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1840: Aisha Taymur, the distinguished female poet and writer, is born in Egypt.

Aisha Taymur participates in the struggle for the emancipation of women in the early 20th century. She is one of the leading figures of an Arab intellectual and cultural awakening.


1867: Lebanese poet Warda al-Yaziji publishes her collection of poems.

Warda al-Yaziji's collection of poetry, called The Rose Garden in English, speaks to a female presence within a broader, Arab identity. Al-Yaziji also has also published several articles about the status of Arab women.


1892: The first Arabic-language newspaper in the United States is published.

The first Arabic-language newspaper published in the U.S., Kawkab Amrika (Star of America), gets its start in 1892. By 1919, Arabic-speaking immigrants are served by nine such newspapers. The most significant publication of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, though, is the journal Syrian World, which publishes notable writers such as Khalil Gibran and showcases a range of works, including poems, plays, articles, and stories. While Gibran's name may be the most familiar to American readers, Ameen Rihani is widely considered to be the "father of Arab American literature."


February 1896: Theodor Herzl publishes his vision for a state where Jews could live free from persecution.

After covering the Dreyfus Affair, a trial of a Jewish officer in the French army who was wrongfully accused as a traitor, Theodor Herzl, a Jewish journalist from Vienna, publishes a pamphlet called "The Jewish State." Disturbed by the wave of anti-Semitism set off by the trial, Herzl calls for a state in which Jews can live without fear of persecution. He travels the world over to find monetary and political support for his vision.


1899: The Egyptian book The Liberation of Women stimulates enormous public debate on women's status in Egypt.

In his book The Liberation of Women, written and published at the end of the 19th century, Egyptian lawyer Qasim Amin argues that the emancipation of women is a necessary step in freeing Egypt from foreign domination. He also uses portions of the Quran to support his argument. The book, controversial upon its publication, continues to be so today, more than 100 years later.


1907: The first Egyptian girl graduates from high school.

Nabawiya Moussa is the first Egyptian girl to earn a baccalaureate degree and finish her high school education. Twenty-one years will pass before another Egyptian girl earns this degree. Throughout her life, Moussa is a pioneering figure in women's education, teaching, writing, and speaking about its importance.


1907: The first major underwater archaeological exploration takes place off the coast of Tunisia.

The Tunisian Antiquities Service finds bronze Greek statues from a ship believed to have sunk en route from Greece to Italy around 100 B.C.E.


December 21, 1908: The Egyptian University (later renamed Cairo University) opens.

The establishment of a university in Cairo had been opposed by the British occupation authorities, who fear that the creation of an institution that produces well-educated citizens might lead to calls for independence.


1918-1919: Famine devastates the Persian (Iranian) people.

As much as a quarter of the population living in the north of Iran dies in a famine. The devastating effect of a world war and a period of severe drought and widespread crop failure are the primary contributing factors to the famine.


1919-1929: Amanullah Khan rules Afghanistan for a decade, instituting reforms and encouraging modernization.

Afghanistan's first constitution (1923) guarantees civil rights and creates a legislature and court system to enforce the new laws. Amanullah privatizes land, abolishes slavery, and improves educational opportunities for boys and girls. He also seeks to Westernize Afghan culture, overturning centuries-old customs. Conservative tribal and religious leaders resist these changes, however, and call for new leadership.


1920s: The first mosque built in America, called the Mother Mosque, is built in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

The Mother Mosque, the first built in America, will serve the Muslim population of Cedar Rapids for 40 years before a second is built. The Iowa city is also home to the first burial ground exclusively for Muslims in the U.S.


1920s: Iraqi women move to gain more rights and a better education.

Iraqi women seek to be recognized as full citizens and want freedom from having to wear a veil in public, as per Islamic tradition. Aswa Zahawi founds the Women's Rising Group, which begins to publish Leila, a journal promoting education and employment rights for women.


1921: The Hollywood movie The Sheik includes the first significant portrayal of an Arab character.

Rudolph Valentino plays the title character in The Sheik, a film which promotes stereotypes and distorts Arab culture.


1921: An ancient part of the city of Carthage is discovered in Tunisia.

A holy place from the ancient Punic period in Carthage is discovered in Tunisia in 1921. Carthage, originally built in 814 B.C.E. as a colony of the Phoenician Empire (1200-330 B.C.E.), was completely destroyed by fire by the Romans.


1923: The Lebanese American Khalil Gibran publishes The Prophet, a book of 26 poetic essays.

Khalil Gibran, a writer and artist (he studied with the French sculptor Rodin), is one of the most familiar literary figures in the Arab American community. The Prophet has been translated into more than 20 languages.


