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



March 1980: The Iraqi National Assembly is formed.

Members of the National Assembly are elected to four-year terms. All members must demonstrate loyalty to the goals of the Ba'ath Party and to Saddam Hussein. Iraq had no national legislature between 1958 and 1980.


April 8, 1980: Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr, an Islamist and a key figure in the Iraqi Dawa Party, is executed by the Iraqi government.

A scholar and proponent of Islamic government, Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr is executed by Saddam Hussein's government. He had advocated the establishment of Iraq as an Islamic state. His sister, fellow activist and novelist Amina Sadr, is also killed. All political opponents of Saddam Hussein's regime risk a similar fate.


September 12, 1980: Turkey undergoes a third military coup.

On September 12, 1980, the armed forces seize control of Turkey for the third time. While the 1960 and 1971 military coups were driven by institutional reform, the 1980 action is deemed necessary to shore up the order created by the earlier interventions. A five-member executive body, the National Security Council, is appointed. On September 21, the NSC installs a predominantly civilian Cabinet.

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September 22, 1980: Iraq invades Iran.

Though the reasons behind the war are complex, border skirmishes and a dispute over rights to the Shatt al-Arab waterway contribute to the warfare. Iraq seizes thousands of square miles and several important oil fields. Over an eight-year period, more than 500,000 Iraqis and Iranians die, with neither side able to claim victory.

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October 6, 1981: Islamists assassinate President Anwar al-Sadat of Egypt.

Anwar al-Sadat's conflicts with Islamic groups in Egypt -- including a crackdown that led to the arrest of more than 1,500 people -- as well as enduring anger over the peace treaty he signed with Israel lead to his assassination. Hosni Mubarak succeeds him as president.

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1982: Oman launches programs designed to combat pollution and prevent other environmental catastrophes.

During the 1980s in Oman, oil and tar from passing ships cover the country's beaches, pollution endangers many of its migratory birds, and corals are being damaged by anchors, fishing nets, and other equipment. One plan to eliminate oil spills focuses on building an area where tankers can safely discharge their ballast.


February 1982: Syrian forces suppress a Muslim Brotherhood uprising in Hama, killing 10,000 to 30,000 people.

In 1976, the arch-conservative Muslim Brotherhood leads an armed insurgency against the al-Asad regime, which is criticized for being secular and representing only minority interests. This particular public demonstration is met with heavy artillery fire and ends in massive casualties.


June 6, 1982: Israel invades Lebanon, cutting off food and water in Beirut.

Israel invades Lebanon to drive out Yasser Arafat's Palestine Liberation Organization, which had been using the country as a base for anti-Israeli operations. The United States sends Marines to oversee the peaceful withdrawal of the PLO from the Lebanese capital, Beirut.

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September 16, 1982: Christian militiamen massacre hundreds at the Sabra and Shatila Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon.

Lebanese Christian Maronite president-elect Bashir Gemayel is assassinated. Two days later, Christian militias allied with Israel against the PLO enter the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Beirut and massacre some 800 unarmed Palestinians. The Kahan Commission (an Israeli commission of inquiry) finds that Defense Minister Ariel Sharon bears personal responsibility because he did not order 'appropriate measures for preventing or reducing the chances of a massacre.' As a result, Sharon gave up his defense portfolio but remained in the cabinet.

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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.


May 1983: An Israeli-Lebanese peace deal calls for Israel to make a phased withdrawal from Lebanon.

The U.S. mediates a peace and withdrawal agreement between Israel and Lebanon in May 1983. The PLO had been using Lebanon as a base of operations against Israel, and several times in the 1970s and '80s Israel had invaded Lebanon as a result. Under the terms of the peace agreement, Israeli forces begin to leave Lebanon, but maintain control over a 12-mile-wide "security zone" in southern Lebanon, near the Israeli border. The Hezbollah, an Islamic militant group that opposes Israel's presence in Lebanon, continues to attack military posts in southern Lebanon and northern Israel. Israeli forces will continue to combat these forces for another 22 years, until Israel leaves southern Lebanon entirely in January of 2000.

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May 1983: Gen. Kenan Evren returns Turkey to democratic rule following three years of military rule.

Gen. Evren leads a 1980 coup and imposes military rule in an attempt to end years of fighting between opposing radical groups that ultimately leads to 5,000 deaths. Returning the country to democratic rule in 1983, he will serve as Turkey's president until 1989.


September 15, 1983: Menachem Begin resigns as prime minister of Israel.

Begin's resignation, an event publicly attributed to his depression following his wife's death, follows the Israeli invasion of Lebanon (which fails to accomplish all of its objectives) and the embarrassing massacres at the hands of Israel-allied Christian militias of Palestinian civilians in the refugee camps of Beirut. Yitzhak Shamir succeeds Begin as prime minister, replacing him as head of the Herut Party.


