Why the Arab World Needs Democracy Now

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

(BY JAMAL KHASHOGGI)

Why the Arab World Needs Democracy Now

In April Jamal Khashoggi gave this speech, saying the dangerous idea of the benevolent autocrat, the just dictator, is being revived in the Arab world.

By Jamal Khashoggi

Mr. Khashoggi was a Saudi journalist.

Image
A Saudi flag at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, where Jamal Khashoggi was killed. Credit Ozan Kose/Agence France-Press — Getty Images

Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi Arabian journalist who was killed by Saudi agents inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2, was the keynote speaker at a conference in April organized by the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Denver and the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy in Washington. Excerpts from his speech, edited for clarity and length, are below.

I am from Saudi Arabia, where the issues of democracy and Islam are very much relevant. When a Saudi official wanted to brush away the question of democracy, in the past, he would always raise the question of whether democracy is compatible with Islam.

The debate about the relationship between Islam and democracy conclusively ended with the coming of the Arab Spring, when the people of the Arab world, — especially the youth, and even the Islamist, including some Salafis, who were always critical of democracy — supported the protests for democratic and political change. Other Salafis remained very critical of democracy, viewing it as “kufr,” or un-Islamic, based on the belief that democracy represents a rejection of religious values.

The long voting lines during the 2012 elections in Tunisia and Egypt clearly demonstrated that the people of the Arab world were ready for change. They enthusiastically participated in democratic elections, including Islamist parties that had often been the focus of the debate on Islam’s compatibility with democracy.

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Those images from Egypt and Tunisia of men, women, young, and old going to the polls should be contrasted with the sham elections we see today in Egypt and in other parts of the Arab world. This is an argument we can use against anyone who might claim that “Arabs are not ready for democracy.”

Today, Saudi Arabia is struggling with different aspects of modernity — with cinemas, art, entertainment, mixing of the sexes, opening up to the world, rejecting radicalism. The tight grip that the religious establishment has had on social life is gradually loosening.

But while we’re pursuing all these forms of modernity, the Saudi leaders are still not interested in democracy, They aren’t advancing the old, lame excuse that democracy is not compatible with Islam, however. Instead, as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told Jeffrey Goldberg in The Atlantic they’re saying that absolute monarchy is our preferred form of government.

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Indeed, we are living in the age of authoritarianism. Some people believe that it is a better form of political rule. They argue that societies need a great leader and that democracy will undermine the ability of the great leader to guide his people to a better future.

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Today around a dinner table in Riyadh, Cairo or Amman, you are likely to hear intellectuals who were once considered liberals, who once supported liberty, political change and democracy, say, “Arabs are not ready for democracy.” If you push back against this argument, you would be told: “Even if Arabs are ready for democracy, they don’t know how to take advantage of it. They always make the wrong choice.”

A related argument is, “The Islamist and the Muslim Brotherhood have kidnapped the Arab Spring.” In my country, a variant of this argument is: “The Saudis don’t know how to choose. If we have democracy, they will not vote out of their conscience, they will vote based on their tribal loyalties.”

A popular argument in the Arab world is that we need a strong leader. You can hear it in Egypt from an Egyptian businessman who supports the ruling regime. You can hear it from a doubtful Jordanian, maybe even a doubtful Tunisian who seeks a return to the old order.

A Saudi friend of mine who was raised abroad openly defends the term “benevolent autocracy.” He is prepared to write about the value of benevolent autocracy in an American newspaper and thinks it is the best choice for Saudi Arabia.

It is the old notion of the “mustabidu al-adl,” or the just dictator, that died with the rise of Abd al-Rahman al-Kawakibi, a late-19th-century Arab-Muslim reformist of Syrian origin. The Arab and Muslim intellectuals who followed Kawakibi supported democracy or at least some variant of it.

Regrettably, though, the idea of the benevolent autocrat, the just dictator, is being revived in the Arab world. A chorus of anti-democratic Arab and non-Arab voices are using the media and the lobbyists to oppose democracy. I’m told that at the Riyadh International Book Fair in March, which I was not able to attend, one of the books on display was called “Against the Arab Spring.”

Democracy in the Arab world is also under attack from radical Islamists who are making a comeback as the so-called Islamic State or as the Salafis fighting in Libya alongside Khalifa Hifter (who was a general in Muammar Gaddafi’s army and is now backed by the United Arab Emirates and Egypt). They preach against democracy in the mosques — and through acts of violence.

We must reassure people in the Arab world who either have lost hope in democracy because of its perceived failures or because they fell victim to the concentrated propaganda about democracy coming from television networks run by states and the intellectuals aligned with them.

When I use the term “democracy” I mean it in the broader sense of the term that overlaps with values such as liberty, checks and balances, accountability and transparency. We were aiming for these goals in the form of good governance, equality, and justice in the Arab world. There is another reason we need democracy now in the Arab world: to stop mass violence.

Today, there are two kinds of Arab countries. Some countries, such as Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Morocco, need democracy for good governance and the checks and balances it brings.

But for war-torn countries like Libya, Syria and Yemen, democracy would lead to some form of power sharing. It can be along the lines of the Afghanistan arrangement, where you bring all of the factions in one huge room and force them into an agreement on how to share power. The chief reason the wars in these countries are continuing is the lack of a mechanism for power sharing.

The immediate need for Libya, Syria and Yemen is not good governance, but a mechanism to stop the killing. Inevitably, the question of good governance will emerge. There is great hope for democracy in other countries that have not been mired in civil or internal conflict, such as Tunisia, which is struggling toward a lasting democratic system.

Many of my Tunisian friends, despite the progress they have made, are also worried about democracy. They do not want to appear to be preaching to the rest of the Arab world. They simply want to be left alone. Yet I still think that Tunisians have an important responsibility.

News channels that are supportive of freedom and political change in the Middle East should spend a considerable amount of time covering even municipal elections in Tunisia. Every Saudi, every Egyptian and every Syrian should see what the Tunisians are enjoying. I hope it will inspire the rest of the Arab world to work for a similar form of government for themselves.

We need to defend the rights of the Arab people to have democracy in our own countries, in our own localities, but at the same time we must speak to foreign leaders, foreign powers and foreign parliamentarians. They have a role to play and many of them have begun to lose hope in the prospects of Arab democracy.

Some of them are now repeating the old racist statement, “Arabs are not ready for democracy [because they are Arabs].” The Trump administration has zero interest in supporting democracy in the Arab world. Even the French president, Emmanuel Macron, has suggested that there will be little political change in Egypt or in Saudi Arabia.

People are losing hope in democracy because of the failure of the Arab Spring revolts. They’re afraid of ending up like Syria. Many Arab regimes, their television networks, their writers, their commentators, are trying to scare people off democracy by actively promoting this idea.

Both Arab citizens and foreign leaders are affected by the limited reforms that Arab leaders are pursuing. In Saudi Arabia there are serious reforms that Prince Mohammed is leading. Many of my Saudi colleagues are saying I should support them. I do support them.

My position is that we should take what we have and build on it.

When Mr. Macron stood next to Prince Mohammed, he made this point and he was correct to do so. We need to support the crown prince in his effort to reform Saudi Arabia because if we let him down, he will come under pressure from radical elements who are not willing to reform.

These limited reforms and the general political condition of the Arab world today are adding strength to the argument of the anti-democracy forces. This unfortunate reality puts more responsibility on our shoulders to resume our work and to redouble our efforts to push for democracy in the Arab world as a realistic choice for people and a solution to the failure of many Arab states.

Jamal Khashoggi was a Washington Post Global Opinions contributing columnist.

Guinea: Truth, Knowledge, History Of This West African Nation

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA WORLD FACT BOOK)

 

Guinea

Introduction Guinea has had only two presidents since gaining its independence from France in 1958. Lansana CONTE came to power in 1984 when the military seized the government after the death of the first president, Sekou TOURE. Guinea did not hold democratic elections until 1993 when Gen. CONTE (head of the military government) was elected president of the civilian government. He was reelected in 1998 and again in 2003, though all the polls have been marred by irregularities. Guinea has maintained its internal stability despite spillover effects from conflict in Sierra Leone and Liberia. As those countries have rebuilt, Guinea’s own vulnerability to political and economic crisis has increased. Declining economic conditions and popular dissatisfaction with corruption and bad governance prompted two massive strikes in 2006; a third nationwide strike in early 2007 sparked violent protests in many Guinean cities and prompted two weeks of martial law. To appease the unions and end the unrest, CONTE named a new prime minister in March 2007.
History The land composing present-day Guinea was part of a series of empires, beginning with the “Ghana Empire” which came into being around 900AD. This was followed by the Sosso kingdom in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. The Mali Empire took control of the region after the Battle of Kirina in 1235, but grew weaker over time from internal conflicts, which eventually led to its dissolution. One of the strongest successor states was the Songhai state, which became the Songhai Empire. It exceeded its predecessors in terms of territory and wealth, but it too fell prey to internal wrangling and civil war and was eventually toppled at the Battle of Tondibi in 1591.

A chaotic period followed, until an Islamic state was founded in the eighteenth century, bringing some stability to the region. A simultaneous important development was the arrival of Fulani Muslims in the highland region of Fuuta Jalloo in the early eighteenth century.

Europeans first came to the area during the Portuguese Discoveries in the fifteenth century, which saw the beginning of the slave trade.

Guinea was created as a colony by France in 1890 with Noël Balley as the first governor. The capital Conakry was founded on Tombo Island in the same year. In 1895 the country was incorporated into French West Africa.

On 28 September 1958, under the direction of Charles de Gaulle, Metropolitan France held a referendum on a new constitution and the creation of the Fifth Republic. The colonies, except Algeria, which was legally a direct part of France, were given the choice between immediate independence or retaining their colonial status. All colonies except Guinea opted for the latter. Thus, Guinea became the first French African colony to gain independence, at the cost of the immediate cessation of all French assistance.