1923: Three leaders of the Egyptian women's movement return to Cairo from a feminist conference in Rome and remove their veils in public.

In a daring act of defiance, Huda Shaarawi, Ceza Nabarawi, and Nabawiya Moussa take off their hijab (veils) at the Cairo train station to symbolize their liberation. They demand equality, the right to education and the vote, and reform of the law that regulates marriage, divorce, child custody, and alimony.


February 10, 1925: The first of many institutions devoted to scientific research is established in Haifa.

The Technion-Israel Institute of Technology is established in Haifa. The Hebrew University of Jerusalem follows in April, and the Weizmann Institute of Science in 1946. In addition to its advances in irrigation, agriculture, and the medical sciences, Israel also leads research into solar power.


1928: The Muslim Brotherhood is founded as an Islamic revivalist movement in Egypt.

Elementary school teacher Hasan al-Banna founds the Muslim Brotherhood based on his ideas that Islam should not only be a religious observance, but a comprehensive way of life. He supplements the traditional Islamic education with Tarbeyah training for the Society's male students that includes education, scouting, and militia-type activities to resist the British occupation. Over the next several decades, the Brotherhood becomes increasingly involved in politics and is banned, reinstated, and then banned again in 1954 by the Egyptian government for its alleged involvement in the attempted assassination of Egyptian president Nasser. Nasser's successor, Anwar al-Sadat, once in office promises the group that sharia (Islamic law) will be implemented as the Egyptian law and releases all imprisoned Brothers, or members of the group. But in September 1981, he himself is assassinated by four men in a group known as Jama'at Al Jihad, after signing a peace treaty with Israel. Hamas, in Palestine, claims to be the military wing of the Palestinian Brotherhood.


November 1928: Turkey adopts a new alphabet and simplifies the Turkish language.

In adopting a new alphabet, Arabic script is replaced with Latin letters. The changes are consistent with other Westernizing social reforms implemented under Atat¸rk. Many Arabic and Persian words and phrases are removed from the language, replaced instead with Turkish ones. These changes are also designed to help combat illiteracy.


August 1929: Palestinian Arabs attack Jews following disputes over prayer rights to the Wailing Wall.

In 1928, Arab Muslims and Jews in Jerusalem begin to clash over their respective communal religious rights at the Wailing Wall (known to Muslims as al-Buraq). Controversies about the site were inflamed by nationalists on both sides and resulted in full-scale riots. British troops were called in to restore order. The week-long riots leave 133 Jews dead and 339 wounded, almost all by Arabs. Arab casualties include 116 dead and 232 wounded, most by British troops. Another result of the riots was the termination of the ancient Jewish community Hebron and the Jewish community of Beer-Sheva.


1930s: Iran's ruler outlaws the veil and requires men to dress in European fashions.

Reza Shah Pahlevi bans traditional clothing (e.g., pantaloons and turbans for men, veils for women) in favor of Western garb. Many people choose to ignore the new law. Among other reforms advocated by the Shah at this time include reinstating Persian names for months, the solar calendar, and the history of pre-Islamic Iran to emphasize Iranian identity.


1932: The first Maccabiah Games are held in Israel.

Jewish athletes from all over the world go to Tel Aviv, Israel, to compete in an Olympic-style event also known as the "Jewish Olympics." First held in 1932 and 1935, the Maccabiah Games are suspended from 1938-50. The Games resume in 1950, and have been held in Israel every four years since.


June 21, 1934: The Surname Law is adopted in Turkey; Mustafa Kemal adopts the name Atat¸rk.

Before the 20th century, the Turks, like the Arabs, didn't use family names. Mustafa Kemal -- Kemal is actually the name his schoolteachers gave him, meaning "perfect" -- officially adopts the surname "Atat¸rk," or "Father of the Turks." The honor is given by the Grand National Assembly in appreciation for his having founded and shaped the new Turkish Republic.


August 1936: Yasar Erkan wins Turkey's first Olympic medal in wrestling, its national sport.



1947: The Middle East Science Cooperation Office (MESCO) is established to foster scientific work in the region.

MESCO is established in Cairo as part of UNESCO. Like UNESCO, its goal is to resuscitate international and regional scientific research and policy after World War II. Its specific goals are tailored to regional needs such as water conservation and the development of arable land.


1949: Women in Syria are given the right to vote and stand for election.



1953: Lebanese women gain the right to vote.



May 18, 1953: The Israeli Knesset establishes Yad Vashem, a memorial to victims of the Holocaust.

The Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority, serves as a repository for archives and books on the Holocaust and for biographical information about those who died in it. The compound houses two museums, exhibit halls, and monuments.