October 23, 1983: The U.S. Marine barracks in Lebanon is attacked by a suicide bomber.

During the 1975-90 Lebanese civil war, a suicide bomber detonates a truck full of explosives, killing 241 U.S. Marines and wounding more than 100 others. The 241 were part of a contingent of 1,800 Marines sent to Lebanon as part of a multinational force to help separate the warring Lebanese factions. No group claims responsibility for the attack.

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1984: Kurdish terrorists in Turkey begin a bloody campaign for independence.

The Kurdistan Workers' Party, founded in 1978, launches a campaign of terror designed to win independence for the ethnic Kurdish people living primarily in southeastern Turkey. Between 1984 and 1998, an estimated 20,000 to 40,000 people die in clashes between Turkish troops and Kurdish militants and civilians.


Mid-1980s: Yemen and Saudi Arabia clash over the discovery of oil in the Empty Quarter.

Oil reserves are discovered in the Empty Quarter, a vast desert that extends over much of Northern Yemen and southeastern Saudi Arabia. Conflicting claims to the potentially valuable land cause conflict, largely because there is no defined boundary between the two countries.


June 17, 1985: Sultan Salman al-Saud of Saudi Arabia is the first Arab in space.

Sultan Salman al-Saud flies aboard the space shuttle Discovery as a payload specialist.


1986: Commercial extraction of Yemen's natural oil reserves begin.

Earnings from oil production and refinement will result in significant contributions to the Yemeni economy over the next decade. Talks of the reunification of Northern and Southern Yemen accelerate.


January 1986: Civil war breaks out in Southern Yemen.

A Marxist clash with the government of Southern Yemen results in civil war.


November 1986: The arms-for-hostages deal that comes to be known as the Iran-Contra Affair comes to light.

After a week of denying any covert activities, U.S. president Ronald Reagan publicly confirms that the U.S. secretly sold arms to Iran, using Israel as an intermediary, with the goal of improving relations with Iran. Reagan later admits the arrangement had become a swap -- arms assistance in return for hostages in Lebanon. The American public is outraged by the dealings with a hostile Iran, as well as with Reagan himself, for breaking his campaign promise to never enter into such negotiations. Some of the arms profits are later discovered to have been diverted to illegally aid Nicaraguan Contra rebels, who are locked in combat with the Communist-backed Sandinistas.

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December 9, 1987: The Palestinian intifada, a spontaneous popular uprising against Israeli occupation, starts in the West Bank and Gaza.

Young Palestinian demonstrators hurl stones and incendiary devices at Israeli troops in the Occupied Territories. The Israeli military responds with rubber bullets and live ammunition, consistent with its "iron-fist policy." Curfews are imposed on Palestinians, and arrests and deportations follow. More than 20,000 people, both Israelis and Palestinians, are killed or injured between 1987 and 1993.

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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.


March 16, 1988: Iraq uses chemical weapons against the Kurds.

The Kurdish areas of northern Iraq have long been in conflict with the Baghdad regime. In the Kurdish town of Halabjah, Iraq unleashes chemical weapons, killing between 50,000 and 100,000 people.

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July 1988: King Hussein of Jordan severs political links with the PLO and orders its main offices closed.

Although King Hussein recognized the Palestine Liberation Organization as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people in 1974, he severs political links with the PLO and orders its main offices closed. His actions stem from his frustration over the PLO's issuing of a 14-point statement calling for an end to Israeli occupation and an independent Palestinian state, and Yasser Arafat's refusal to accept UN resolutions as a basis for peace talks.


July 3, 1988: A U.S. Navy ship shoots down an Iranian passenger plane carrying 290 people.

The USS Vincennes opens fire on a civilian airbus as it crosses the Gulf on a scheduled flight. The Navy claims that the aircraft was mistaken for a fighter jet. The Iranians regard the shooting down of the plane as a "terrorist" act and seek retribution through the World Court. The U.S. pays $131.8 million in compensation in 1996.


August 8, 1988: UN secretary-general Javier Perez de Cuellar announces a cease-fire between Iran and Iraq, ending the Iran-Iraq War.

The cease-fire ends eight years of war between Iran and Iraq. The Iraqis now turn their attention to the Kurdish population, many of whom had supported Iran. Thousands of Kurds flee Iraq for refuge in Turkey.


August 29, 1988: The first Afghan travels in space.

A talented pilot in the Afghan air force, Abdul Ahad Mohmand, is chosen to train as a Russian cosmonaut and travel to the Mir space station as part of International Group 6. Mohmand remains in space for nine days.


November 15, 1988: A Palestine National Council meeting in Algiers proclaims the State of Palestine.

Citing UN Partition Plan 181 from 1947 to support its claim, the PLO's legislative body, the Palestine National Council (PNC), declares a Palestinian state that includes land under Israeli occupation since 1967 (namely the Gaza Strip and West Bank). A flag and a national anthem for the new state are also adopted.


