Category: History
Postcolonialism in the Middle East

A culturally diverse region with the millennial history has become a victim of European imperialism. Powerful European states dominated the Middle East during the twentieth century. When they had gone, they left chaos in the countries of the region. A political, economic, and cultural vacuum was filled with non-democratic and anti-Western public sentiments. Nowadays, the Middle East remains one of the most troubled regions in the world, which still feels the consequences of European imperialism.    

The biggest problem rooted in the colonial past of the Middle East is the borders set up by European mother countries. The end of the WWI marked the end of the Ottoman Empire, and its vast lands became a coveted prize for France and Britain. The two countries signed the Sykes-Picot Agreement to draw the lines between newly established states (Osman, 2013). Straight-line borders did not count religious, tribal, or ethnic distinctions among people living in the area. For example, the rival Sunni and Shia Muslims ended up in one Iraqi state, which caused a constant struggle for power and led to a politically fragile country (Danforth, 2016). Moreover, Islamic State militants defiantly demolished the border signs between Iraq and Syria to demonstrate liberation from the colonial past. One more example is that the Agreement between France and Britain did not foresee the creation of the Kurdish state. In the modern world, Kurds are one of the most populous nations without their own state (Danforth, 2016). Since the colonial past affected the establishment of borders between states, the region was mired in a political struggle, ethnic tensions, and religious disagreements. 

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Another major problem that colonialism has brought to the Middle East is a weak state apparatus. The countries once governed by the foreign administration became independent, and their leaders did not know what to do with the independency. Institutions were copied from the former European states and did not serve the local population. All Middle Eastern countries lack good governance and incline to authoritarian political order (Ismael, Ismael, & Perry, 2016, p. 37). For instance, Saddam Hussein, Bashar Assad, and Hosni Mubarak are embodiments of the authoritarian ruling in the region (Ismael et al., 2016). The Western values of democracy, human rights and freedoms, and the rule of law are alien to the hybrid political regimes of the Middle East. Formal institutions of free elections, the transition of power, and the protection of minorities are tools for totalitarian leaders to prove the democratic origin of their power to the rest of the world. In practice, area inhabitants are trapped in failed states. 

The issue of colonialism has caused the growth of a gap between the rich and the poor. The state is working for the benefit of the corrupted elite. On contrast, the majority of the population lacks social safety nets and protection from the government. The living conditions and the monthly income of inhabitants are ones of the worst in the world. The Middle Eastern countries do not pay attention to developing the infrastructure and building new schools, hospitals, and cultural centers. The divided society of the states contributes to the enrichment of the ruling elite of a particular ethnic or religious background (Ismael et al., 2016, p. 42). As a result, the population is dissatisfied with the permanent state conditions and goes to the streets to protest against the authority. The region saw series of uprisings called the “Arab Spring” aimed to bring justice, fair political order, and stability (Ismael et al., 2016).

As one may conclude, the colonial past is a considerable drawback for the development of the Middle East. A substantial proportion of the region’s population blames the Western world for the failure of the countries. Its settlers hate the order established by the West and find their strength in the faith (Jerichow & Simonsen, 2013, p. 106). However, the real problem is the rise of extreme forms of religious practices that do not only threaten the neighboring countries, but also the whole world. Once the global core problem was Al-Qaeda, and now even the worst challenge is the Islamic State with its aspirations. Militants of the terrorist organization want to eradicate Western values and institutions in order to establish the Caliphate with the rule of the Islamic law (Bunzel, 2015, p. 33). Moreover, the Western world is the prime target of the terrorists, because they accuse it of the exploitation of the region. In the past, the world was shocked by brutal and violent attacks in France and Belgium conducted by extremist Islamists in the name of the Islamic State (Bunzel, 2015). Islamic extremism is a direct consequence of the European domination and exploitation of the region.

The Western world also caused an insurmountable problem in the Middle East, the Arab-Israeli conflict. Great Britain created the Jewish state within Palestine. Thousands of Jews from Europe migrated to the Middle East and diluted the Arab majority in the region. After the expiration of the British mandate over Palestine, David Ben-Gurion proclaimed the independence of the Israeli State on the Palestinian territories (Ismael et al., 2016, p. 372). Nowadays the conflict is still unresolved and creates tensions in the region. There were four wars of Arab states with Israel, which lead to borders redrawing and thousands of refugees.

The consequences of the European domination and exploitation of the Middle East are still felt today. The region remains politically, ethnically, and religiously divided.  The present revolts and the ongoing civil war in Syria are far-reaching repercussions of the region’s colonial past. The world has faced the most dreadful backlash in the face of the Islamic State and other  Islamic movements. Today the Middle East is one of the most troubled and war-torn regions in the world.

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