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1956: Egypt grants women equal voting rights.

The new Egyptian constitution grants women the right to vote and to run for elected office.

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1956: The Baalbeck International Festival, a showcase for music, theater, and dance in Lebanon, holds its first season.

The Baalbeck International Festival inaugurates its first season with a performance of Jean Cocteau's La Machine Infernale. The festival runs annually until 1975, ceases performances during the civil war, and resumes in 1997. It has featured the Arab world's most popular performers as well as international artists, including Ella Fitzgerald, Rudolf Nureyev, and the Bolshoi Ballet.

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May 6, 1961: The White Revolution: Reza Shah Pahlevi dissolves Iran's legislative body and suspends its constitution.

The Shah's suspension of the constitution and his dissolution of the legislature free him to proceed with his plan for modernization, which has been opposed by religious conservatives in the Majlis. The Shah abolishes the practice of sharecropping, nationalizes dwindling forests, gives women voting rights, and starts a massive rural literacy program.


February 6, 1962: Marc Chagall presents windows for the new synagogue of the Hadassah-Hebrew University Medical Center in Israel.

Chagall's windows, which depict scenes of the 12 sons of Jacob, are presented at the synagogue's dedication ceremony. Four of the windows suffer damaged in the Six-Day War in 1967, and Chagall installs replacements in 1969. Three windows are still marked by bullet holes.

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July 1964: The Turkish film Susuz Yaz, or Dry Summer, wins the Golden Bear Award at the Berlin Film Festival.

Turkey has a long history of producing films. The first Turkish film on record is a documentary produced in 1914, and the republic's first private film studio, Kemal Films, began operations in 1921.

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1965: Archaeologists working in Qatar discover signs of human life dating back to 4000 B.C.E.

A Danish archaeological expedition uncovers signs of human habitation on the Qatar peninsula going back to 4000 B.C.E. A British team in 1973 and a French team in 1976 continue the dig and add to its findings.

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1966: Israeli writer S.Y. Agnon wins the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Agnon's novels and short stories primarily concern the experiences of Eastern European (Ashkenazi) Jews. His writing combines traditional sources with 20th-century literary experimentation (such as stream of consciousness). His best known novel, The Day Before Yesterday (Temol Shilshom), was published in 1945.

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1968: Amos Oz publishes Mikhael sheli (My Michael) in Hebrew.

This book, Oz's best known novel, is thought to symbolize the struggles of the diverse cultures in Jerusalem to coexist.

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1969: Iran's "New Wave" in filmmaking begins with the production of Dariush Mehrjui's The Cow.

The film The Cow, which concerns a poor village that loses its only cow and the devastation of that loss, is banned in Iran upon its release for its depiction of poverty and poor social conditions. Mehrjui's controversial, critically acclaimed film ushers in the Iranian New Wave in filmmaking, noted for its rejection of commercialism and melodrama in favor of social consciousness. Iran's film tradition is currently among the most celebrated in the world.

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1972: Feminist author Nawal El Saadawi publishes her book Women and Sex, angering many of Egypt's political and religious authorities.

The publication of El Saadawi's book results in her dismissal by the Ministry of Health as its director of public health. Over the next decade, she is imprisoned for criticizing government policies. El Saadawi goes on to found the Arab Women's Solidarity Association (AWSA), the first legal, independent feminist organization in Egypt. The AWSA, which is dedicated to "lifting the veil from the mind of Arab women," is banned in 1991 after criticizing U.S. involvement in the Gulf War.


September 5, 1972: Israeli athletes are taken hostage at the Munich Olympic Games.

Gunmen from an underground terrorist organization calling itself Black September, linked to the Palestine Liberation Organization, take the Israeli men's Olympic team hostage. Two of the Israelis are killed almost immediately. In the ensuing botched rescue attempt, the remaining nine Israelis, as well as several of the captors and German police officers, are killed.


1973: Jordan's government prohibits fishing and hunting without a license.

In addition to the prohibition on fishing and hunting without a license, Jordanian law also prohibits its citizens from cutting trees, shrubs, and plants. The steps are taken as part of a focus on conservation of the environment.


April 1973: Jordanian women gain the right to vote.

In 1974 King Hussein gives women the right to vote and run for public office. But because there are no parliamentary elections between 1968 and 1989, women must wait 15 years to exercise this right.

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November 11, 1974: State-owned Oman Television begins broadcasting.

Oman TV, which is operated by the Ministry of Information, broadcasts one channel in Arabic. The Omani government prohibits the establishment of privately owned radio or television companies, but people are allowed to use satellite dishes to access many foreign channels.


