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The Middle East and Conflict

Posted on December 11 2022

The Middle East and Conflict

GeoJournal

Dear Educator,

Currently, citizens of Iran are protesting for more freedoms. Iran is in the region commonly referred to as the Middle East. Historically, it was part of Persia. The major religion in Iran is Shia Islam, after the Islamic revolution there in 1979. In the early 1980s, Islamic authorities began requiring women to follow a strict dress code, including wearing a hijab. A hijab is an article of clothing used to cover women’s hair. The government also has a morality police force, also known as the Guidance Patrol. They mainly enforce the Islamic dress code, which includes wearing a hijab, not showing off the woman’s body, not showing too much skin, and other rules. These officials also may focus on alcohol consumption or interfere in mixed gatherings of men and women who are not related.  Protesting for freedoms, such as women showing their hair, is one example of the many kinds of conflict that have affected the region for centuries.

The Middle East is rich in oil resources. Because oil is valued all over the world as a nonrenewable resource, the stores of oil in the region provide it international power. Historically, however, the cultures and major religions there are dissimilar from those of the West. Conflict among other nearby countries and with the West have long been part of the Middle East’s history.

Since we are Maps101, we have a lot of maps. (We have a lot of articles, lessons, interactive activities, and videos, too!) But this week, we are focusing mainly on how maps can help provide context for events to your classroom. We will look at the current protests in Iran, the relationship between the U.S. and Iran, the U.S. at war in Afghanistan, and maps that support student understanding of the resources and cultures of the greater area. Let’s take a deeper look into the often talked about but little understood region known as the Middle East.

Our story starts with a map of the overall area. Students need to know where we are talking about. Location is everything! And many students may not understand where this part of the world actually is and which continents are involved. Project the map on the board. Encourage students to explain why the Middle East is an apt name for this area. But also ensure that they realize that the region is called that from the perspective of the West. To people in Saudi Arabia, they aren’t the middle part of anywhere else. Like those of us here in the U.S., where we are feels like the center of the world!

VIEW THE MAP

Now, let’s look at the most recent example of significant conflict in the Middle East: protests in Iran. Students should have a better understanding of why the protesting is occurring and what people hope to gain. Use the critical-thinking skills questions at the end to encourage classroom discussion. Ensure that students are sensitive to and inclusive of all students and ethnicities. After all, some students may be Islamic and wear head covering of some kind themselves.

READ THE ARTICLE

The U.S. has had a difficult relationship with Iran in the past. In 1979, Islamic students stormed the U.S. embassy in Tehran, Iran’s capital, taking hostages and holding them for over a year. The U.S. has accused Iran of sponsoring terrorism. And concerns about Iran producing radioactive plutonium are some of the reasons for this relationship. Find out more by having students read this GNN article. Then, have students research what the current relationship is like with the country and its leadership. What foreign policy do students recommend the U.S. should have currently with Iran?

READ THE ARTICLE

Iran is not the only country with conflict in the Middle East. These maps use call-outs to identify causes of conflict throughout the region in the timeframes listed. These maps provide an excellent opportunity for students to practice comparing and contrasting. What events are similar? How are events different? Is there a commonality that links the issues in these countries? Encourage students to further investigate political conflict in the Middle East.

VIEW THE 1948-1980 MAP
VIEW THE 1981-2005 MAP

The U.S. has been involved in the region in more ways than simply its relationship with Iran. For example, the United States was at war in Afghanistan for 20 years, until President Joe Biden withdrew all U.S. forces from the country in 2021. This article explores how terrorism and the Taliban set off the U.S. involvement in Afghanistan. After reading the article, discuss with students why the U.S. was in Afghanistan and what the effects have been on the country since U.S. troops left. Encourage students to research to learn about the contemporary conditions and politics in the country.

READ THE ARTICLE

Next, let’s check out a map that illustrates why the Middle East is an economically valuable region. Project this map of land use and natural resources. Point out the map key to students and explain how to use a key. Then, have them identify the resources in the area by color. Note that these resources relate to the ability to have agricultural production. Then, point out the symbol for petroleum. Ensure that students understand the importance of petroleum, or unrefined oil, which is a nonrenewable resource. Students should be able to interpret from this map that the Middle East is a globally important region because of the amount of oil that is located there. Because the oil is very valuable, whoever controls the oil can become wealthy and powerful. By looking at this map, students can infer that there is controversy over control of this lucrative resource. 

VIEW THE MAP

Now let’s look at a pair of maps of the Middle East that are about the population. First, focus on the major religions there. Then, study the map of ethnic distribution. Students are aware there is conflict in the Middle East. Based on these maps and their prior knowledge, have students infer another source of conflict. Students should be able to identify that religious differences and ethnic differences contribute to the conflicts that arise there.

VIEW THE MAJOR RELIGIONS MAP
VIEW THE ETHNIC DISTRIBUTION MAP

Thank you for taking this tour of content about the Middle East that is available on Maps101. We hope our weekly tour of topics in this GeoJournal helps not just inform you of themes you can focus on throughout the year, but that it also draws your attention to content you may not have realized is available. Happy hunting for more content that benefits your class this school year. And don’t forget to favorite to save what you use often for easy use.

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