December 2, 1988: Benazir Bhutto becomes prime minister of Pakistan.

Benazir Bhutto, daughter of the country's ex-premier, is sworn in as prime minister of Pakistan. She is the first woman to head the government of an Islamic state.


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.


December 14, 1988: The PLO recognizes the State of Israel and calls for negotiations.

The United States had long refused to deal with the Palestine Liberation Organization until it accepted certain conditions: The PLO, headed by Yasser Arafat, must recognize Israel's right to exist and renounce the use of terrorism. By the late 1980s, talk of peace negotiations is in the air. To participate, though, Arafat and the PLO acknowledge that they must satisfy the U.S.'s preconditions, and in December, Arafat promises PLO recognition of Israel and renouncement of terrorism. A U.S.-PLO dialogue begins shortly thereafter; these talks ultimately lead to the 1991 Madrid Conference.


December 21, 1988: Terrorists believed to be sponsored by Libya blow up Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.

All 270 people onboard Pan Am flight 103 are killed in a bombing believed to be in retaliation for U.S. bombing raids on Tripoli in 1986. The 1986 raids led to the destruction of Libyan president Qaddafi's house and the death of his young daughter. Qaddafi is widely suspected of using Libya's oil funds to support terrorism abroad, including groups as disparate as the Black Panthers in the United States and the Irish Republican Army (IRA) in Northern Ireland.

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1989: Osama bin Laden founds the al-Qaeda network.

In 1989 Osama bin Laden forms al-Qaeda. Meaning "the base," al-Qaeda grows out of the network of Arab volunteers who had gone to Afghanistan in the 1980s to fight the Soviets under the banner of Islam. Its creation coincides with the Soviets' withdrawal from Afghanistan. The charismatic bin Laden uses the contacts he had made there to organize this international group of motivated Islamic radicals. Since 1996, al-Qaeda has been headquartered in Afghanistan, where bin Laden was able to forge a close relationship with the ruling Taliban. Al-Qaeda, however, is thought to operate in 40 to 50 countries, not only in the Middle East and Asia but also in North America and Europe. A loosely knit group, it operates across continents as a chain of interlocking networks comprising different groups, or "cells." While bin Laden is the founder and leader of al-Qaeda, Egyptian Ayman al-Zawahiri is regarded as the mastermind of many of its most infamous operations, including the attacks on two U.S. embassies in Africa in 1998 and the September 11 attacks against New York and Washington.


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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May 1989: Oman's Muscat Stock Exchange opens.

This popular stock exchange attracts investors from the Gulf and from the West.


June 4, 1989: Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran dies and is succeeded by Ali Khameini.

Some two million Iranians attend the Ayatollah Khomeini's funeral in Tehran in 1989. Thousands of mourners are injured in the chaos. After Khomeini's death, Ali Khameini becomes ayatollah, Iran's chief religious leader (also known as the Supreme Leader).


June 30, 1989: A military coup backed by the National Islamic Front brings Lt. Gen. Omar Hassan al-Bashir to power in the Sudan.

Stricter interpretations of Islamic law are imposed under Lt. Gen. al-Bashir's regime.


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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May 22, 1990: Northern and Southern Yemen unite in a democratic republic.

North and south reunite after nearly a decade of trying. The formation of the Republic of Yemen ends centuries of tribal and religious squabbles and signals the end of absolute rule. A democratic system of government based on popular elections, freedom of speech, and an independent judiciary is installed.

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August 2, 1990: Iraq, led by Saddam Hussein, invades neighboring Kuwait.

Iraq's invasion of Kuwait is triggered in part because of Iraq's inability to repay more than $20 billion in loans to Kuwait, but also because of other issues related to historical border disputes. By a vote of 14-0, the UN Security Council condemns the invasion and demands unconditional withdrawal of Iraqi troops from Kuwait. On August 6, the UN imposes sanctions on Iraq, ending all trade with the aggressor nation. A U.S.-led coalition forms to forcibly remove Iraq from Kuwait. The Persian Gulf War will cost $8.1 billion and 383 U.S. lives before it ends in March 1991.

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August 1990: King Fahd invites U.S.-led troops to use Saudi Arabia as a base of operations against Iraq.

After Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait, King Fahd fears his kingdom will be Saddam's next target, and does not hesitate to host U.S. troops on Saudi soil.

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September 1990: Saudi Arabia sends 600,000 Yemeni workers home over Persian Gulf sentiments.

Many Yemenis had long sought work in Saudi Arabia, as Yemen produces few goods for export and depends on jobs outside the country for good wages. When the Yemeni government calls for an "Arab solution" to the conflict in the Gulf and insists on Western troop withdrawal from the region, Saudi Arabia orders Yemeni workers home. The Yemeni workforce and the country's economy suffer greatly as a result.