1975: Women are admitted to King Saud University as full-time students.

Although they have been allowed to attend classes at Saudi Arabia's King Saud University since 1961, women are not admitted as full-time students eligible to pursue a degree until 1975. The next year, the Center for Women's University Studies will be founded to oversee all aspects of women's education. Today, women are free to pursue higher degrees in a wide range of areas. Founded in 1957 as Riyadh University, King Saud University is one of the oldest universities in Saudi Arabia.


February 3, 1975: Egypt's Umm Kulthum, considered the greatest modern singer of Arabic music, dies.

In a career that spanned decades, Umm Kulthum, the "Star of the East," was a beloved fixture on Egyptian radio. Her songs, which combined the Western popular tradition with traditional Arab-Egyptian music, often had political overtones, supporting Egyptian self-rule and the revolution of 1952. Following her country's defeat in the Six-Day War, she embarked on a tour of Egypt and donated all the proceeds to the Egyptian government.


August 28, 1975: The UAE Women's Federation, a special interest group led by Sheikha Fatima, is formed.

Assembled from several smaller women's societies and under the leadership of Sheikha Fatima, the wife of UAE president Sheikh Zayed, this federally funded organization makes recommendations to the government on such matters as health and education.


1977: The UAE University, the country's first university, opens in al-Ain.

By 1998, 15,000 students will attend UAE University (UAEU). The Higher Colleges of Technology, today with 10 campuses, open in 1988, providing a further 10,000 students with advanced technical training. These universities, like other development projects, are funded by oil money.


1978: Palestinian-American literary scholar Edward Said publishes his landmark work, Orientalism.

Said's theory of how the West creates the image of the exotic East, published in the book Orientalism, influences many areas of critical thought. Said has written extensively about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in works such as The Question of Palestine (1979). His memoir, Out of Place (2000), examines a boyhood defined by personal and political conflict.


1979: The Jordanian government opens a national crafts center.



1980s: Most Libyans enjoy educational opportunities, health care, and housing that are among the best in Africa and the Middle East.



1983: A Banquet of Seaweed by the Syrian novelist Haidar Haidar is banned in Egypt.

Islamists in Egypt accuse the book A Banquet of Seaweed (which isn't published in Egypt until 2000) of blasphemy. The plot focuses on two leftist Iraqi intellectuals who flee the injustice of Iraqi president Saddam Hussein in the late 1970s. The Egyptian authorities have banned many books and films in recent years because of Islamist complaints that they contain anti-Islamic material.


1983: The UAE government outlaws the shooting and hunting of birds, gazelles, and hares.

Hunting and rapid land development, which threaten critical habitat, have driven many animals in the UAE to the point of extinction over a very short time.


1988: Women comprise about 25 percent of Iraq's work force.

Iraqi women hold professional positions (e.g., doctors, lawyers), as well as positions in education and social welfare offices. They are allowed to vote and serve as elected officials in the National Assembly.


December 10, 1988: Egypt's Naguib Mahfouz is awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Best known for his Cairo trilogy (Palace Walk, Palace of Desire, and Sugar Street, written between 1956-57), author Naguib Mahfouz has written more than 30 novels that combine the Western narrative style with traditional Arabic storytelling. Over his long career, he has written in both realistic and fantastic styles.


1989: Qatar issues its first tourist visas and begins to build its tourism industry.

In the mid-1980s, a number of museums open, including the Ethnographical Museum and the Qatar National Museum in Doha. Qatar Airways is established in 1994, carrying passengers to and from points in the Middle East, Asia, and Europe. Though still not a popular destination for tourists, Qatar hosts a number of conferences, summits, and athletic competitions each year.


February 14, 1989: Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran calls on Muslims to kill Salman Rushdie, author of The Satanic Verses.

Many Muslims believe that The Satanic Verses, a novel about a young Indian's life in Britain and the roots of his Muslim faith, irreverently fictionalizes the early Islamic community and Muslim life. Khomeini issues a fatwa, or religious opinion, on the matter. A $2.5 million price is also put on Rushdie's head. Rushdie spends nine years in hiding until Iran's government announces it no longer supports attempts to kill him.

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1990s: Female literacy in Yemen reaches 26 percent.

Whereas only 3 percent of Yemeni women are literate in 1975, by the early '90s the country's female literacy rate hits 26 percent. Yemeni women share the same right to education as men.

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1991: Turkey lifts its decade-long ban on the use of the Kurdish language in publications.

Although the Kurdish-language ban -- in effect since Turkey's military rule in 1980 -- is lifted for use in publications, the ban on its use in the political arena remains in place.