After independence Guinea was governed by the dictator Ahmed Sékou Touré. Touré pursued broadly socialist economic policies, suppressed opposition and free expression with little regard for human rights. Under his leadership, Guinea joined the Non-Aligned Movement and pursued close ties with the Eastern Bloc. After his death in 1984, Lansana Conté assumed power and immediately changed his predecessor’s economic policies, but the government remained dictatorial. The first elections since independence were held in 1993, but the results and those of subsequent elections were disputed. Conté faces domestic criticism for the condition of the country’s economy and for his heavy-handed approach to political opposition.

While on a visit to France with his family in 2005, Prime Minister François Fall resigned and sought asylum, citing corruption and increasing interference from the President, which he felt limited his effectiveness as the head of the government. Fall’s successor, Cellou Dalein Diallo, was removed in April of 2006, and Conté failed to appoint a new one until the end of January 2007 after devastating nationwide strikes and mass demonstrations. During 2006, there were two nationwide strikes by government workers, during which 10 students were shot dead by the military; strikes were suspended when Conté agreed to more favorable wages to civil servants and a reduction of the cost of certain basic amenities (rice and oil).

At the beginning of 2007, citing the government’s failure to honour the terms of previous agreements, trade unions called new strikes, protesting of rising costs of living, government corruption, and economic mismanagement. Lasting for more than 2 weeks, these strikes drew some of the largest demonstrations seen during Conté’s tenure and resulted in some 60 deaths. Among the unions’ demands was that the aging and ailing President name a consensus Prime Minister, to fill the post vacant since Diallo’s removal, and relinquish to him certain presidential responsibilities. Conté reluctantly agreed to appoint a new prime minister and lower fuel and rice prices, and the strikes were subsequently suspended.

On 13 February 2007, upon the nomination of Eugene Camara to the post of Prime Minister, viewed as a close ally of Conté, violent demonstrations immediately broke out throughout the country. Strikes resumed, citing the President’s failure to nominate a “consensus” prime minister as per the January 27th agreement.[1] A state of martial law was declared after violent clashes with demonstrators, bringing the death toll since January to well over 100, and there were widespread reports of pillaging and rapes committed by men in military uniform. Government buildings and property owned by government officials throughout the country were looted and destroyed by angry mobs. Many feared Guinea to be on the verge of civil war as protesters from all parts of Guinea called for Conté’s unequivocal resignation.

After diplomatic intervention from ECOWAS, neighboring heads of state, the EU, the UN, etc., Conté agreed to choose a new Prime Minister from a list of five candidates furnished by the labor unions and civic leaders. On February 26, Lansana Kouyaté, former Guinean ambassador to the UN, was nominated to the post. Strikes were called off, and the nomination was hailed by the strikers.

Geography Location: Western Africa, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean, between Guinea-Bissau and Sierra Leone
Geographic coordinates: 11 00 N, 10 00 W
Map references: Africa
Area: total: 245,857 sq km
land: 245,857 sq km
water: 0 sq km
Area – comparative: slightly smaller than Oregon
Land boundaries: total: 3,399 km
border countries: Cote d’Ivoire 610 km, Guinea-Bissau 386 km, Liberia 563 km, Mali 858 km, Senegal 330 km, Sierra Leone 652 km
Coastline: 320 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 12 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
Climate: generally hot and humid; monsoonal-type rainy season (June to November) with southwesterly winds; dry season (December to May) with northeasterly harmattan winds
Terrain: generally flat coastal plain, hilly to mountainous interior
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m
highest point: Mont Nimba 1,752 m
Natural resources: bauxite, iron ore, diamonds, gold, uranium, hydropower, fish, salt
Land use: arable land: 4.47%
permanent crops: 2.64%
other: 92.89% (2005)
Irrigated land: 950 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 226 cu km (1987)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 1.51 cu km/yr (8%/2%/90%)
per capita: 161 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards: hot, dry, dusty harmattan haze may reduce visibility during dry season
Environment – current issues: deforestation; inadequate supplies of potable water; desertification; soil contamination and erosion; overfishing, overpopulation in forest region; poor mining practices have led to environmental damage
Environment – international agreements: party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography – note: the Niger and its important tributary the Milo have their sources in the Guinean highlands
Politics Politics of Guinea takes place in a framework of a presidential republic, whereby the President of Guinea is both head of state, head of government, and the commander in chief of the Guinean Military. The president is elected to a maximun of two 7 year term, although the current Guinee Lansana Conte who has been in power since 1984 continue to run for further tearms. Executive power is exercised by the president and members of his cabinet. To be elected president of Guinea a candidate must be a Guinean born citizen by birth, be at least 35 years of age and must be able to speak and read the French language.

Legislative power is vested in the National Assembly. The National Assembly (Assemblée Nationale) has 114 members, elected for a four year term, 38 members in single-seat constituencies and 76 members by proportional representation. Guinea is a one party dominant state with the Party of Unity and Progress in power. Opposition parties are allowed, but are widely considered to have no real chance of gaining power.

People Population: 9,947,814 (July 2007 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 44.3% (male 2,226,414/female 2,183,153)
15-64 years: 52.5% (male 2,611,833/female 2,610,773)
65 years and over: 3.2% (male 138,392/female 177,249) (2007 est.)
Median age: total: 17.7 years
male: 17.5 years
female: 17.9 years (2007 est.)
Population growth rate: 2.62% (2007 est.)
Birth rate: 41.53 births/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Death rate: 15.33 deaths/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Net migration rate: 0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.03 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.02 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.781 male(s)/female
total population: 1.001 male(s)/female (2007 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 88.58 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 93.68 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 83.32 deaths/1,000 live births (2007 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 49.65 years
male: 48.5 years
female: 50.84 years (2007 est.)
Total fertility rate: 5.75 children born/woman (2007 est.)
HIV/AIDS – adult prevalence rate: 3.2% (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS – people living with HIV/AIDS: 140,000 (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS – deaths: 9,000 (2003 est.)
Major infectious diseases: degree of risk: very high
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial and protozoal diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever
vectorborne diseases: malaria and yellow fever
water contact disease: schistosomiasis
respiratory disease: meningococcal meningitis
aerosolized dust or soil contact disease: Lassa fever (2008)
Nationality: noun: Guinean(s)
adjective: Guinean
Ethnic groups: Peuhl 40%, Malinke 30%, Soussou 20%, smaller ethnic groups 10%
Religions: Muslim 85%, Christian 8%, indigenous beliefs 7%
Languages: French (official); note – each ethnic group has its own language
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 29.5%
male: 42.6%
female: 18.1%

Through Ignorance World Leaders Wasted Our Blood And Gold

Through Ignorance World Leaders Wasted Our Blood And Gold

 

Yes I did say our, as in (you and I) we are all part of this world conversation we call our lives. There is a section of the world’s population who have no faith system of any kind, what percent, I don’t know that answer but it probably varies from nation to nation wouldn’t you think? What I am going to get at is this, you don’t have to believe in something, for that something to kill you. Here in the States there are a lot of Atheist type folks who through their lack of knowledge degrade Christianity and Judaism every chance they get. Unfortunately we find many of these people in seats of power throughout many nations.

I want to ask you what you thought when your nation (if yours did) put blood and money into these Islamic nations, putting our soldiers in direct open conflict with various Islamic faith factions. I totally agree that after 911 when the experts figured out that Osama was behind it and they learned that he was in Afghanistan being protected by the Taliban whom would not give him up, we should have removed them from the face of the earth. The bigger problem after running those Satanic embers out of power was in how to rebuild this broken nation both physically via helping them build a national infrastructure and a solid national pride in getting all of it’s people a quality education both boys and girls. But, big but, how do you cure the inside of a person when their moral fiber is evil and they refuse to change their beliefs or culture within their own brains?

Our nations leaders should all have known that there is no way to help create a puppet government that can only stand for as long as we prop it up with a lot of our blood and money and honestly expect the nations of fundamental Islam to not retake everything once we leave? O, but isn’t that the same lesson our leaders didn’t learn in Iraq either? There is a fundamental reality about the Islamic faith at it’s core, they do not believe in democracies as the rule of law.

The whole world is in a position to have it’s ground stained with the blood of their own children. There are many major brewing and open conflict areas on the globe, all are dangerous, but no conflict can ever be as dangerous as one that is about what a group’s Faith teaches, especially if that Faith teaches global enslavement by force. I would like to say to the world, please wake up, but I have no faith that we will. Folks the world of Islam is very much at war with you and they will kill you whether you believe in them or not, they would prefer we all be foolish, it makes us all easier to kill. Only Islamic believers can put an end to Islamic violence that is generated by Islamic believers who believe that they are following the teachings of G-d via the Quran and the Hadith. I believe that there is little chance of this ever happening as I believe that way to many folks within the different clans are complicit with this evil.

 

Israel And Peace: Is Not Even Possible

Israel And Peace: Is Not Even Possible

(Folks I wrote this article on June 6th of 2016, please read this article and then tell me if the on the ground issues in the Holy Land have honestly gotten any better.)

Yesterday I read a couple of different news articles on-line where the President of the Palestinian Authority Mr. Abbas said that “the Palestinian people will not settle for anything less than an independent state with East Jerusalem as their capital.” He also said that Israel would “have to return to the 1967 borders that existed before the “6 day war”.  Considering that Israel made a huge mistake in letting these people have the Gaza Strip and the West Bank in August of 2005 in what was dubbed by PM Areal Sharon of Israel as a ‘land for peace’ deal with the Palestinian people was and is a disaster for the people of Israel. On August 10th of 2005 after he had resigned from the government then private citizen Netanyahu called this deal, and I quote “evil”. If a person had any knowledge of the Middle-East and the situation on the ground they would have to have known that all that the then government of Israel had done was to give the people who hate them closer locations in which to continue their attacks upon Israel’s citizens. I wrote at that time that what PM Sharon had done was pure evil because no one and I do mean no one had the authority to give away the land that God Himself had given to the people of Israel. I also wrote at that time that God Himself would punish Mr. Sharon for this evil and that he would pay a terrible price for what he had done. In January of 2006 the PM suffered a massive stroke where he stayed in a coma for 8 years until his death on January 11th, 2014.