September 21, 1990: The Taif Accord balances power in Lebanon's executive branch between Christians and Muslims, ending the 25-year civil war.

The Charter of Lebanese National Reconciliation, or the Taif Accord, is signed into law. It establishes a more representative executive branch based on recent estimates of the population. A half-Christian, half-Muslim Cabinet assumes many of the powers of the president, and the Muslim prime minister is given powers more equitable to those of the Christian president.

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1991: As emigration restrictions are loosened in Russia and former Eastern bloc countries, about a million Jews arrive in Israel.

Over the past decade, many Eastern European countries have begun to mitigate their foreign policies on Israel, opening diplomatic relations and lifting emigration bans. The migration of Jews from Russia and former Soviet states gives Israel the largest Russian-speaking population outside the former Soviet Union.

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January 15, 1991-March 3, 1991: A U.S.-led military coalition, with support from key Muslim states, fights to remove Iraqi forces from Kuwait.

Following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in August 1990, the United States, the former Soviet Union, Japan, and much of Europe and the Middle East condemn the attack and resolve to drive the invaders out. Of note, Turkey, the sole Muslim member of NATO, allows the U.S. to use its territory as a staging point for strikes on Iraq during the Persian Gulf War. Saudi Arabia does likewise. Some 100,000 Iraqis are killed in the war, with relatively few reported coalition casualties. Though his army is forced to surrender, Iraqi president Saddam Hussein does not relinquish power.

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February 28, 1991: Kuwait is liberated from Iraq by coalition forces led by the U.S.

Coalition ground operations begin and last only three days before occupying Iraqi troops are expelled from Kuwait.

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March 2, 1991: The Iraqi army kills 50,000 Kurds and Shii Muslims.

The Iraqi army suppresses an uprising of Kurds in the north and Shii Muslims in southern Iraq. More than a million Kurds flee to Turkey and Iran.

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April 1991: Facing foreign pressures, Egypt launches an economic reform program.

In return for foreign lenders agreeing to wipe out $10 billion in debt, Egypt promises to adopt a sales tax, cut fuel subsidies, and slash tariffs on foreign goods. For the first time since Egypt nationalized major industries in the 1960s, the government also lets foreigners buy Egyptian property, control Egyptian banks, and even own and operate Egyptian power stations and highways.

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April 6, 1991: Iraq accepts UN terms of a cease-fire in the Persian Gulf War.

Under the terms of the agreement, Iraq agrees to pay war damages to Kuwait and to destroy its chemical and biological weapons stockpiles and production facilities. The United Nations is charged with enforcing the agreement. U.S. forces withdraw from southern Iraq on April 14.

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1991: Jordan comes under severe economic and diplomatic strain as a result of the Persian Gulf crisis following Iraq's invasion of Kuwait.

Insisting on an Arab solution to the Persian Gulf crisis (which began in August 1990 with the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait), King Hussein of Jordan and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat spearhead peace initiatives, but are regarded as appeasers of Iraq's Saddam Hussein by the West and the US's Gulf Arab allies. Both King Hussein and Yasser Arafat suffer global diplomatic isolation while, more locally, Gulf states cut off their financial aid. As aid from Gulf Arab states and other income sources contract, refugees flood Jordan, stunting its GDP growth and straining government resources. Because Jordan is a small country with inadequate supplies of water and other natural resources such as oil, the loss of aid from neighboring Arab states aggravates its already serious economic problems, forcing the government to stop most debt payments and suspend rescheduling negotiations.

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1991: Smoke from burning oil wells in Iraq causes severe health and environmental problems throughout the Middle East.

The entire Middle East region, even those countries not directly involved in the fighting, suffers a toll from the Gulf War. Weather patterns are disrupted, black rain (from oil residues and acids) destroys crops, and the number of respiratory ailments soars.

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1991: The UN deems Iraq a pre-industrial state as a result of its recent wars.

The war with Iran from 1980-88 and the recent Gulf War, together with the subsequent imposition of international sanctions, has a devastating effect on Iraq's economy and society. UN reports describe living standards as being at subsistence level. Some 47,000 children under 5 years of age are believed to have died from war-related causes following the Gulf War alone.

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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 1991: Yemen ratifies its constitution.

The constitution of the Republic of Yemen is ratified, providing for a president, vice president, House of Representatives, and Council of Ministers.

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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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Summer 1991: Scandal rocks Abu Dhabi's Bank of Credit and Commerce International in the UAE.

Riddled by fraud, Abu Dhabi's Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) fails, creating huge liability claims from international investors with accounts there. Twelve bank officials are sent to jail and fined $9 billion in damages.

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October 30-November 1, 1991: Israeli, Syrian, Jordanian, Lebanese, and Palestinian delegations attend the Madrid Peace Conference.