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May 24-25, 1991: Operation Solomon, a dramatic airlift, brings 15,000 Ethiopian Jews to live in Israel.

Airlifts to Israel of Ethiopian Jews suffering from famine and oppression had begun in the 1980s, prior to Operation Solomon. The integration of Ethiopians into Israeli society has not been smooth for reasons both of culture and race.

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November 1992: A UN human rights envoy reports widespread repression of Kurds in Iraq.

Max van der Stoel, special rapporteur of the UN Commission on Human Rights, says that internal blockades of food and emergency supplies to Kurdish populations in northern Iraq threaten a disaster "on the scale of Bosnia or Somalia." Characterizing the human rights situation in Iraq as "absurd," he points out that "here we have one of the most oil-rich states of the world, and still tens of thousands of Kurds are in danger of freezing to death."

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1993: The Lebanese novelist Amin Maalouf wins the French prize for literature, the Prix de Goncourt.

Like many other Lebanese novelists and writers, Maalouf is profoundly concerned with the meeting of and conflict between East and West.

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May 12, 1993-present: The National Museum in Afghanistan falls to ruins.

Afghanistan's first national museum housed an impressive record of Central Asian history dating back as far as the sixth century B.C.E. Twice slammed by rockets and recklessly looted, many of the finer artifacts are being sold on the international art market. Attempts have been made to secure the remaining collection, but many pieces were too large to move, and deteriorated in the ruins. More than 70 percent of its collection has been destroyed or stolen. With the fall of the Taliban, efforts are under way to protect and conserve what remains.

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1994: Omani women are encouraged to have fewer children.

Omani women, who traditionally gained status by having a large number of children, have one of the highest birthrates in the world -- on average, Omani women will bear 7.7 children. To help women and the children to whom they give birth become healthier, Oman provides Birth Spacing Services.

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1994: A Marriage Fund is established to increase the percentage of UAE nationals in the country.

Concerned with the percentage of male emirati, or UAE nationals, marrying foreign women, UAE president Sheikh Zayed announces this program in which UAE men and UAE women can receive long-term loans of up to $19,000 to assist with wedding expenses and the purchase of a house. The loan is interest-free and reduces by 20 percent with the birth of each child.

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September 17, 1994: Lebanese national icon Fairuz holds a concert in Beirut to celebrate the end of the civil war.

Since the 1950s, Fairuz has drawn her songs from traditional Arabic music, operettas, and jazz. She achieved iconic status when she refused to leave Beirut during the civil war. Her Beirut concert in 1994, and her return to the Baalbeck Festival in 1998, symbolize a new beginning for postwar Lebanese culture.

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1996: Israel's Supreme Court rules that qualified women cannot be excluded from air force pilot training.

Israel's Supreme Court makes this ruling after hearing a case brought by Alice Miller against the Israeli air force. Although the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) had allowed women officers to train male soldiers, women themselves had been excluded from combat prior to the ruling. By some estimations, 60 percent of the women serving in the armed forces never get beyond desk work.


March 7, 1996: Syrian playwright Sadallah Wannous delivers the keynote speech celebrating the International Day of Theater.

Wannous's career as a playwright began in the early 1960s with several one-act plays which were characterized by his fundamental theme: the relationship between the individual and society and its authorities.


March 27, 1996: The world's richest horse race, the Dubai World Cup, is first run in the United Arab Emirates.

Horse racing is an ancient Arabian sport. The Dubai World Cup is considered to be in the same class as other world-renowned horse races, such as the English Derby and Oaks Classics. Dubai also hosts professional golf events -- golf is the fastest growing sport in the UAE -- as well as prestigious motorcar rallies.

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May 3, 1996: Emile Habibi, noted Palestinian-Israeli author and proponent of coexistence, dies.

Emile Habibi dies in Haifa, where he was born. A founder of the Israeli Communist Party, Habibi served in the Knesset from 1953 to 1972. His 1974 novel Said the Pessoptimist was widely acclaimed. Accepting literary prizes from both the PLO and Israel was controversial but reflected his belief in coexistence, also evident in the documentary Emile Habibi -- I Stayed in Haifa.

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1996-2002: The Taliban severely restricts women's role in society.

Under the rule of the Taliban in Afghanistan, women are banished from the workforce, forbidden an education, and prohibited to leave their homes unless a close male relative escorts them. In public, they must wear special dress (burqa) that completely covers the body and leaves only a small mesh-covered opening through which they can see. Windows of women's houses visible to the public must be painted black. Religious minorities and secular individuals also suffer intolerance under the Taliban regime.

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November 1996: Al-Jazeera, the Qatar-based television network, launches.