 

Shortly after America elected our current Shiite President in January of 2009 Mr. Obama on his first visit to Israel as our President, without clearing his proclamation with the government of Israel stated publicly that Israel would go back to the borders of the pre six-day war of 1967. President/King Obama was then told by the government of Israel that this was not going to happen thus overtly setting off his hatred for Israels PM and their government that has only grown more intense throughout his 8 yrs in office. In June of 2007 Hamas started a war with the PA and ran them out of the Gaza Strip. Now Israel is having to deal with both the PA in the West Bank and with Hamas in the Gaza Strip everyday. The Obama administration and the U.N. call Israel “the Occupiers” saying that Israel is occupying Palestinian land because of the ground Israel “re-took” in the 6 day war of 1967.

 

No, the truth is that the Palestinian people and the people of Hamas are on ground that is still owned by Israel and will always be owned by Israel, they are only there by the ignorance of former PM Sharon. Giving land to the people who hate you and want nothing more than for you and all of your people to die is pure insanity. Israel is not ever going to go back to the pre 1967 borders because this land has been the property of Israel since God Himself gave it to them about 3,500 yrs ago when they came up out of Egypt. In the 7th century A.D. the believers of a new religion of hate called Islam butchered their way into domination of all the Middle-East including Israel. In 1948 A.D. by a U.N. agreement the Nation of Israel was reborn although with only a very small sliver of the land that was Biblical Israel. In the 6 day war of 1967 Israel took back another small piece of their land yet they gave a lot of this land to Egypt in 1972 in a deal for peace with Egypt and even this caused the death of Egypt’s President Mr. Sadat by his own military. Folks, there is no such thing as ‘land for peace’ with the PA or with Hamas. I have said for years now that when President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry are no longer in office as of January 20th, 2017 that they and all of their families should be forced to spend their next eight years living along the border with Hamas being they love them so much. They keep telling the world how safe it is for the people of Israel to live there, they should have to live there to prove that point.

 

(THE ONLY THING THAT I BELIEVE HAS CHANGED IN THIS PAST 27+ MONTHS IS THAT THE U.S. NO LONGER HAS A VERY INTELLIGENT SHIITE KING FOR OUR PRESIDENT, NOW WE HAVE A TOTAL IDIOT (NOT ALIGNED WITH REALITY) KING FOR PRESIDENT.) NOTHING CONSTRUCTIVE IS EVER GOING TO BE ABLE TO BE COMPLETED IN PALESTINE SIMPLY BECAUSE THERE IS SO MUCH HATE AMID THE PEOPLE OF THAT REGION, JUST SINCE JUNE OF 2016, HOW MANY PEOPLE HAVE BEEN KILLED IN PALESTINE? 

Iran: Truth, Knowledge, History Of This Great People With The Hate Filled Dictator

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA WORLD FACT BOOK)

 

Iran

Introduction Known as Persia until 1935, Iran became an Islamic republic in 1979 after the ruling monarchy was overthrown and the shah was forced into exile. Conservative clerical forces established a theocratic system of government with ultimate political authority vested in a learned religious scholar referred to commonly as the Supreme Leader who, according to the constitution, is accountable only to the Assembly of Experts. US-Iranian relations have been strained since a group of Iranian students seized the US Embassy in Tehran on 4 November 1979 and held it until 20 January 1981. During 1980-88, Iran fought a bloody, indecisive war with Iraq that eventually expanded into the Persian Gulf and led to clashes between US Navy and Iranian military forces between 1987 and 1988. Iran has been designated a state sponsor of terrorism for its activities in Lebanon and elsewhere in the world and remains subject to US and UN economic sanctions and export controls because of its continued involvement in terrorism and conventional weapons proliferation. Following the election of reformer Hojjat ol-Eslam Mohammad KHATAMI as president in 1997 and similarly a reformer Majles (parliament) in 2000, a campaign to foster political reform in response to popular dissatisfaction was initiated. The movement floundered as conservative politicians, through the control of un-elected institutions, prevented reform measures from being enacted and increased repressive measures. Starting with nationwide municipal elections in 2003 and continuing through Majles elections in 2004, conservatives reestablished control over Iran’s elected government institutions, which culminated with the August 2005 inauguration of hardliner Mahmud AHMADI-NEJAD as president. In December 2006 and March 2007, the international community passed resolutions 1737 and 1747 respectively after Iran failed to comply with UN demands to halt the enrichment of uranium or to agree to full IAEA oversight of its nuclear program. In October 2007, Iranian entities were also subject to US sanctions under EO 13382 designations for proliferation activities and EO 13224 designations for providing material support to the Taliban and other terrorist organizations.
History Early history (3200 BC–728 BC)

Dozens of pre-historic sites across the Iranian plateau point to the existence of ancient cultures and urban settlements in the fourth millennium BC,[6][7][8] centuries before the earliest civilizations arose in nearby Mesopotamia.[31]

Proto-Iranians first emerged following the separation of Indo-Iranians, and are traced to the Bactria-Margiana Archaeological Complex.[32] Aryan, (Proto-Iranian) tribes arrived in the Iranian plateau in the third and second millennium BC, probably in more than one wave of emigration, and settled as nomads. Further separation of Proto-Iranians into “Eastern” and “Western” groups occurred due to migration. By the first millennium BC, Medes, Persians, Bactrians and Parthians populated the western part, while Cimmerians, Sarmatians and Alans populated the steppes north of the Black Sea. Other tribes began to settle on the eastern edge, as far as on the mountainous frontier of north-western Indian subcontinent and into the area which is now Balochistan. Others, such as the Scythian tribes spread as far west as the Balkans and as far east as Xinjiang. Avestan is an eastern Old Iranian language that was used to compose the sacred hymns and canon of the Zoroastrian Avesta in c. 1000 BC. Zoroastrianism was the state religion of the Achaemenid empire and later Iranian empires, until the 7th century.

Pre-Islamic Statehood (728 BC–651 AD)

The Medes are credited with the foundation of Iran as a nation and empire (728–559 BC), the largest of its day, until Cyrus the Great established a unified empire of the Medes and Persians leading to the Achaemenid Empire (559–330 BC), and further unification between peoples and cultures. After Cyrus’s death, his son Cambyses continued his father’s work of conquest, making significant gains in Egypt. A power struggle followed Cambyses’ death and, despite his tenuous connection to the royal line, Darius I was declared king (ruled 522–486 BC). He was to be arguably the greatest of the ancient Iranian rulers.

Under Cyrus the Great and Darius the Great, the Persian Empire eventually became the largest and most powerful empire in human history up until that point.[33] The borders of the Persian empire stretched from the Indus and Oxus Rivers in the east to the Mediterranean Sea in the west, extending through Anatolia (modern day Turkey) and Egypt. In 499 BC Athens lent support to a revolt in Miletus which resulted in the sacking of Sardis. This led to an Achaemenid campaign against Greece known as the Greco-Persian Wars which lasted the first half of the 5th century BC. During the Greco-Persian wars Persia made some major advantages and razed Athens in 480 BC, But after a string of Greek victories the Persians were forced to withdraw. Fighting ended with the peace of Callias in 449 BC.

The Achaemenid’s greatest achievement was the empire itself. The rules and ethics emanating from Zoroaster’s teachings were strictly followed by the Achaemenids who introduced and adopted policies based on human rights, equality and banning of slavery. Zoroastrianism spread un-imposed during the time of the Achaemenids and through contacts with the exiled Jewish people in Babylon freed by Cyrus, Zoroastrian concepts further propagated and influenced into other Abrahamic religions. The Golden Age of Athens marked by Aristotle, Plato and Socrates also came about during the Achaemenid period while their contacts with Persia and the Near East abounded. The peace, tranquility, security and prosperity that were afforded to the people of the Near East and Southeastern Europe proved to be a rare historical occurrence, an unparalleled period where commerce prospered, and the standard of living for all people of the region improved.

Alexander the Great invaded Achaemenid territory in 334 BC, defeating the last Achaemenid Emperor Darius III at the Battle of Issus in 333 BC. He left the annexed territory in 328–327. In each of the former Achaemenid territories he installed his own officers as caretakers, which led to friction and ultimately to the partitioning of the former empire after Alexander’s death. A reunification would not occur until 700 years later, under the Sassanids (see below). Unlike the diadochic Seleucids and the succeeding Arsacids, who used a vassalary system, the Sassanids—like the Achaemenids—had a system of governors (MP: shahrab) personally appointed by the Emperor and directed by the central government. The new empire led by Alexander became the first, of other, later, foreign ruled Iranian empires that came to promote a Persianate society.

Parthia was led by the Arsacid Dynasty (اشکانیان Ashkâniân), who reunited and ruled over the Iranian plateau, after defeating the Greek Seleucid Empire, beginning in the late 3rd century BC, and intermittently controlled Mesopotamia between ca. 150 BC and 224 AD. These were the third native dynasty of ancient Iran and lasted five centuries. After the conquests of Media, Assyria, Babylonia and Elam, the Parthians had to organize their empire. The former elites of these countries were Greek, and the new rulers had to adapt to their customs if they wanted their rule to last. As a result, the cities retained their ancient rights and civil administrations remained more or less undisturbed.