The Madrid Peace Conference is jointly sponsored by the United States and Russia. Two negotiating tracks are established: Separate bilateral talks involving Israel, the Palestinians, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon are intended to resolve past conflicts and sign peace treaties; and multilateral negotiations are aimed at building the Middle East of the future.

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December 1991: The Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) wins the first round of general elections in Algeria.

In the first round of general elections in Algeria in 1991, the FIS wins 188 seats outright and seems sure to obtain an absolute majority in the second round. The National People's Assembly is dissolved by presidential decree, and a military council takes power. After violent demonstrations, the FIS is disbanded. In June, President Mohammed Boudiaf is assassinated by a bodyguard with Islamist links. Increasing violence is linked to the Armed Islamic Group (GIA). The FIS election victory and response by the Algerian state opens a debate in the Middle East and the West on whether Islamists should be allowed to come to power democratically and what the consequences would be. Islamists feel frustrated with the democratic process, and many turn to more radical methods.

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1992: Heavy soil erosion prompts two Turkish businessmen to raise public awareness of environmental issues.

Businessmen Hayrettin Karaca and Nihat Gokyigit establish the Turkish Foundation for Combating Soil Erosion, for Reforestation and the Protection of Natural Habitats (TEMA) in 1992. Because 45 percent of Turkey's work force is involved in agriculture and nearly 80 percent of total land area is threatened by soil erosion in particular, this is considered a major concern in Turkey.

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January 1, 1992: Boutros Boutros-Ghali of Egypt becomes secretary general of the United Nations.

A native of Cairo, Boutros Boutros-Ghali increases the number of UN peacekeeping missions worldwide during his five-year term, sending troops into hotspots like Bosnia, Cambodia, Haiti, Rwanda, and Somalia. The U.S., dissatisfied with his performance, prevents his reelection in 1996.

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May 9, 1992: Iraqi Kurds elect a regional parliament and establish their own government.

The citizens of the Kurdish-controlled area of Iraqi Kurdistan elect a National Assembly and leader of the Kurdistan Liberation Movement. The stated purpose of the election is to fill the legal and administrative vacuum left by the withdrawal of the Iraqi government and to facilitate a negotiated settlement for self-government within Iraq by organizing a democratically elected body to represent Kurdish interests.


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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February 26, 1993: A van bomb explodes in the garage of the World Trade Center in New York City.

At approximately 12:00 noon, a bomb in a van, planted by terrorists allegedly backed by Osama bin Laden, explodes in the underground garage of the World Trace Center, North Tower. Six people are killed, and more than 1,000 injured. Millions of dollars' worth of damage is sustained. Six Islamic extremist conspirators are convicted of the crime in 1997 and '98, receiving prison sentences of 240 years each.

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March 1993: President Clinton establishes the cooperative U.S.-Israel Science and Technology Commission.

The U.S.-Israel Science and Technology Commission aims to encourage and oversee cooperative scientific, agricultural, and environmental research and projects. The 1990s sees a number of cooperative efforts between the U.S. and Israel, in areas including food industry regulation, cosmetics production standards, intellectual property rights, and information technology.

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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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June 1993: Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani is elected president of Iran.

Iran's president, prime minister, and Cabinet ministers do not have independent decision-making power. They answer to the spiritual leader and to a group of religious scholars appointed by the spiritual leader. A legislature, appointed by the people every four years, makes laws in keeping with Islam. A council made up of six lawyers and six clergy oversee this legislature.

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June 1993: Tansu Ciller becomes Turkey's first female prime minister.

Ciller, a Western-educated economist, professor, and leader of the True Path Party, serves three years before leaving her position as prime minister in 1996.

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June 26, 1993: The U.S. bombs Baghdad, Iraq.

The U.S. bombs Iraqi intelligence headquarters after a report that the Iraqis have planned to assassinate former president George Bush on his trip to Kuwait in April 1993.

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August 20, 1993: Israel and the PLO sign the Declaration of Principles (Oslo Accords).

The agreement reached in Oslo outlines an Israeli redeployment from parts of the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip and the establishment of a provisional Palestinian self-rule government. The two sides agree to recognize one another publicly. The U.S. hosts a ceremony at which the Declaration of Principles, also called the Oslo Accords, is signed on September 13.

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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: Saudi production of desalinated water reaches cities in the center of the kingdom.

Because of its lack of fresh water resources, Saudi Arabia develops a process to remove salt from sea water (desalination) to serve the water needs of its people. Saudi Arabia currently produces more desalinated water than any other country in the world. This water is used both for drinking water and agricultural irrigation. In 1994, the production capacity for desalinated water had reached 714,218,000 gallons per day -- enough water to cover the needs of the cities on the eastern and western coasts as well as some cities inland. By 2000, the capital city of Riyadh would receive desalinated water from the Gulf, 500 kilometers away.

