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A Timeline of the History of Muslim Refugees in the Middle East

The history of Muslim refugees in the Middle East is a long and complex one, with many different factors contributing to the displacement of Muslim populations over time. Even since the beginning of Islam, migration occurred; the Hijrah that marks the beginning of the Hijri calendar refers to Prophet Muhammad and his followers' migration to Medina to escape persecution. Wars throughout the Middle East played a major role in the displacement of most of these Muslim refugees, with conflicts of the 20th and 21st centuries leading to most of the migration. These refugees often fled to neighboring nations that would house them. In the modern day, many of these migrants have the opportunity to travel to nations in Europe and North America that are far from the situations they escaped. However, migrants often encounter anger and xenophobia from the citizens of these countries, leading to anti-immigrant policies such as former US President Donald Trump's ban on migration from seven countries, including Syria. However, Muslim migration as a result of wars is something that has occurred since early times, and these migrants must be welcomed and assisted rather than shunned out of nations. Here is a brief timeline of Muslim migration:


During the late 1800s and early 1900s, many Muslim refugees in the Middle East were displaced as a result of the collapse of the Ottoman Empire following World War I and the establishment of new nation-states in the region. The Ottoman Empire, which was already losing territory to European nations and global influence prior to World War I, officially dissolved in 1922, leading to the British and French claiming the territory. As a result, the displacement of Muslims from areas that were formerly a part of the Ottoman Empire, such as Palestine, Iraq, and Algeria, occurred as European powers divided up the region and created new borders.


In 1948, the creation of the state of Israel led to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinian Muslims, who became refugees in neighboring countries such as Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria. This event, known as the Nakba (Arabic for "catastrophe"), is a significant moment in the history of Muslim refugees in the region. To this day, Palestinians still do not have their own country and remain either in the West Bank or Gaza within Israel or in other countries.


The Suez Canal Crisis in 1956, where Israel invaded Egypt with assistance from the United Kingdom and France to take control over the valuable Suez Canal, resulted in the displacement of Egyptian Muslims, as well as the temporary displacement of Muslims in other countries in the region.


The Six-Day War in 1967 between Israel and its Arab neighbors led to the displacement of additional Palestinian Muslims, as well as the displacement of Syrians and Jordanians.


In the 1970s, the Lebanese Civil War and North Yemen Civil War led to the displacement of thousands of Muslims in the region. According to the United Nations, as of December 2021, there were over 500,000 internally displaced people in Lebanon, and over 250,000 people had fled to other countries, such as Iraq, Jordan, and Turkey. The majority of those displaced were Muslims. Similarly, the North Yemen Civil War led to a large displacement of Yemenis people.


In 1979, the Iranian Revolution and the subsequent war with Iraq led to the displacement of millions of Iranians and Iraqis. Many Iranians left due to differences in ideology with the new Iranian government, which was an Islamic theocracy instead of a monarchy, while others left due to economic concerns resulting from damages caused by conflict and war.


The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan during the 1980s and the following conflicts for control over the nation after the government fell led to the displacement of millions of Afghan Muslims, who fled to Pakistan and Iran as refugees.


In 1990s, the Gulf War and the Civil War in Bosnia and Herzegovina led to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Muslims. Both wars led to instability within the regions that persist to this day, with many conflicts in the Persian Gulf and ethnic tensions between the Bosnian Muslims and neighboring ethnicities in the Balkans persisting.


The invasion of Iraq by the United States and its allies in 2003 led to the displacement of millions of Iraqis, many of whom became refugees in other countries in the region.


In 2011, The Arab Spring pro-democracy protests and the ongoing Syrian Civil War led to the displacement of millions of Muslims in the Middle East and North Africa, many of whom become refugees in other countries.


In the present day, the United States leaving Afghanistan and the subsequent rise of the Taliban leadership led to many Afghan Muslims fleeing the nation. Men and women left in fear of a government that followed the extremist ideologies the Taliban followed, with many women, in particular, fleeing out of fear that they would lose their access to education and all rights they had.


Refugees from the Middle East are not a new group; Muslims have commonly migrated throughout history in search of safety from deadly conflicts, ideological differences, and economic prosperity and stability. To this day, conflicts and instability in the Middle East still lead to the diaspora of Muslim refugees. The recent Iranian protests against the hijab and the government's violent attempts to put it down may lead to even more Muslims fleeing to neighboring regions or to democratic nations in Europe and North America. Xenophobia in Western nations must not be tolerated; rather, these nations must be open to assisting these refugees using their vast resources. The Middle East's instability has led to large numbers of Muslim refugees fleeing and spreading throughout the world.

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