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Middle Eastern Countries

Economic Conditions, Population, And Aging, Role Of Islam In Policies And Practices Related To Aging

The southern part of Asia, known as the Middle East, covers an area about the size of the United States and Mexico. The Middle Eastern countries are Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and Yemen. Although often discussed collectively, they are different in as many ways as they are similar. For example, all Middle Eastern countries are Arab except Iran, Israel, and Turkey (which account for 59 percent of the region's population). In 1981 the Congressional Quarterly defined the so-called Arab countries as "those in which Arabic is the primary language and who share a common culture."

Most residents of these countries are Sunni Muslim. Exceptions are the Israelis, 90 percent of the Iranians, and two-thirds of the Iraqis, who are Shi'a Muslim. The Middle Eastern countries also differ in historical development, social and ethnic composition, economic history, natural resources, size, population, and forms of government.

This entry reviews the demographic, economic, political, cultural, and social support structures that influence aging and the older people of the Middle Eastern countries. The North African countries of Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, and Tunisia, which share a culture and religious beliefs with the Arab population of the Middle East, are included in Table 1 along with the Middle Eastern countries. Although Israel is mentioned for comparison, that country is not discussed at length here.

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