Parthia was the arch-enemy of the Roman Empire in the east, limiting Rome’s expansion beyond Cappadocia (central Anatolia). By using a heavily-armed and armored cataphract cavalry, and lightly armed but highly-mobile mounted archers, the Parthians “held their own against Rome for almost 300 years”.[35] Rome’s acclaimed general Mark Antony led a disastrous campaign against the Parthians in 36 BC in which he lost 32,000 men. By the time of Roman emperor Augustus, Rome and Parthia were settling some of their differences through diplomacy. By this time, Parthia had acquired an assortment of golden eagles, the cherished standards of Rome’s legions, captured from Mark Antony, and Crassus, who suffered “a disastrous defeat” at Carrhae in 53 BC.

The end of the Parthian Empire came in 224 AD, when the empire was loosely organized and the last king was defeated by Ardashir I, one of the empire’s vassals. Ardashir I then went on to create the Sassanid Empire. Soon he started reforming the country both economically and militarily. The Sassanids established an empire roughly within the frontiers achieved by the Achaemenids, referring to it as Erânshahr or Iranshahr, , “Dominion of the Aryans”, i.e. of Iranians), with their capital at Ctesiphon.[37] The Romans suffered repeated losses particularly by Ardashir I, Shapur I, and Shapur II.[38] During their reign, Sassanid battles with the Roman Empire caused such pessimism in Rome that the historian Cassius Dio wrote:“
Here was a source of great fear to us. So formidable does the Sassanid king seem to our eastern legions, that some are liable to go over to him, and others are unwilling to fight at all. ”

In 632 raiders from the Arab peninsula began attacking the Sassanid Empire. Iran was defeated in the Battle of al-Qâdisiyah, paving way for the Islamic conquest of Persia.

During Parthian, and later Sassanid era, trade on the Silk Road was a significant factor in the development of the great civilizations of China, Egypt, Mesopotamia, Persia, Indian subcontinent, and Rome, and helped to lay the foundations for the modern world. Parthian remains display classically Greek influences in some instances and retain their oriental mode in others, a clear expression of “the cultural diversity that characterized Parthian art and life”.[40] The Parthians were innovators of many architecture designs such as that of Ctesiphon, which bears resemblance to, and might have influenced, European Romanesque architecture.[41][42] Under the Sassanids, Iran expanded relations with China, the arts, music, and architecture greatly flourished, and centers such as the School of Nisibis and Academy of Gundishapur became world renowned centers of science and scholarship.

Middle Ages (652–1501)

After the Islamic conquest of Persia, Iran was annexed into the Arab Umayyad Caliphate. But the Islamization of Iran was to yield deep transformations within the cultural, scientific, and political structure of Iran’s society: The blossoming of Persian literature, philosophy, medicine and art became major elements of the newly-forming Muslim civilization. Culturally, politically, and religiously, the Iranian contribution to this new Islamic civilization is of immense importance. Indeed, the culmination of Iran caused the “Islamic Golden Age”.

Abu Moslem, an Iranian general , expelled the Umayyads from Damascus and helped the Abbasid caliphs to conquer Baghdad. The Abbasid caliphs frequently chose their “wazirs” (viziers) among Iranians, and Iranian governors acquired a certain amount of local autonomy. Thus in 822, the governor of Khorasan, Tahir, proclaimed his independence and founded a new Persian dynasty of Tahirids. And by the Samanid era, Iran’s efforts to regain its independence had been well solidified.

Attempts of Arabization thus never succeeded in Iran, and movements such as the Shuubiyah became catalysts for Iranians to regain their independence in their relations with the Arab invaders. The cultural revival of the post-Abbasid period led to a resurfacing of Iranian national identity. The resulting cultural movement reached its peak during the 9th and 10th centuries. The most notable effect of the movement was the continuation of the Persian language, the language of the Persians and the official language of Iran to the present day. Ferdowsi, Iran’s greatest epic poet, is regarded today as the most important figure in maintaining the Persian language.

After an interval of silence Iran re-emerged as a separate, different and distinctive element within Islam. Iranian philosophy after the Islamic conquest, is characterized by different interactions with the Old Iranian philosophy, the Greek philosophy and with the development of Islamic philosophy. The Illumination School and the Transcendent Philosophy are regarded as two of the main philosophical traditions of that era in Persia.

The movement continued well into the 11th century, when Mahmud-a Ghaznavi founded a vast empire, with its capital at Isfahan and Ghazna. Their successors, the Seljuks, asserted their domination from the Mediterranean Sea to Central Asia. As with their predecessors, the divan of the empire was in the hands of Iranian viziers, who founded the Nizamiyya. During this period, hundreds of scholars and scientists vastly contributed to technology, science and medicine, later influencing the rise of European science during the Renaissance.

In 1218, the eastern Khwarazmid provinces of Transoxiana and Khorasan suffered a devastating invasion by Genghis Khan. During this period more than half of Iran’s population were killed,[46] turning the streets of Persian cities like Neishabur into “rivers of blood”, as the severed heads of men, women, and children were “neatly stacked into carefully constructed pyramids around which the carcasses of the city’s dogs and cats were placed”.[47] Between 1220 and 1260, the total population of Iran had dropped from 2,500,000 to 250,000 as a result of mass extermination and famine.[48] In a letter to King Louis IX of France, Holaku, one of the Genghis Khan’s grandsons, alone took responsibility for 200,000 deaths in his raids of Iran and the Caliphate.[49] He was followed by yet another conqueror, Tamerlane, who established his capital in Samarkand.[50] The waves of devastation prevented many cities such as Neishabur from reaching their pre-invasion population levels until the 20th century, eight centuries later.[51] But both Hulagu, Timur, and their successors soon came to adopt the ways and customs of that which they had conquered, choosing to surround themselves with a culture that was distinctively Persian.[52]

Early Modern Era (1501–1921)

Iran’s first encompassing Shi’a Islamic state was established under the Safavid Dynasty (1501–1722) by Shah Ismail I. The Safavid Dynasty soon became a major political power and promoted the flow of bilateral state contacts. The Safavid peak was during the rule of Shah Abbas The Great.[53] The Safavid Dynasty frequently locked horns with Ottoman Empire, Uzbek tribes and the Portuguese Empire. The Safavids moved their capital from Tabriz to Qazvin and then to Isfahan where their patronage for the arts propelled Iran into one of its most aesthetically productive eras. Under their rule, the state became highly centralized, the first attempts to modernize the military were made, and even a distinct style of architecture developed. In 1722 Afghan rebels defeated Shah Sultan Hossein and ended the Safavid Dynasty, but in 1735, Nader Shah successfully drove out the Afghan rebels from Isfahan and established the Afsharid Dynasty. He then staged an incursion into India in 1738 securing the Peacock throne, Koh-i-Noor, and Darya-ye Noor among other royal treasures. His rule did not last long however, and he was assassinated in 1747. The Mashhad based Afshar Dynasty was succeeded by the Zand dynasty in 1750, founded by Karim Khan, who established his capital at Shiraz. His rule brought a period of relative peace and renewed prosperity.

The Zand dynasty lasted three generations, until Aga Muhammad Khan executed Lotf Ali Khan, and founded his new capital in Tehran, marking the dawn of the Qajar Dynasty in 1794. The capable Qajar chancellor Amir Kabir established Iran’s first modern college system, among other modernizing reforms. Iran suffered several wars with Imperial Russia during the Qajar era, resulting in Iran losing almost half of its territories to Imperial Russia and the British Empire, via the treaties of Gulistan, Turkmenchay and Akhal. In spite of The Great Game Iran managed to maintain her sovereignty and was never colonized, unlike neighboring states in the region. Repeated foreign intervention and a corrupt and weakened Qajar rule led to various protests, which by the end of the Qajar period resulted in Persia’s constitutional revolution establishing the nation’s first parliament in 1906, within a constitutional monarchy.

Late Modern Era (1921–)

In 1921, Reza Khan overthrew the weakening Qajar Dynasty and became Shah. Reza Shah initiated industrialization, railroad construction, and the establishment of a national education system. Reza Shah sought to balance Russian and British influence, but when World War II started, his nascent ties to Germany alarmed Britain and Russia. In 1941, Britain and the USSR invaded Iran in order to utilize Iranian railroad capacity during World War II. The Shah was forced to abdicate in favor of his son, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. In 1951 Dr. Mohammed Mossadegh was elected prime minister. As prime minister, Mossadegh became enormously popular in Iran after he nationalized Iran’s oil reserves. In response Britain embargoed Iranian oil and invited the United States to join in a plot to depose Mossadegh, and in 1953 President Dwight D. Eisenhower authorized Operation Ajax. The operation was successful, and Mossadegh was arrested on 19 August 1953. After Operation Ajax Mohammad Reza Pahlavi’s rule became increasingly autocratic. With American support the Shah was able to rapidly modernize Iranian infrastructure, but he simultaneously crushed all forms of political opposition with his intelligence agency, SAVAK. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini became an active critic of the Shah’s White Revolution and publicly denounced the government. Khomeini, who was popular in religious circles, was arrested and imprisoned for 18 months. After his release in 1964 Khomeini publicly criticized the United States government. The Shah was persuaded to send him into exile by General Hassan Pakravan. Khomeini was sent first to Turkey, then to Iraq and finally to France. While in exile he continued to denounce the Shah.

