This is the fourth part of Your Middle East’s 100 Years of Middle East History list. We now turn to events between 1975-1990.
November 1975: Hundreds of thousands of flag-waiving Moroccans march south into the Spanish province of Sahara. The ‘Green March’ is a stunt by Morocco’s King Hassan to assert his claim on the province — now known as Western Sahara. Spain leaves the province in early 1976, leaving Morocco to fight local guerilla resistence, Polisario, in order to hold on to what has been called Africa’s last colony. The unresolved Western Sahara issue continues to complicate Morocco’s relations with its neighbours and the wider Arab world. Pictured above, the back of a Moroccan 100 dirham banknote commemorating the Green March.
17 September 1978: Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian president Anwar el-Sadat sign the “Framework for Peace in the Middle East” — an agreement better known as the Camp David Accords, as the negotiations were brokered by US President Jimmy Carter at his Camp David retreat in Maryland. The treaty ends 30 years of war between the two states. Pictured above, Jimmy Carter with Anwar Sadat at the Pyramids in Egypt, in March 1979.
1978: Iranians take to the streets amid widespread discontent with the repressive policies of Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi. Secular opposition groups join forces with the religious scholars opposed to the Shah’s rule and the exiled Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. In January 1979, the shah flees Iran and on February 1, Khomeini returns from exile to a rapturous welcome. On April 1, Iran is declared an Islamic Republic.
September 1980: Iraqi armed forces invades western Iran, hoping to take advantage of political turmoil in Iran following the Islamic revolution, and seizing the oil-rich border region of Khuzestan. Meeting unexpectedly strong Iranian resistance, Iraq withdraws in 1982 — but Iran continues the war and fighting continues until a ceasefire is called in 1988. Pictured above, a young Iranian soldier. Iran’s government became notorious for its use of child soldiers in the Iran-Iraq war.
6 October 1981: Following the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty in 1978, President Sadat is hailed in the West, and he shares the 1978 Nobel Peace Prize with Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin. At home in Egypt, the reaction to Sadat’s actions are more mixed. As he watches an annual parade commemorating the Yom Kippur war in Cairo, he and his entourage is attacked by Islamist militants armed with grenades and assault rifles. Sadat is killed, as are ten others.
February 1982: Muslim Brotherhood dissidents revolt in the Syrian city of Hama against the government of President Hafez al-Assad. The Syrian army, under control of the president’s brother Rifaat al-Assad moves to quell the revolt with brutal force, besieging the city for three weeks, as well as bombing it from the air. Around 20,000 Syrians are thought to have died in the massacre, one of the deadliest single attacks in Middle Eastern history.
6 June 1982: the Lebanese civil war takes a new turn when Israel invades the country. Initially concerned with rooting out the PLO in southern Lebanon, the Israeli Defense Forces progress further into the country and lay siege to West Beirut. In September, IDF soldiers watch on as Phalangist militiamen massacre civilians in the Palestinian refugee camps at Sabra and Shatila. Pictured above, Lebanese soldiers in Beirut.
15 August 1984: Militants belonging to the Kurdish nationalist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) simultaneously attack two gendarmerie stations in the Turkish villages of Åemdinli and Eruh, killing three and wounding eleven people. The two attacks mark the beginning of the PKK’s armed insurgency against the Turkish authorities in their quest for an independent Kurdish state. The conflict between the PKK and Turkey has continued to this day, with a ceasefire in effect from 1999 to 2004, and has claimed the lives of at least eighteen thousand people. Pictured above, a PKK militant in the mountains of Turkey in 2008.
December 1990: Large-scale riots break out in the Gaza strip. The riots are the beginning of the first Intifada, a mass uprising of Palestinians against Israeli occupation. The defining image of the Intifada are the children and youth throwing stones at the powerful Israeli military. Israel’s response to the uprising is seen by many as harsh and provokes criticism from the international community and raises attention to the Palestinian cause. Pictured above, Palestinian women protesting in Jabalia, Gaza in 1988.
Photos: Jimmy Carter Presidential Library, LIFE magazine, IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation, James Case, Robert Croma, and Wikimedia Commons.