The Al-Jazeera network broadcasts Arab-related news and current-affairs programming. It is the first Arab TV news outlet that is not state-censored. Known as "Arab CNN" to some, Al-Jazeera becomes well known in the West when it airs a videotape of Osama bin Laden responding to U.S. air strikes against Afghanistan and celebrating the September 11 attacks.

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May 1997: Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami's Taste of Cherry wins the Palme d'Or in Cannes.

The Palme d'Or is the grand prize at the Cannes Film Festival. When Taste of Cherry is named best film, Kiarostami becomes the first Iranian director ever to receive the prestigious award.

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May 26, 1997: Iranian voters elect Mohammed Khatami president.

Mohammed Khatami campaigns for president for just two weeks on a platform emphasizing return to the rule of law and restoration of civil society. Almost immediately, police stop hassling women for improper dress, and bolder women start wearing their head scarves further back on the head, showing more of their hair. Newspapers report freely about the government.

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June 29, 1997: Uday Hussein jails and tortures the Iraqi national soccer team after losses in World Cup qualifying matches.

After the Iraqi national soccer team suffers its second loss in World Cup qualifying matches, Uday Hussein, eldest son of President Saddam Hussein and head of the Iraqi soccer federation, reportedly has the team jailed and tortured.


July 27, 1997: Iraqi poet Mohammed Mahdi al-Jawahri dies in Syria.

Al-Jawahri, along with Maruf al-Rusafi and Jamil Sidqi al-Zahawi, were among the Arab world's most prominent poets during the 1920s and 1930s. Al-Jawahri became closely affiliated with the Communists in the 1940s, expressing strong anti-colonialist sentiment in his poetry.


September 1997: Turkey reinforces its ban on wearing head scarves in government offices and universities.

In the year following the implementation of the ban, 2,000 women are expelled from universities for choosing to wear head scarves.

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November 1997: Turkey's culture ministry bans a film about homosexuals from consideration in the Academy Awards.

Hamam, or Turkish Bath, a fictional film about two men who fall in love in a Turkish bath, is selected by an independent film board as Turkey's nomination for the Academy Awards. The selection is overruled by the culture ministry, however, and another film, Eskiya, or Bandit, is put forward.


1998: Al-Halaqa is established to promote the visual arts in Yemen.

A non-governmental organization, al-Halaqa seeks to bring the republic's contemporary art movement to international attention.


1998-2002: Years of severe drought create a food crisis in Afghanistan.

Crop and livestock losses threaten more than three million Afghans with starvation. A way of life is also in jeopardy: Eighty-five percent of the population of Afghanistan depends directly on agriculture for employment, but most households will soon be left without breeding stock or work animals. The current food shortage is compounded by two decades of civil instability.

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April 1, 1998: An Israeli-Palestinian co-production of Sesame Street airs in Israel and the Palestinian territories.

The Israeli-Palestinian version of Sesame Street features an Israeli and a Palestinian muppet who together teach tolerance (in addition to letters and counting). Segments produced since the September 2000 outbreak of violence in the Palestinian territories and Israel are called Sesame Stories, which tell stories from each culture separately in an attempt to humanize each side in the conflict.


April 30, 1998: Syrian writer Nizar Qabbani dies.

One of the most prominent figures in the Arab literary world, the Syrian writer Nizar Qabbani, dies at his home in London; he is 75. He became popular in the 1950s and later became known throughout the Arab world for his love poetry. Qabbani adopted a more political role when he wrote a volume of poetry lamenting what he saw as the bitter defeat of the Arab states in 1967, in the Six-Day War with Israel.


May 7, 1998: Qatar becomes the first Gulf nation to allow women to compete in an athletic tournament.

The Qatar Amateur Athletic Federation (QAAF) hosts the Qatar International Athletic Grand Prix II at Khalifa Stadium. At the games, Qatar becomes the first Gulf country to allow women to compete in an athletic tournament. In the 1990s, Qatar had become a more frequent stopping point for international athletics, twice as the host of some qualifying rounds for the 1994 and 1998 soccer World Cup.

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September 1998: Iranians stand to honor the U.S. national anthem when it is played at the wrestling world championships in Iran.

A U.S. wrestler wins first place in the World Championships held in Iran. When the U.S. national anthem is played, Iranians present at the event stand in respect for the first time in nearly 20 years.

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October 1998: The U.S. government launches Radio Free Iraq and RFE/RL Iran.