The Iranian Revolution, also known as the Islamic Revolution,[54][55][56] began in January 1978 with the first major demonstrations against the Shah.[57] After strikes and demonstrations paralyzed the country and its economy, the Shah fled the country in January 1979 and Ayatollah Khomeini soon returned from exile to Tehran, enthusiastically greeted by millions of Iranians.[58] The Pahlavi Dynasty collapsed ten days later on 11 February when Iran’s military declared itself “neutral” after guerrillas and rebel troops overwhelmed troops loyal to the Shah in armed street fighting. Iran officially became an Islamic Republic on 1 April 1979 when Iranians overwhelmingly approved a national referendum to make it so.[59][60] In December 1979 the country approved a theocratic constitution, whereby Khomeini became Supreme Leader of the country. The speed and success of the revolution surprised many throughout the world,[61] as it had not been precipitated by a military defeat, a financial crisis, or a peasant rebellion.[62] Although both nationalists and Marxists joined with Islamic traditionalists to overthrow the Shah, the revolution ultimately resulted in an Islamic Republic under Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

Donald Rumsfeld meets Saddam Hussein on 19–20 December 1983. Rumsfeld visited again on 24 March 1984, the day the UN reported that Iraq had used mustard gas and tabun nerve agent against Iranian troops. The New York Times reported from Baghdad on 29 March 1984, that “American diplomats pronounce themselves satisfied with Iraq and the US, and suggest that normal diplomatic ties have been established in all but name.”

Iran’s relationship with the United States deteriorated rapidly during the revolution. On 4 November 1979, a group of Iranian students seized US embassy personnel, labelling the embassy a “den of spies”.[65] They accused its personnel of being CIA agents plotting to overthrow the revolutionary government, as the CIA had done to Mohammad Mossadegh in 1953. While the student ringleaders had not asked for permission from Khomeini to seize the embassy, Khomeini nonetheless supported the embassy takeover after hearing of its success.[66] While most of the female and African American hostages were released within the first months,[66] the remaining fifty-two hostages were held for 444 days. The students demanded the handover of the Shah in exchange for the hostages, and following the Shah’s death in the summer of 1980, that the hostages be put on trial for espionage. Subsequently attempts by the Jimmy Carter administration to negotiate or rescue were unsuccessful. But in January 19 1981 the hostages were set free according to the Algiers declaration. Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein decided to take advantage of what he perceived to be disorder in the wake of the Iranian Revolution and its unpopularity with Western governments. The once-strong Iranian military had been disbanded during the revolution. Saddam sought to expand Iraq’s access to the Persian Gulf by acquiring territories that Iraq had claimed earlier from Iran during the Shah’s rule. Of chief importance to Iraq was Khuzestan which not only has a substantial Arab population, but boasted rich oil fields as well. On the unilateral behalf of the United Arab Emirates, the islands of Abu Musa and the Greater and Lesser Tunbs became objectives as well. With these ambitions in mind, Hussein planned a full-scale assault on Iran, boasting that his forces could reach the capital within three days. On 22 September 1980 the Iraqi army invaded Iran at Khuzestan, precipitating the Iran-Iraq War. The attack took revolutionary Iran completely by surprise.

Although Saddam Hussein’s forces made several early advances, by 1982, Iranian forces managed to push the Iraqi army back into Iraq. Khomeini sought to export his Islamic revolution westward into Iraq, especially on the majority Shi’a Arabs living in the country. The war then continued for six more years until 1988, when Khomeini, in his words, “drank the cup of poison” and accepted a truce mediated by the United Nations. Tens of thousands of Iranian civilians and military personnel were killed when Iraq used chemical weapons in its warfare. Iraq was financially backed by Egypt, the Arab countries of the Persian Gulf, the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact states, the United States (beginning in 1983), France, the United Kingdom, Germany, Brazil, and the People’s Republic of China (which also sold weapons to Iran). There were more than 100,000 Iranian victims[67] of Iraq’s chemical weapons during the eight-year war. The total Iranian casualties of the war were estimated to be anywhere between 500,000 and 1,000,000. Almost all relevant international agencies have confirmed that Saddam engaged in chemical warfare to blunt Iranian human wave attacks; these agencies unanimously confirmed that Iran never used chemical weapons during the war.

Geography Location: Middle East, bordering the Gulf of Oman, the Persian Gulf, and the Caspian Sea, between Iraq and Pakistan
Geographic coordinates: 32 00 N, 53 00 E
Map references: Middle East
Area: total: 1.648 million sq km
land: 1.636 million sq km
water: 12,000 sq km
Area – comparative: slightly larger than Alaska
Land boundaries: total: 5,440 km
border countries: Afghanistan 936 km, Armenia 35 km, Azerbaijan-proper 432 km, Azerbaijan-Naxcivan exclave 179 km, Iraq 1,458 km, Pakistan 909 km, Turkey 499 km, Turkmenistan 992 km
Coastline: 2,440 km; note – Iran also borders the Caspian Sea (740 km)
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 12 nm
contiguous zone: 24 nm
exclusive economic zone: bilateral agreements or median lines in the Persian Gulf
continental shelf: natural prolongation
Climate: mostly arid or semiarid, subtropical along Caspian coast
Terrain: rugged, mountainous rim; high, central basin with deserts, mountains; small, discontinuous plains along both coasts
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Caspian Sea -28 m
highest point: Kuh-e Damavand 5,671 m
Natural resources: petroleum, natural gas, coal, chromium, copper, iron ore, lead, manganese, zinc, sulfur
Land use: arable land: 9.78%
permanent crops: 1.29%
other: 88.93% (2005)
Irrigated land: 76,500 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 137.5 cu km (1997)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 72.88 cu km/yr (7%/2%/91%)
per capita: 1,048 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards: periodic droughts, floods; dust storms, sandstorms; earthquakes
Environment – current issues: air pollution, especially in urban areas, from vehicle emissions, refinery operations, and industrial effluents; deforestation; overgrazing; desertification; oil pollution in the Persian Gulf; wetland losses from drought; soil degradation (salination); inadequate supplies of potable water; water pollution from raw sewage and industrial waste; urbanization
Environment – international agreements: party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: Environmental Modification, Law of the Sea, Marine Life Conservation
Geography – note: strategic location on the Persian Gulf and Strait of Hormuz, which are vital maritime pathways for crude oil transport
Politics The political system of the Islamic Republic is based on the 1979 Constitution. The system comprises several intricately connected governing bodies. The Supreme Leader of Iran is responsible for delineation and supervision of the general policies of the Islamic Republic of Iran.[71] The Supreme Leader is Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, controls the military intelligence and security operations; and has sole power to declare war or peace.[71] The heads of the judiciary, state radio and television networks, the commanders of the police and military forces and six of the twelve members of the Council of Guardians are appointed by the Supreme Leader.[71] The Assembly of Experts elects and dismisses the Supreme Leader on the basis of qualifications and popular esteem.[72] The Assembly of Experts is responsible for supervising the Supreme Leader in the performance of legal duties.

After the Supreme Leader, the Constitution defines the President of Iran as the highest state authority.[71][73] The President is elected by universal suffrage for a term of four years and can only be re-elected for one term.[73] Presidential candidates must be approved by the Council of Guardians prior to running in order to ensure their allegiance to the ideals of the Islamic revolution.[74] The President is responsible for the implementation of the Constitution and for the exercise of executive powers, except for matters directly related to the Supreme Leader, who has the final say in all matters.[71] The President appoints and supervises the Council of Ministers, coordinates government decisions, and selects government policies to be placed before the legislature.[75] Eight Vice-Presidents serve under the President, as well as a cabinet of twenty two ministers, who must all be approved by the legislature.[76] Unlike many other states, the executive branch in Iran does not control the armed forces. Although the President appoints the Ministers of Intelligence and Defense, it is customary for the President to obtain explicit approval from the Supreme Leader for these two ministers before presenting them to the legislature for a vote of confidence. Iran’s current president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was elected in a run-off poll in the 2005 presidential elections. His term expires in 2009.

Ali Khamenei, Supreme Leader of Iran

As of 2008 the legislature of Iran (also known as the Majlis of Iran) is a unicameral body.[78] Before the Iranian Revolution, the legislature was bicameral, but the upper house was removed under the new constitution. The Majlis of Iran comprises 290 members elected for four-year terms.[78] The Majlis drafts legislation, ratifies international treaties, and approves the national budget.[79] All Majlis candidates and all legislation from the assembly must be approved by the Council of Guardians.[79][80] The Council of Guardians comprises twelve jurists including six appointed by the Supreme Leader. The others are elected by the Parliament from among the jurists nominated by the Head of the Judiciary.[81][73] The Council interprets the constitution and may veto Parliament. If a law is deemed incompatible with the constitution or Sharia (Islamic law), it is referred back to Parliament for revision.[73]

The Supreme Leader appoints the head of Iran’s Judiciary, who in turn appoints the head of the Supreme Court and the chief public prosecutor.[82] There are several types of courts including public courts that deal with civil and criminal cases, and “revolutionary courts” which deal with certain categories of offenses, including crimes against national security. The decisions of the revolutionary courts are final and cannot be appealed.[82] The Special Clerical Court handles crimes allegedly committed by clerics, although it has also taken on cases involving lay people. The Special Clerical Court functions independently of the regular judicial framework and is accountable only to the Supreme Leader. The Court’s rulings are final and cannot be appealed.[82]

The Assembly of Experts, which meets for one week annually, comprises 86 “virtuous and learned” clerics elected by adult suffrage for eight-year terms. As with the presidential and parliamentary elections, the Council of Guardians determines candidates’ eligibility.[82] The Assembly elects the Supreme Leader and has the constitutional authority to remove the Supreme Leader from power at any time.[82] As all of their meetings and notes are strictly confidential, the Assembly has never been publicly known to challenge any of the Supreme Leader’s decisions.[82]

Finally, Local City Councils are elected by public vote to four-year terms in all cities and villages of Iran. According to article seven of Iran’s Constitution, these local councils together with the Parliament are “decision-making and administrative organs of the State”. This section of the constitution was not implemented until 1999 when the first local council elections were held across the country. Councils have many different responsibilities including electing mayors, supervising the activities of municipalities; studying the social, cultural, educational, health, economic, and welfare requirements of their constituencies; planning and co-ordinating national participation in the implementation of social, economic, constructive, cultural, educational and other welfare affairs.