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1994: The Lebanese economy rebounds four years after the end of the civil war.

Inflation drops from 75 percent to 18 percent as the economy rebounds after the end of the civil war. Beirut's absence from the international banking scene has led to the ascendance of Amman and Tel Aviv as Middle East banking centers, but the Lebanese government instates financial and commercial measures that will return Beirut to prominence in banking and tourism in the 1990s.

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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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April 1994: Civil war breaks out in Yemen.

Supporters of the president, a northerner, and those of the vice president, a southerner, clash. The president's troops win out, and he retains control over the republic.

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April 9, 1994: Osama bin Laden is stripped of his Saudi citizenship.

Osama bin Laden is of Saudi Arabian origin, but his citizenship is revoked in reaction to his attempts to overthrow the regime of Saudi Arabia. Being in contact with bin Laden after 1994 is considered by the Saudi government a hostile gesture, even an act of treason.

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May 4, 1994: Israel and the PLO agree on the initial implementation of the Oslo Accords in the Gaza-Jericho Agreement (Cairo Accords).

As a result of the Oslo peace process, the Gaza-Jericho Agreement -- also known as the Cairo Accords -- includes an Israeli military withdrawal from about 60 percent of the Gaza Strip (Jewish settlements and their environs excluded) and the West Bank town of Jericho. The agreement envisages further withdrawals from yet-to-be-agreed-on areas of the Occupied Territories. A five-year period begins in which a permanent resolution is to be negotiated on Jerusalem, settlements, Palestinian refugees, and sovereignty.

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July 1, 1994: Arafat returns to Gaza to take up his new position as head of the new Palestinian Authority.

Following the signing of the Declaration of Principles and the Cairo Agreement, Yasser Arafat enters Gaza after 27 years living outside of Israel. He had spent the past 12 years running the PLO from Tunis.

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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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October 26, 1994: Jordan signs a peace treaty with Israel, ending a 46-year official state of war.

Only the second such agreement between Israel and one of its Arab neighbors, the peace treaty between Jordan and Israel establishes a solid framework for cooperation in the political, economic, and cultural fields. The treaty is the formalization of secret arrangements between the two countries that had been in place for many years. Because Jordan is dependent on Iraq for oil, has a large Palestinian Arab population hostile to Israel, and faces constant pressure from Syria, Jordan's King Hussein had in the past been reluctant to reveal his more moderate policies toward Israel. The elements that had prevented open and peaceful relations between the former enemies, however, were finally offset by the Gulf War and by the Oslo peace process, which made it politically acceptable for an Arab entity to be in peace negotiations with Israel.

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November 1994: The Atat¸rk Dam opens in Turkey.

The Atat¸rk Dam is one of 22 planned dams and 19 planned hydroelectric plants on the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers. The overall project costs exceed $34 billion and result in the displacement of largely Kurdish populations.

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1995: Omani ruler Sultan Qaboos emphasizes economic reform in his country.

Oman has less oil than other Gulf states, and its reserves are running low. Additionally, its deficit is climbing. Sultan Qaboos is trying to diversify Oman's economy in part by reducing its dependence on oil and encouraging its private sector to be more competitive and efficient.

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1995: The U.S. imposes oil and trade sanctions against Iran.

The U.S. imposes oil and trade sanctions on Iran for allegedly sponsoring terrorism, seeking to acquire nuclear arms, and promoting hostility to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Iran denies the charges.

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1995: The United Arab Emirates joins the World Trade Organization.

Membership in the World Trade Organization (WTO) gives the UAE a voice in future commercial policymaking decisions that could help boost its economy.

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March 1995: Thirty-five thousand Turkish troops are sent to fight Kurdish rebels in Iraq.

A civil war between Kurds and Turks has been going on for years. As a result, many Kurds have fled Turkey for Iraq, where Kurdish guerrillas continue to enter Turkey. The Turks' invasion, called Operation Steel, backfires, as only 158 Kurdish rebels are killed in the first week.

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June 1995: Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani of Qatar deposes his father in a bloodless coup.

Sheikh Hamad deposes his father with the support of the Qatari armed forces after accusing him of stealing from oil and gas revenues. Born in Doha in 1950 and educated in Qatar and abroad, Sheikh Hamad's policies modernize Qatar through the expansion of business and foreign relations, the use of natural resources, and the loosening of restrictions on the press and media.

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June 22, 1995: Oman and the U.S. each pledge $3 million to build a Middle East Desalination Research Center in Oman.

The shortage of fresh water is a growing problem for Oman and other Gulf states. Many states get fresh water by desalination, the process of purifying salt water. Oman, which has built dams to collect rainwater that runs down mountains, continues to look for other ways to collect more fresh water.

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September 28, 1995: PLO chairman Arafat and Israel's prime minister Rabin sign the Taba Agreement.

