority was ruled by the Sunni minority. Sectarian violence, or conflict based on religious loyalties, posed challenges to unity. Many nations like Syria and Lebanon had diverse groups, including Muslim and Christian Arabs, Assyrians, Greeks, Armenians, and Kurds.

Kurdish Nationalism

The Kurds are an ethnic group with their own language and culture. They form important minorities in Turkey, Iran, and Iraq. Kurdish nationalists have long called for an independent homeland. In Turkey, Kurdish rebels resisted government efforts to suppress their culture. In Iraq, a Kurdish uprising in 1991 was brutally suppressed. Today, Kurds in Iraq have much autonomy, but many Kurds still want their own state.

The Founding of Israel

As early as the 1880s, Jews had begun actively organizing and advocating for the re-establishment of a home in their ancient homeland. The horrors of the Holocaust created strong worldwide support for a Jewish state. Many Jews, including Holocaust survivors, migrated to the Palestine Mandate after World War II.

In 1947, the UN drew up a plan to divide, or partition, the Palestine mandate between the Arabs and Jews. The plan called for the division of Palestine into an Arab and a Jewish state. The UN General Assembly voted to adopt the plan. While the Jews accepted partition, Arabs rejected the partition plan. They argued that Palestine was one of the lands that had been promised to them by the British in return for Arab support in World War I.

A map shows the modern Middle East.
Image Long Description

Analyze Maps

This map shows the countries of the modern Middle East. Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Iran are three of the world's largest oil-producing countries. Why might control of the Strait of Hormuz be important?


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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