People Population: 65,397,521 (July 2007 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 23.2% (male 7,783,794/female 7,385,721)
15-64 years: 71.4% (male 23,636,883/female 23,088,934)
65 years and over: 5.4% (male 1,701,727/female 1,800,462) (2007 est.)
Median age: total: 25.8 years
male: 25.6 years
female: 26 years (2007 est.)
Population growth rate: 0.663% (2007 est.)
Birth rate: 16.57 births/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Death rate: 5.65 deaths/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Net migration rate: -4.29 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.054 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.024 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.945 male(s)/female
total population: 1.026 male(s)/female (2007 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 38.12 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 38.29 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 37.93 deaths/1,000 live births (2007 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 70.56 years
male: 69.12 years
female: 72.07 years (2007 est.)
Total fertility rate: 1.71 children born/woman (2007 est.)
HIV/AIDS – adult prevalence rate: 0.2% (2005 est.)
HIV/AIDS – people living with HIV/AIDS: 66,000 (2005 est.)
HIV/AIDS – deaths: 1,600 (2005 est.)
Major infectious diseases: degree of risk: intermediate
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea and hepatitis A
vectorborne diseases: Crimean Congo hemorrhagic fever and malaria
note: highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza has been identified in this country; it poses a negligible risk with extremely rare cases possible among US citizens who have close contact with birds (2008)
Nationality: noun: Iranian(s)
adjective: Iranian
Ethnic groups: Persian 51%, Azeri 24%, Gilaki and Mazandarani 8%, Kurd 7%, Arab 3%, Lur 2%, Baloch 2%, Turkmen 2%, other 1%
Religions: Muslim 98% (Shi’a 89%, Sunni 9%), other (includes Zoroastrian, Jewish, Christian, and Baha’i) 2%
Languages: Persian and Persian dialects 58%, Turkic and Turkic dialects 26%, Kurdish 9%, Luri 2%, Balochi 1%, Arabic 1%, Turkish 1%, other 2%
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 77%
male: 83.5%
female: 70.4%

MWL, Algerian Islamic Council Partner to Confront Extremism

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

MWL, Algerian Islamic Council Partner to Confront Extremism

Tuesday, 25 September, 2018 – 11:15
Lebanon’s Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rahi receives MWL Chief Dr. Mohamed Al-Issa’s , Asharq AL-Awsat
Algeria, Beirut- Boualam Ghimrasah and Asharq Al Awsat
Religious authorities in Algeria partnered with the Muslim World League for organizing awareness campaigns against extremism in a number of Arab countries facing the threat of religious radicalism.

The partnership was struck during the MWL Chief Dr. Mohamed Al-Issa’s visit to Algeria, which lasted two days.

During his stay, Issa met Algeria’s Head of the Supreme Islamic Council Bouabdallah Gholamallah and other officials from both the country’s Ministry of Religious Affairs Endowments and Ministry of Interior.

“The agreement between the two sides is aimed at using well-known Imams to carry out this mission, especially in the Sahel countries, such as Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso, where extremist groups are active and seek to recruit youth into armed action,” an insider source told Asharq Al-Awsat.

The source said that Issa’s meetings tackled societies facing religious extremism, and praised the “policy for reconciliation” in Algeria, which swayed thousands of extremists into peaceful means of living.

The agreement encourages scholars and intellectuals to “renew religious discourse and propagate moderation, values of tolerance and dialogue, as well as to discuss plans to combat extremism and terrorism.”

The MWL has worldwide influence, so Algeria is looking forward to cooperating with it on exposing baseless arguments against Islam and Muslims, Gholamallah was quoted as saying.

For his part, Al-Issa said that the agreement signed with the Supreme Islamic Council framed the cooperation that will be carried out by both bodies with the main objective being to clarify the real face of Islam as a religion and abolish extremism and terrorist ideologies.

Most recently, Issa met with religious leaders on an official visit to Lebanon.

He started his visit by meeting with Lebanon’s Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdullatif Durian, later meeting with Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rahi.

During meetings, the secretary-general stressed the importance of dialogue in order to promote common values based on love, respect and cooperation, and to confront hatred.

He visited Elias Audi, Metropolitan bishop of the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch. They discussed bilateral cooperation and coordination.

Issa also met with the president of the Supreme Islamic Shia Council, Sheikh Abdul Amir Qabalan.

He also met with Druze spiritual leader Sheikh Al-Aql Naim Hassan, with Bishop Boulos Matar, Chaldean Bishop Michel Kasarji and Armenian Catholic Patriarch Krikor Bedros.

Only Believers Of Islam Can Stop Islamic Terrorism: Nothing Else Can

TODAY THE SOUL CRIES 

(FIRST PUBLISHED ON January 27th, 2018)

The news today out of Kabul Afghanistan is both sad and sickening. The Islamic murder group who calls themselves the Taliban had one of their members drive an ambulance into a highly populated facility that was loaded with explosives and blew himself up. The saddest part is that this child of Satan has killed at least 95 innocent people along with himself. Just in this past week in Afghanistan there was an attack on a hotel that left 22 people dead, this attack was claimed by another Islamic murder group that call themselves ISIS. There was even an attack on an NGO group called Save The Children, I am not sure of the death toll in that attack nor which Demonic group took ‘credit’ for it.

 

According to the CIA Fact Book the U.S. government has spent over 2 Trillion American tax payer dollars in Afghanistan since 2001, my question is, for what? Have the American soldiers along with other Allied soldiers killed thousands of Taliban fighters plus some from other groups fighters, yes. Have many hundreds of ‘Western’ soldiers been killed and wounded, yes. Have at least a few thousand innocent civilians been killed in Afghanistan since 2001, yes. Yet for many years, including right up till now, the government of Afghanistan and the U.S. Government has been trying to have talks with the Taliban to create a ‘shared government’. A government where leaders of the Taliban will join with the civilian Government to mesh into one and form as one. The U.S. Government has been trying to broker this deal for at least ten years now, folks, the whole concept is insane. These attempts are no more than an attempt at ‘saving face’ for the U.S. Government via giving them a ‘way out’ of this quagmire. The Taliban, if they really had an interest in ‘sharing’ governance of Afghanistan they could have done this years ago. The current Leaders of the Civilian government know very well that if the Taliban is welcomed in they will quickly turn on the civilians Legislators and murder them all. Another question I have to bring up is about that 2 trillion dollars, where did it all go? Two trillion dollars could have totally and completely rebuilt the entire infrastructure of the U.S., so, where has all of that money gone? To me it seems that the majority has gone toward military actions, planes, tanks, bombs, soldiers and the such. I have heard reports several times that about 90% of the civilians in Afghanistan don’t even have one change of clothes, why folks? If we wanted to win the hearts of the civilians of the country we should have invested a whole lot of that money in their infrastructure, making sure they all had electricity, clean water, sanitation, a reliable food chain and jobs.

 

Whether the location is Afghanistan, Sudan, Nigeria, Libya or the Gaza Strip it is my belief that there is only one way that the world will ever be rid of ‘Islamic Terrorism’ and that is if the believers of Islam shut it down themselves. I know it has been the case for about 1,400 years that the Islamic faith has had a lot of infighting between their two main factions, the Sunni’s and the Shiite’s and that during this 1,400 years there have probably been as many or more Muslim and Persian people killed as there have been of Westerners killed. One would think that at some point this madness would stop but there appears to be no end of the innocent bloodshed being stopped. It is my belief that there is only one way that there can ever be an end to this madness and that is if the believers of Islam themselves decide that they have had enough. The ‘innocent’ family members, if they are indeed innocent must turn in their own family members and their own Iman if they are preaching hate and violence. Groups like President Abbas of the PLO and the leaders of Hamas must stop giving prize money to the families of ‘Martyr’s’ who kill other people. This theology is morally sick, the people of Islam themselves must shut it down because the Western World can not do it on their own. Until the rest of the world sees that the extreme mass majority of the Islamic believers are doing exactly this, how can the rest of the world believe that the extreme mass majority of Islamic believers are not complicit in this evil?

 

 

 

Parliament Speaker Slams Demands for Algerian President’s Resignation

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Parliament Speaker Slams Demands for Algerian President’s Resignation

Tuesday, 4 September, 2018 – 11:30
Algerian women passing the People’s National Assembly building in Algiers, Algeria. (AP)
Algiers – Boualem Goumrassa
Speaker of Algeria’s People’s National Assembly Said Bouhadja slammed opposition demands for President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to step down over their claims that he is “physically incapacitated to perform his duties.”

Speaking at an ordinary assembly session, he said that “a new Algeria has emerged, which is confirmed when compared to the Algeria of 20 years ago,” hinting to the period before Bouteflika came to power in 1999.

He noted that this “new Algeria” is enough to provide irrefutable answers to anyone doubting or questioning the president.

He was referring to opposition parties critical of Bouteflika’s policies, especially on economic issues, namely the Islamist “Movement of the Society for Peace” and the liberal “Jil Jadid” parties.

Bouhadja said that “the time of transition periods is over in Algeria, which sacrificed tens of thousands of martyrs to save the political institutions.

He made his remarks in reference to parties calling for a “transition” period that paves the way for the post-Bouteflika phase.

Democracy “is firmly established in our country and reaching power takes place within the dates stipulated in the constitution and through the will of the people, who are indisputable in their sovereignty,” stressed the speaker.

Bouhadja said of Bouteflika: “The nation and history attest that he dedicated all of his life to defend the freedom, dignity and sovereignty of the Algerian people.”

He praised the president’s efforts to establish the Algerian Civil Concord Law in 2000, which granted amnesty to about 6,000 extremists, all of whom were reintegrated into the society after spending years in prison on terrorism charges.