In Washington, D.C., Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin sign the Taba Agreement, known as Oslo II, to expand Palestinian self-rule in the West Bank and Gaza and to allow Palestinian elections. In those elections, held on January 20, 1996, Arafat wins roughly 85 percent of the votes in his bid to head the Palestinian National Authority.

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October 1995: Qatar is the first Gulf nation to open economic relations with Israel.

Qatar becomes the first Gulf nation to have economic relations with Israel, supplying Tel Aviv with natural gas.


November 4, 1995: Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin is assassinated.

Prime minister Yitzhak Rabin is assassinated by Yigal Amir, an Orthodox Jewish student opposed to Israeli withdrawal from the occupied West Bank. Shimon Peres succeeds Rabin as the new prime minister.

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November 1995-March 1996: Israel and Syria make considerable progress in peace talks at the Wye Plantation in Maryland.

Israeli prime minister Shimon Peres decides to push for a far-reaching peace deal with Syria, in contrast to the earlier, more cautious negotiations conducted by his predecessor, the late prime minister Yitzhak Rabin.


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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April-September 1996: The U.S. Congress passes the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act and the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act.

These laws allow secret evidence to be used against immigrants and foreign visitors for purposes of deportation. The law has been implemented almost exclusively against Arabs and Arab Americans.

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May 1996: Islamic fundamentalist Osama bin Laden is welcomed by the ruling Taliban in Afghanistan.

Hailed as a hero for his involvement against the Soviets in the 1980s, the Islamic militia in power offers Osama bin Laden support and safety within Afghan borders. From 1991 to 1996, prior to accepting the Taliban's invitation, bin Laden had been in Sudan, from which he was expelled in 1996 under pressure from the U.S. and Saudi Arabia.

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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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July 1996: Necmettin Erbakan's coalition government signals Turkey's first turn toward Islamic politics since Atat¸rk's era.

Turkey's first Islamist prime minister, Necmettin Erbakan, leader of Turkey's Welfare Party (Refah), is forced to step down in 1997, and the party itself outlawed, after being judged a threat to Turkey's secular constitution. In 2002 he is sentenced to more than two years in prison for embezzling party political funds.

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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: The ruler of Oman, Sultan Qaboos, outlines a bill of rights based on Islamic law.

Oman's constitution, called the Basic Law, ensures press freedoms, tolerance for all religious faiths, and equality for everyone, regardless of race, creed, or sex. It also calls for a court system that would interpret the law. Oman and Qatar are the only Gulf states in which women can vote.


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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November 1996: The Pharos lighthouse, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, is rediscovered in Egypt.

Archaeologists find the ruins of the Pharos lighthouse, which was toppled in the 1300s after a series of earthquakes, submerged off Alexandria, Egypt. Dating to about 285 B.C.E., the lighthouse stood on the island of Pharos. It was the tallest building on Earth at the time, and its light, reflected off a mirror, was visible from more than 35 miles away.


December 12, 1996: A coup attempt against Iraqi president Saddam Hussein fails.

Saddam Hussein's elder son, Uday, is seriously wounded in an assassination attempt against the president in Baghdad's al-Mansur district.


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: Conservatives in Iran react with hostility to some of the changes occurring under President Mohammed Khatami.

Five political dissidents and noted intellectuals are killed. President Khatami orders an investigation of the murders. That the investigation takes place at all proves to be one of Khatami's biggest successes. The Ministry of Intelligence and Security determines that its own members committed the murders.

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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.


1998-1999: A drought reduces water levels in Israel's Lake Kinneret to dangerously low levels.

Lake Kinneret contains most of Israel's water supply. As a desert region, Israel and the rest of the Middle East engage in ongoing negotiations about water supplies, water partnerships, and water technologies.


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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January 15, 1998: Turkey's parliament allows husbands to be indicted for domestic abuse.

Turkey's parliament passes legislation that states that husbands can be indicted for domestic abuse even if their wives refuse to press charges. Later in the year, a constitutional court rules that adultery is no longer a crime for women. Though adultery has long been legal for men, women previously faced up to three years in prison if found guilty.


February 4-May 30, 1998: Two of the poorest and most isolated provinces in Afghanistan are rocked by two earthquakes just three months apart.

Two major quakes measuring 6.1 and 6.9 on the Richter scale originate from nearly the same site in the northeast provinces of Takhar and Badakshan. Landslides level homes and villages, trapping many under rubble and leaving thousands of terrified survivors clinging to exposed mountainsides. An estimated 10,000 people are killed and 45,000 left homeless.

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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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1998: Libyan leader Muammar al-Qaddafi agrees to hand over for trial the two Libyan men accused of the 1988 Pan Am/Lockerbie airplane bombing.

In handing over the suspects accused of the 1988 Pan Am bombing, Qaddafi submits to pressure from the United Nations, Nelson Mandela, and the Arab League.