In 1998 two new U.S.-funded radio services begin transmitting in Iran and Iraq. Also available via the Internet, the shortwave broadcasts, in Persian and Arabic respectively, are produced by Radio Free Europe-Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), the U.S. government-funded surrogate broadcaster based in Prague. Both Iran and Iraq criticize the radio broadcasts as interference in their internal affairs.

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1999-2001: In Iran, pro-reform newspapers critical of the conservatives in government are shut down for press-law violations.

In addition to newspapers being shut down, several writers and publishers are jailed as a result of the violations. In the late 1990s, though liberals under President Khatami control the executive branch of government, religious conservatives control the legislative and judicial branches.

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1999: The Iranian film Children of Heaven is nominated for an Academy Award for best foreign film.

Directed by Majid Majidi, this genial crowd-pleaser, about a poor brother and sister temporarily obliged to share the same pair of shoes, walked away with almost every award offered at the 1997 Montreal World Film Festival, including the grand prize, the critics' prize, the people's prize, and the ecumenical jury prize. It did not, however, take home the Oscar.

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January 1999: The Israeli Defense Forces sends a woman to serve in a combat unit for the first time.

Lt. Dr. Elina Weismann becomes the first woman officer in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) to serve in a combat unit, as a battalion physician in southern Lebanon. At the same time, the IDF announces other changes in women's service, from requirements for apparel to participation in elite jumpmasters training. The IDF also announces plans to conduct coeducational basic training for soldiers in identical positions.

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March 8, 1999: Qatar becomes the first Gulf nation to allow women to vote in municipal elections.

Qatar is the first Gulf country to allow women to vote in municipal elections following a ruling by Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani in 1998. Six of the 227 candidates for the central municipal council are women. More than 40 percent of the voters are women, although none of the six women candidates wins.

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April 1999: Egypt has more than 200,000 Internet users and 52,000 online subscribers.

These figures represent an increase of nearly 50 percent since December 1998. There are four Internet service providers in Egypt.


April 1999: Qatar's personal-computer market grows steadily.

Qatar's growth in the personal-computer market is ranked third behind that of China and Egypt. Among a population of 650,000, there are 27,500 Internet users and 11,000 online subscribers.


1999: Ten men who removed a stone head from an ancient statue in Khorsabad, Iraq, are executed.

Thievery is identified as a major threat to Iraq's rich archaeological history. Since the Gulf War, numerous sites that hold clues to some of the earliest and greatest civilizations in the world (Assyria, Babylonia, Sumer) and to the origins of writing and many religious traditions have been looted. The men who were executed attempted to sell pieces of the statue's head to wealthy Western collectors.


August 30, 1999: Abdullah al-Baradouni, Yemen's most famous poet, dies.

Blind since childhood, al-Baradouni advocated democracy and women's rights through his poetry, which was translated into several foreign languages. He also wrote books on politics, literature, and folklore. Al-Baradouni was jailed several times for his criticism of both religious extremists and military insurgents.


December 1999: A Lebanese court acquits Marcel Khalife, one of the Arab world's most popular musicians, of insulting Islam.

Marcel Khalife is a Christian Lebanese composer, most famous in the Arab world for the nationalist songs he composed during the 15-year Lebanese civil war. Religious authorities accused Khalife of including Koranic verses in a song -- based on a poem by Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish -- about the plight of the Palestinians. His trial is seen as a test case for freedom of expression in a country perceived as one of the most liberal in the Arab world. Similar trials in Egypt convict numerous authors and publishers.

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December 31, 1999: Shayef al-Khaledi, Yemeni folk poet and master of riposte, dies.

Expressing the views of the working majority in everyday language, al-Khaledi reached a wide audience in Yemen and abroad, though he gained little attention from intellectuals and the official media. He is best remembered for his mastery of "riposte," quick wit demonstrated in written exchanges with other poets.


January 2000: President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt signs a legal-reform package that provides women equal divorce rights.

The new law signed into law by Egyptian president Mubarak essentially gives women the same divorce rights as men. Women no longer need to show proof of physical abuse or adultery, for example, to end a marriage. Egypt becomes only the second country in the Arab world, after Tunisia, to grant women these rights.

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January 25, 2000: In Kuwait, two women writers are given prison sentences after one is convicted of blasphemy and the other of using indecent language.

Laila al-Othman's use of the word "lustful" to describe sea waves in her book The Departure is interpreted by authorities as having a sexual connotation. She claims this was unintended. Alia Shuaib, a professor at Kuwait University, is found guilty of "publishing opinions that ridicule religion" in a book she published in 1993, Spiders Bemoan a Wound. Each receives a suspended two-month sentence.

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February 16, 2000: Haifa al-Baker becomes the first woman lawyer in Qatar.