China Is Treating Islam Like a Mental Illness

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE ‘ATLANTIC NEWS AGENCY’)

 

A woman stands behind a pillar during the Eid al-Adha festival at a Chinese mosque.
A woman stands behind a pillar during the Eid al-Adha festival at a Chinese mosque.JASON LEE / REUTERS
One million Muslims are being held right now in Chinese internment camps, according to estimates cited by the UN and U.S. officials. Former inmates—most of whom are Uighurs, a largely Muslim ethnic minority—have told reporters that over the course of an indoctrination process lasting several months, they were forced to renounce Islam, criticize their own Islamic beliefs and those of fellow inmates, and recite Communist Party propaganda songs for hours each day. There are media reports of inmates being forced to eat pork and drink alcohol, which are forbidden to Muslims, as well as reports of torture and death.

The sheer scale of the internment camp system, which according to The Wall Street Journal has doubled in China’s northwestern Xinjiang region just within the last year, is mindboggling. The U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China describes it as “the largest mass incarceration of a minority population in the world today.” Beijing began by targeting Uighur extremists, but now even benign manifestations of Muslim identity—like growing a long beard—can get a Uighur sent to a camp, the Journal noted. Earlier this month, when a UN panel confronted a senior Chinese official about the camps, he saidthere are “no such things as reeducation centers,” even though government documents refer to the facilities that way. Instead, he claimed they’re just vocational schools for criminals.

China has been selling a very different narrative to its own population. Although the authorities frequently describe the internment camps as schools, they also liken them to another type of institution: hospitals. Here’s an excerpt from an official Communist Party audio recording, which was transmitted last year to Uighurs via WeChat, a social-media platform, and which was transcribed and translated by Radio Free Asia:

Members of the public who have been chosen for reeducation have been infected by an ideological illness. They have been infected with religious extremism and violent terrorist ideology, and therefore they must seek treatment from a hospital as an inpatient. … The religious extremist ideology is a type of poisonous medicine, which confuses the mind of the people. … If we do not eradicate religious extremism at its roots, the violent terrorist incidents will grow and spread all over like an incurable malignant tumor.

“Religious belief is seen as a pathology” in China, explained James Millward, a professor of Chinese history at Georgetown University, adding that Beijing often claims religion fuels extremism and separatism. “So now they’re calling reeducation camps ‘hospitals’ meant to cure thinking. It’s like an inoculation, a search-and-destroy medical procedure that they want to apply to the whole Uighur population, to kill the germs of extremism. But it’s not just giving someone a shot—it’s locking them up for months in bad conditions.”

China has long feared that Uighurs will attempt to establish their own national homeland in Xinjiang, which they refer to as East Turkestan. In 2009, ethnic riots there resulted in hundreds of deaths, and some radical Uighurs have carried out terrorist attacks in recent years. Chinese officials have claimed that in order to suppress the threat of Uighur separatism and extremism, the government needs to crack down not only on those Uighurs who show signs of having been radicalized, but on a significant swath of the population.

The medical analogy is one way the government tries to justify its policy of large-scale internment: After all, attempting to inoculate a whole population against, say, the flu, requires giving flu shots not just to the already-afflicted few, but to a critical mass of people. In fact, using this rhetoric, China has tried to defend a system of arrest quotas for Uighurs. Police officers confirmed to Radio Free Asia that they are under orders to meet specific population targets when rounding up people for internment. In one township, police officials said they were being ordered to send 40 percent of the local population to the camps.

The government also uses this pathologizing language in an attempt to justify lengthy internments and future interventions any time officials deem Islam a threat. “It’s being treated as a mental illness that’s never guaranteed to be completely cured, like addiction or depression,” said Timothy Grose, a China expert at the Rose Hulman Institute of Technology. “There’s something mentally wrong that needs to be diagnosed, treated—and followed up with.” Here’s how the Communist Party recording cited above explains this, while alluding to the threat of contagion:

There is always a risk that the illness will manifest itself at any moment, which would cause serious harm to the public. That is why they must be admitted to a reeducation hospital in time to treat and cleanse the virus from their brain and restore their normal mind. … Being infected by religious extremism and violent terrorist ideology and not seeking treatment is like being infected by a disease that has not been treated in time, or like taking toxic drugs. … There is no guarantee that it will not trigger and affect you in the future.

Having gone through reeducation and recovered from the ideological disease doesn’t mean that one is permanently cured. … So, after completing the reeducation process in the hospital and returning home … they must remain vigilant, empower themselves with the correct knowledge, strengthen their ideological studies, and actively attend various public activities to bolster their immune system.

Several other government-issued documents use this type of medical language. “This stuff about the poison in the brain—it’s definitely out there,” said Rian Thum, noting that even civilians tasked with carrying out the crackdown in Xinjiang speak of “eradicating its tumors.” Recruitment advertisements for staff in the internment camps state that experience in psychological training is a plus, Thum and other experts said. Chinese websites describe reeducation sessions where psychologists perform consultations with Uighurs and treat what they call extremism as a mental illness. A government document published last year in Khotan Prefecture described forced indoctrination as “a free hospital treatment for the masses with sick thinking.”

This is not the first time China has used medical analogies to suppress a religious minority. “Historically, it’s comparable to the strategy toward Falun Gong,” said Adrian Zenz, a researcher at the European School of Culture and Theology in Germany. He was referring to a spiritual practice whose followers were suppressed in the early 2000s through reeducation in forced labor camps. “Falun Gong was also treated like a dangerous addiction. … But in Xinjiang this [rhetoric] is certainly being pushed to the next level. The explicit link with the addictive effect of religion is being emphasized possibly in an unprecedented way.”

Tahir Imin, a U.S.-based Uighur academic from Xinjiang who said he has several family members in internment camps, was not surprised to hear his religion being characterized as if it’s a disease. In his view, it’s part of China’s attempt to eradicate Muslim ethnic minorities and forcefully assimilate them into the Han Chinese majority. “If they have any ‘illness,’ it is being Uighur,” he said. In addition to Uighurs, The Washington Post has reported that Muslim members of other ethnic groups, like the Kazakhs and the Kyrgyz, have been sent to the camps. “I think the Chinese government is saying: ‘This ideological hospital—in there, send every person who is not [ethnically] Chinese. They are sick, they are not safe [to be around], they are not reliable, they are not healthy people.’”

The doors of mosques closed by authorities in Xinjiang (Thomas Peter / Reuters)

The terrible irony is that in “treating” Uighurs for supposed psychological problems, China is causing very real psychological damage, both at home and abroad. One former inmate told The Independent he suffered thoughts of suicide inside the camps. And as Uighurs in exile around the world learn what is happening to their relatives back home, some have told reporters they suffer from insomnia, depression, anxiety, and paranoia.

Murat Harri Uyghur, a 33-year-old doctor who moved to Finland in 2010, said he has received word from relatives that both his parents are in the camps. He has launched an online campaign, “Free My Parents,” he said will raise money to start an advocacy organization to help them, but he told me he suffers from recurrent panic attacks. He also described finding himself prone to feelings of anger, powerlessness, and exhaustion. “I try to be normal,” he said, “but I have a psychological problem now.”

In an interview with The Globe and Maila Uighur woman in Canada who said she had a sister in the camps said, “I cannot concentrate on anything. My mind is off. I cannot sleep.” She added, “I lost a lot of weight because I don’t want to eat anymore.”

Some Uighurs I spoke to who are living abroad also have to cope with a pervasive sense of guilt. They know that Beijing treats any Uighur who’s traveled internationally as suspicious, and that their family members are treated as suspicious by association. For example, a 24-year-old Uighur attending graduate school in Kentucky, who requested anonymity for fear that China would further punish his relatives, said it’s been 197 days since he’s been able to contact his father in Xinjiang. He tracks the days on a board tacked to his bedroom wall. “I’m afraid for my dad’s life,” he said. Asked why he believes his father was sent to an internment camp, he replied without a trace of doubt: “Because I go to school here in a foreign country.”

“Now I know that if I ever go home,” he added, “I will be imprisoned just like my dad.”

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to [email protected]

Sigal Samuel
SIGAL SAMUEL is an associate editor at The Atlantic, covering religion and global affairs. She is the author of The Mystics of Mile End.

Maldives: Truth, Knowledge And The History Of These Islands, Nation

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA WORLD FACT BOOK)

 

Maldives

Introduction The Maldives was long a sultanate, first under Dutch and then under British protection. It became a republic in 1968, three years after independence. Since 1978, President Maumoon Abdul GAYOOM – currently in his sixth term in office – has dominated the islands’ political scene. Following riots in the capital Male in August 2004, the president and his government pledged to embark upon democratic reforms, including a more representative political system and expanded political freedoms. Progress has been slow, however, and many promised reforms have been slow to come to fruition. Nonetheless, political parties were legalized in 2005. A constituent assembly – termed the “special majlis” – has pledged to complete the drafting of a new constitution by the end of 2007 and first-ever presidential elections under a multi-candidate, multi-party system are slated for November 2008. Tourism and fishing are being developed on the archipelago.
History Comparative studies of the Maldivian oral tradition suggest that the first settlers were Dravidian people from the nearest coasts, probably fishermen from the southwest coasts of the Indian Subcontinent and the western shores of Sri Lanka, like the group today known as the Giravaaru who claim ancestry from ancient Tamils. It is unlikely that the Giraavaru islanders were the only early settlers in the Maldives. The importance they have been given is because they are mentioned in the legend about the establishment of the capital and kingly rule in Malé. The Giraavaru people were just one of the island communities predating Buddhism and the arrival of a Northern Kingly dynasty and the establishment of centralized political and administrative institutions.