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August 6, 1998: Hanan Ashrawi, a female political activist for the Palestinian people, resigns her government post in protest against political corruption.

After holding several official posts, including head of the political committee of the Palestinian Authority, Hanan Ashrawi leaves the government to protest the political corruption she observed in Yasser Arafat's handling of peace talks. A Christian educated at the American University in Beirut and the University of Virginia, she first enters the political scene in 1988, advancing an image of Palestinians as victims of oppression and becoming one of the first Palestinian figures to transcend the media's popular "terrorist" stereotype. An activist as well as an academic, in 1999 Ashrawi founds MIFTAH, a group dedicated to promoting the Palestinian cause and ending Israeli occupation by focusing on humanitarian rather than ideological or historical arguments. She continues to serve as the organization's secretary general and as a Palestinian legislator.

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August 7, 1998: U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, are bombed simultaneously.

Four men are tried on charges related to the simultaneous bombings in Africa, which killed 224 people and wounded thousands. Charges include conspiring in the bombing and other acts of terrorism as part of Osama bin Laden's international organization, al-Qaeda. All four are convicted in May 2001 and sentenced to life in prison without parole on October 18, 2001.

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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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October 23, 1998: Israeli prime minister Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority chairman Arafat sign the Wye River Memorandum, outlining further Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank.

After a peace summit held by U.S. president Bill Clinton, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority chairman Yasser Arafat sign an agreement calling for, among other things, the Israeli military to pull back from portions of the West Bank and the Palestinian Authority to combat terrorist organizations more effectively.

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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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January 4, 1999: Israel's Knesset votes to move elections forward after the Netanyahu coalition collapses.

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu had lost support from both hard-line conservatives in his government and opposition Labor Party members. Hard-liners were angry with Netanyahu for agreeing to turn over additional land to Palestinians in the October 1998 Wye River accords. Opposition members turned against Netanyahu when he suspended those same accords a few weeks later, citing security concerns. Increasing violence also may have also been a factor in the Knesset's decision. Palestinian militants are suspected of opening fire on a van of Jewish settlers in the West Bank city of Hebron earlier in the week, wounding two Israeli women. The Israeli army responds by imposing a curfew on Palestinians in the area who live under Israeli control. The violence, coupled with an overall lack of confidence in the government's ability to secure true peace, contribute to a growing lack of hope and a general change from optimism to pessimism.


February 7, 1999: King Hussein of Jordan dies.

During his 46-year reign, King Hussein worked hard to normalize relationships between Israel and the Arab states. His death leaves his country still struggling for economic and social survival, as well as for regional peace. His son and successor, King Abdullah, faces the task of maintaining the country's stability while accommodating growing calls for political reform.

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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: Saudi Arabia reportedly has 112,500 Internet users and 45,000 online subscribers.

These figures represent a rapid increase in subscribers of 140 percent since December 1998.


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.


April 1999: Technosphere '99 is organized to discuss the impact of science and technology on Arab women.

Participants in the three-day conference Technosphere '99 come from 20 Arab countries. They resolve to expand technological and vocational education for women in the Arab world.


May 18, 1999: Labor Party leader Ehud Barak wins Israel's general elections and becomes prime minister.

Ehud Barak, widely regarded as more amenable to peace negotiations with the Palestinians than the incumbent, Likud prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, pledges he will be a prime minister "for all Israelis." He defeats Netanyahu in a divisive campaign.

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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.


July 23, 1999: King Hassan II of Morocco dies.

Upon his death, King Hassan II is succeeded by his son, King Mohammed VI. King Hassan ruled Morocco for 38 years.

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August 17, 1999: Nearly 18,000 die when two major earthquakes hit western Turkey.

The August earthquake, registering 7.8 on the Richter scale, is centered near the city of Izmit, in densely populated western Turkey. In addition to the 18,000 deaths, another 27,000 people are injured. Damage extends to 340,000 houses and businesses. The quake is believed to have pushed Anatolia four feet closer to Europe. On November 12, another 760 are killed and 5,000 injured when a second large earthquake, measuring 7.2, hits Duzce. The total damage for the two quakes is estimated at between $10 billion and $25 billion.

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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.


September 4, 1999: The Israelis and Palestinians sign a revised deal aimed at reviving the Middle East peace process.

At Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt, Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat sign an agreement restating the commitment of both sides to full implementation of all agreements reached since the first Oslo Agreement of September 1993. They pledge to resolve the outstanding issues of the interim status, in particular those set out in the 1998 Wye River Memorandum, in order to accelerate completion of the interim period toward initiation of negotiations on permanent status.

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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 10, 1999: The Egyptian American scientist Ahmed Zewail wins the Nobel Prize for chemistry.

Dr. Zewail won the prize for his studies of the transition states of chemical reactions using femtosecond spectroscopy.

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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.






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