February 23, 2000: Ofra Haza, Yemeni-Israeli singer, dies.

Ofra Haza's sound, a mix of traditional songs and dance beats, made her an international star. She was nominated for a Grammy Award in the World Beat category in 1992 and even performed at the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo at the request of Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin. Shimon Peres and Ehud Barak deliver eulogies at Haza's funeral.

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June 30, 2000: Dr. Saad Eddin Ibrahim is arrested on charges of fraud, bribery, and spreading false information.

A prominent Egyptian sociologist and human rights activist, Dr. Ibrahim had advocated voter registration and election monitoring and reported on attacks on Egypt's Coptic Christian community. Convicted of the charges of fraud, bribery, and spreading false information, he is sentenced to a seven-year prison term, but is later granted a new trial. On July 29, 2002, he will be convicted for a second time and given another seven-year sentence. Many human rights watch groups contend the charges against Ibrahim are politically motivated and that his conviction is designed to "muzzle civil society in Egypt."

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July 2000: Iranian singer Googoosh performs in New York City.

Faegheh Atashin, popularly known as Googoosh, is an Iranian pop star and icon of female freedom and sexuality. She and other female solo artists were banned from singing in Iran by the Ayatollah Khomeini.


2000: Women's rights activists continue their struggle to gain the right to vote and stand for political office in Kuwait.

After being turned away by officials from registration centers, which opened in February to update the all-male voters lists, a number of women file a complaint against the interior minister, al-Shaikh Mohammad Khaled al-Sabah. This challenge to the legitimacy of Kuwait's electoral law, which denies women the right to vote, is heard by the Constitutional Court in June and is rejected.

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July 28, 2000: The leader of Afghanistan's Taliban regime bans the growing of opium poppy.

Before the beginning of the November planting season, Mullah Muhammad Omar, the Taliban's supreme leader, bans poppy growing in Afghanistan. He augments the ban with a religious edict declaring the crop to be contrary to the tenets of Islam. According to the United Nations, in 2000 Afghanistan produced nearly 4,000 tons of opium, about 75 percent of the world's supply.

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September 2000: Turkish weightlifter Halil Mutlu wins an Olympic gold medal in Sydney.

Turkish weightlifters compete exceptionally well in international competitions. Halil Mutlu, nicknamed "Little Dynamo" because of his small stature (123 pounds), wins the gold medal in the Sydney Olympics, lifting more than 300 pounds. His mentor, Naim Suleymanoglu, a.k.a. "Pocket Hercules," has also won a gold medal in Olympic competition.


September 15, 2000: Two Omani women are elected to serve on Sultan Qaboos's advisory council.

The advisory council, or Majlis al-Shura, has no formal powers but is consulted by Oman's ruler, Sultan Qaboos, on new laws and public policy.


2001: Adult literacy rates in Iran reach 95 percent.

Iran's high adult literacy rate represents a vast improvement since the start of the 1979 revolution, when the figure was only 48 percent. Iran now has more than 30 free public universities, 15 of them located in Tehran.


February 26, 2001: Taliban leader Mullah Omar issues an edict to destroy all pre-Islamic statues and shrines in Afghanistan.

Led by Mullah Omar, the Taliban evokes international outrage when it smashes ancient cultural icons, including two giant fifth-century Buddha statues in Bamiyan; one was the tallest standing Buddha in the world.

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November 2001: Egypt launches its first privately owned satellite network.

Dream TV is launched with two channels: Dream 1 targets youth viewers, while Dream 2 shows movies and variety programming. A third channel, Dream 3, is set to launch at a later date.


2002: Saudi Arabia's unemployment rate stands at between 15 and 20 percent.

Foreign migrants continue to account for some 65 percent of the Saudi work force, raising fears that unemployed youth could be increasingly drawn to radical Islamist groups.

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2002: Female attendance in schools reaches a record high in the United Arab Emirates.

About 98 percent of all females eligible for school attend. In fact, 60 percent of the student body of the UAE University in al-Ain are women. Graduates make up a large percentage of teachers, health service professionals, and government employees. The UAE's first woman pilot recently graduated from its aviation college.


February 2002: Saudi Arabia's authorities shut down more than 400 Internet sites.

The Saudi government fails to provide a clear explanation for the censorship. Internet users, a fast-growing group that numbered 112,500 in April 1999, are largely undeterred, and can still obtain unauthorized Internet access through neighbors Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.

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June 23, 2002: Turkey reaches the soccer World Cup semifinals for the first time.

Soccer is Turkey's most popular sport, perhaps reflected in the government's decision to mint commemorative coins celebrating the national team's third-place overall finish in the 2002 World Cup.

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