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Articles in Southwest Asia and North Africa

ISIS Lectures Slides in PDF

By Martin W. Lewis | April 1, 2016 |

As several readers noted that they were unable to open the PowerPoint version of my ISIS lecture slides, I tried to post them in the original Keynote format.  Unfortunately, the file was too large to post.  As a result, I decided to export the file and post it instead as a PDF.  That version is available here at the link.
(You can …

Lecture Slides on ISIS

By Martin W. Lewis | March 31, 2016 | 15 Comments

Dear Readers,
For the next 10 weeks I will be teaching a lecture course on the history and geography of current events, which is offered in two versions, one for Stanford students and the other for the community at large through Stanford’s Continuing Studies Program. This class is very demanding on me, as I must come up with new 70-minute lectures …

Customizable Maps of Iran, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, and Indonesia

By Martin W. Lewis | March 18, 2016 |

Today’s GeoCurrents post provides free customizable maps of the provinces of Iran, the provinces of Indonesia, the states of Malaysia, and the regions of Saudi Arabia. An additional map shows the major cities of Iran as well as the country’s provinces. These maps are constructed with simple presentation software, available in both PowerPoint and Keynote formats. To obtain these customizable …

Mapping ISIS at the Institute For the Study of War

By Martin W. Lewis | December 18, 2015 | 4 Comments

(Note: This post is by Evan Lewis, not Martin Lewis.)
ISIS has proven to be as difficult to conceptualize as it has been to counteract. It has defied easy classifications and has been misunderstood and underestimated repeatedly by most of its opponents, often with disastrous consequences. In the effort to understand ISIS, its tactics, strategies, goals, and weak points, no one …

Superb Maps from the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) and the Kurdish Issue

By Martin W. Lewis | December 4, 2015 | 4 Comments

I have been generally quite impressed with the mapping of the current war in Iraq and Syria. This is a complicated and rapidly changing conflict, and I find it highly convenient that major newspapers, magazines, websites, think tanks, and the indispensible Wikipedia provide comprehensive and often-updated cartographic coverage. The best maps that I have found come from the Institute for …

GeoCurrents Editorial: Recognition for Iraqi Kurdistan and Somaliland

By Martin W. Lewis | September 16, 2015 | 13 Comments

(Note: GeoCurrents is a non-partisan blog devoted to providing geographical information, particularly in reference to current global events. On rare occasions, however, opinion pieces are posted on the site. This is one of those occasions. As I regard this issue as extremely important, this post will remain at the top of the GeoCurrents page for at least the next week.)
Now …

Kurdistan and Balochistan: Is National Self-Determination a Left/Right Issue?

By Martin W. Lewis | September 9, 2015 | 9 Comments

I have been wondering for some time how the issue of self-determination for so-called stateless nations fits into the standard, one-dimensional political spectrum. Historically, those on the left have been more favorably disposed to “national liberation struggles” than those on the right, who have more often advocated stability and the maintenance of the geopolitical status quo. By the same token, …

The Ahl-e Haqq Minority Faith Fights for Its Homeland in Northern Iraq

By Martin W. Lewis | August 29, 2015 |

Earlier this week, Kurdish Peshmerga forces launched an offensive against ISIS in the Daquq district of Iraq, some 40 kilometers south of Kirkuk. Aided by airstrikes from US-led coalition warplanes, Kurdish forces took over a number of villages. As reported in the news service Rudaw:

Hismadin said Kurdish reinforcements streamed in once the Peshmerga’s heavy fighting began. He added that members …

Troubled Socotra – the “World’s Most Alien Place” – Seeks Autonomy

By Martin W. Lewis | July 12, 2015 | 5 Comments

Yemen’s Socotra Archipelago, dominated by the main island of the same name, is best known for its unique flora, with almost 700 species found nowhere else. Some of its plants have gained fame for their unusual forms, such as the dragon blood tree and the cucumber tree. Socotra’s millions of years of isolation, its complex geology, and its harsh climate …

Oman and Yemen: So Similar, So Different…

By Martin W. Lewis | July 10, 2015 |

At first glance, Oman and Yemen almost appear to be sibling states. They fairly evenly divide the southeastern slice of the Arabian Peninsula. Both countries have extensive highlands on their opposing extremities, which receive much more rainfall than the rest of region and thus allow intensive agriculture both within the uplands themselves and in the adjacent lowlands. They share the …

Yemen’s Beleaguered Al Mahrah Seeks Autonomy

By Martin W. Lewis | July 8, 2015 |

Yemen’s Al Mahrah Governorate has much in common with Oman’s adjacent Dhofar Governorate. The two areas share the seasonally humid landscape of the south-central Arabian coastal uplands, and both have large non-Arabic-speaking communities, which instead speak languages in the Modern South Arabian group. Both Al Mahrah and Dhofar also maintain a strong sense of distinctiveness from the rest of Yemen …

Dhofar: Religion, Rebellion, and Reconstruction

By Martin W. Lewis | July 7, 2015 | 4 Comments

As mentioned in the previous post, Oman’s Dhofar region is highly distinctive in terms of both language and climate. It is also differentiated from the rest of Oman in regard to religion. Most Omanis follow Ibadi Islam, a branch that is said to predate the Sunni/Shia split, whereas most Dhofaris are Sunni Muslims. Dhofar also has a distinctive political history, …

Dhofar: The Other Arabia

By Martin W. Lewis | July 6, 2015 | One Comment

The Arabian Peninsula is a relatively coherent region, tied together by a number of common features. In terms of physical geography, it is noted for its harsh desert landscapes. Even the highlands of Yemen, which receive enough precipitation for rain-fed agriculture, are relatively dry, covered with vegetation that could hardly be described as lush. In terms of cultural geography, the …

Forgotten Modern Kingdoms of the Arabian Peninsula, Part 1

By Martin W. Lewis | July 5, 2015 | 6 Comments

Stanford University’s history department recently took its old collection of instructional maps out of storage to hang on permanent display in the hallways. This was an inspired decision, as some of these maps are gems and even the more ordinary ones have some interesting and unusual features.
A 1923 map of Asia by Denoyer Geppert Co. of Chicago, for example, is …

The Rightwing Nationalist Vote in the Turkish 2015 Election

By Martin W. Lewis | June 29, 2015 | 2 Comments

As noted in previous posts, the right-wing Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) of Turkey did relatively well in the 2015 election, ending up in third place with 16 percent of the vote. It gained 80 parliamentary seats (the same number as the leftwing Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), an increase of 28 seats from the previous election. Describing the political stance of …

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