Buddhism came to the Maldives at the time of Emperor Ashoka’s expansion and became the dominant religion of the people of the Maldives until the 12th century AD.

Western interest in the archaeological remains of early cultures on the Maldives began with the work of H.C.P. Bell, a British commissioner of the Ceylon Civil Service. Bell was shipwrecked on the islands in 1879, and returned several times to investigate ancient Buddhist ruins. He studied the ancient mounds, called havitta or ustubu (these names are derived from chaitiya or stupa) (Mahl: ހަވިއްތަ) by the Maldivians, which are found on many of the atolls.

Although Bell asserted that the ancient Maldivians followed Theravada Buddhism, many local Buddhist archaeological remains now in the Malé Museum display in fact Mahayana and Vajrayana iconography.

According to a legend from the Maldivian Folklore, a prince named Koimala from India or Sri Lanka entered the Maldives from the North (Ihavandhu) and became the first king from the House of Theemuge. The ancient Maldivian Kings promoted Buddhism and the first Maldive writings and artistic achievements in the form of highly developed sculpture and architecture are from that period. The conversion to Islam is mentioned in the ancient edicts written in copper plates from the end of the 12th century AD. There is also a locally well-known legend about a foreign saint (a Persian from the city of Tabriz or a Moroccan Berber according to the versions) who subdued a demon known as Rannamaari.

Over the centuries, the islands have been visited and their development influenced by sailors and traders from countries on the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal. Until relatively recent times, Mappila pirates from the Malabar Coast – present-day Kerala state in India – harassed the islands.

Although governed as an independent Islamic sultanate from 1153 to 1968, the Maldives was a British protectorate from 1887 until July 25, 1965. In 1953, there was a brief, abortive attempt to form a republic, but the sultanate was re-imposed. In 1959, objecting to Nasir’s centralism, the inhabitants of the three southernmost atolls protested against the government. They formed the United Suvadive Republic and elected, Abdullah Afeef as president and Hithadhoo as capital of this republic.

After independence from Britain in 1965, the sultanate continued to operate for another three years under King Muhammad Fareed. On November 11, 1968, the monarchy was abolished and replaced by a republic, although this was a cosmetic change without any significant alteration in the structures of government. The official name of the country was changed from Maldive Islands to the Maldives in a progressive manner. Tourism began to be developed on the archipelago about five years later, by the beginning of the 1970s.

In November 1988, a group of Maldivians headed by Mr. Lutfee a small time businessman used Tamil mercenaries from Sri Lanka to stage a coup against President Gayyoom. After an appeal by the Maldivian government for help, the Indian military intervened against the mercenaries in order to reinstate Gayyoom in power. On the night of November 3, 1988, the Indian Air Force airlifted a parachute battalion group from Agra and flew them non-stop over 2,000 kilometres (1,240 mi) to the Maldives. The Indian paratroopers landed at Hulule and secured the airfield and restored the Government rule at Malé within hours. The brief, bloodless operation, labelled Operation Cactus, also involved the Indian Navy.

On 26 December 2004, the Maldives were devastated by a tsunami following the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake. Only nine islands were reported to have escaped any flooding[citation needed], while fifty-seven islands faced serious damage to critical infrastructure, fourteen islands had to be totally evacuated, and six islands were decimated. A further twenty-one resort islands were forced to shut down due to serious damage. The total damage was estimated at over 400 million dollars or some 62% of the GDP. A total of 108 people, including six foreigners, reportedly died in the tsunami. The destructive impact of the waves on the low-lying islands was mitigated by the fact there was no continental shelf or land mass upon which the waves could gain height. The tallest waves were reported 14 feet high.

Geography Location: Southern Asia, group of atolls in the Indian Ocean, south-southwest of India
Geographic coordinates: 3 15 N, 73 00 E
Map references: Asia
Area: total: 300 sq km
land: 300 sq km
water: 0 sq km
Area – comparative: about 1.7 times the size of Washington, DC
Land boundaries: 0 km
Coastline: 644 km
Maritime claims: measured from claimed archipelagic straight baselines
territorial sea: 12 nm
contiguous zone: 24 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
Climate: tropical; hot, humid; dry, northeast monsoon (November to March); rainy, southwest monsoon (June to August)
Terrain: flat, with white sandy beaches
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Indian Ocean 0 m
highest point: unnamed location on Wilingili island in the Addu Atoll 2.4 m
Natural resources: fish
Land use: arable land: 13.33%
permanent crops: 30%
other: 56.67% (2005)
Irrigated land: NA
Total renewable water resources: 0.03 cu km (1999)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 0.003 cu km/yr (98%/2%/0%)
per capita: 9 cu m/yr (1987)
Natural hazards: low level of islands makes them sensitive to sea level rise
Environment – current issues: depletion of freshwater aquifers threatens water supplies; global warming and sea level rise; coral reef bleaching
Environment – international agreements: party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography – note: 1,190 coral islands grouped into 26 atolls (200 inhabited islands, plus 80 islands with tourist resorts); archipelago with strategic location astride and along major sea lanes in Indian Ocean
Politics Politics in the Maldives takes place in the framework of a presidential republic, whereby the President is the head of government. The President heads the executive branch and appoints the cabinet. The President is nominated to a five-year term by a secret ballot of the Majlis (parliament), a nomination which is confirmed by national referendum.

The unicameral Majlis of the Maldives is composed of fifty members serving five-year terms. Two members from each atoll are elected directly by universal suffrage. Eight are appointed by the president, which is the main route through which women enter parliament. The country introduced political parties for the first time in its history in July 2005, six months after the last elections for the parliament. Nearly thirty-six members of the existing parliament joined the Dhivehi Raiyyathunge Party (the Maldivian People’s Party) and elected President Gayoom as its leader. Twelve members of parliament became the Opposition and joined the Maldivian Democratic Party. Two members remained independent. In March 2006, President Gayoom published a detailed Roadmap for the Reform Agenda, providing time-bound measures to write a new Constitution, and modernise the legal framework. Under the Roadmap, the government has submitted to the Parliament a raft of reform measures. The most significant piece of legislation passed so far is the Amendment to the Human Rights Commission Act, making the new body fully compliant with the Paris Principles.

The fifty members of parliament sit with an equal number of similarly constituted persons and the Cabinet to form the Constitutional Assembly, which has been convened at the initiative of the President to write a modern liberal democratic constitution for the Maldives. The Assembly has been sitting since July 2004, and has been widely criticised for making very slow progress. The Government and the Opposition have been blaming each other for the delays, but independent observers attribute the slow progress to weak parliamentary traditions, poor whipping (none of the MPs were elected on a party ticket) and endless points of order interventions. Progress has also been slow due to the commitment of the main opposition party, MDP, to depose President Gayoom by direct action ahead of the implementation of the reform agenda, leading to civil unrest in July-August 2004, August 2005 and an abortive putsch in November 2006. Significantly, the leader of the MDP, Ibrahim Ismail (MP for the biggest constituency – Malé) resigned from his party post in April 2005 after having narrowly beat Dr. Mohammed Waheed Hassan only a couple months earlier. He eventually left MDP in November 2006 citing the intransigence of his own National Executive Committee. The government had engaged the services of a Commonwealth Special Envoy Tun Musa Hitam to facilitate all party dialogue, and when the MDP boycotted him, enlisted the services of the British High Commissioner to facilitate a dialogue. The ensuing Westminster House process made some progress but was abandoned as MDP called for the November revolution.

The Roadmap provides the deadline of 31 May 2007 for the Assembly to conclude its work and to pave the way for the first multi-party elections in the country by October 2008. This deadline has not been achieved.

On 19 June 2006, the Assembly voted to hold a public referendum to decide the form of government under the new constitutional settlement. The resulting referendum has led to the public choosing a Presidential Republic.

Attorney General Dr Hassan Saeed, along with Justice Minister Mohamed Jameel Ahmed resigned from cabinet on 5 August 2007 accusing President Maumoon Abdul Qayyoom of deliberately obstructing reform process in the country which Dr Saeed engineered and spearheaded. Dr Saaed is now running against Qayyoom for the Presidency and is seen as his main opponent.

The political structure of the Maldives has remained practically unchanged for centuries. Despite the passage from Monarchy to republic, the contemporary political structure shows a continuity with the feudal past in which power was shared among a few families at the top of the social structure. In some islands, the offices have remained within the same family for generations. The village is ruled by an administrative officer called Katību, who serves as the executive headman of the island. Above the Katībus of every atoll is the AtoỊuveriya (Atoll Chief). The power of these local chiefs is very limited and they take few responsibilities. They are trained to report to the government about the situation in their islands and to merely wait for instructions from the central power and to follow them thoroughly.

People Population: 379,174 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 42.4% (male 82,616/female 78,165)
15-64 years: 54.5% (male 105,465/female 101,115)
65 years and over: 3.1% (male 5,753/female 6,060) (2008 est.)
Median age: total: 18.3 years
male: 18.2 years
female: 18.4 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate: 2.69% (2008 est.)
Birth rate: 33.61 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate: 6.71 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate: NA (2008 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.06 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.95 male(s)/female
total population: 1.05 male(s)/female (2008 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 51.62 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 50.78 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 52.5 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 65.12 years
male: 63.73 years
female: 66.58 years (2008 est.)
Total fertility rate: 4.66 children born/woman (2008 est.)
HIV/AIDS – adult prevalence rate: 0.1% (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS – people living with HIV/AIDS: less than 100 (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS – deaths: NA
Nationality: noun: Maldivian(s)
adjective: Maldivian
Ethnic groups: South Indians, Sinhalese, Arabs
Religions: Sunni Muslim
Languages: Maldivian Dhivehi (dialect of Sinhala, script derived from Arabic), English spoken by most government officials
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 96.3%
male: 96.2%
female: 96.4% (2000 census)