Thursday, August 16, 2007

Today's global geography lesson

I have always been a fan of maps, but I must admit I haven't spent as much time looking at them lately as I did when I was a kid. It recently occurred to me that I have a certain obligation, as an intelligent human and taxpaying American, to understand the geography of these countries we are occupying, because I'm not sure the folks in charge fully understand it. I'm happy to share a bit of what I have learned, although "what I have learned" mostly amounts to a broadened understanding of my own ignorance. Iraq's geography includes tribes and ethnoreligious groups we rarely hear about on the news. Two maps particularly intrigued me:
--Iraq: Distribution of Ethnoreligious Groups and Major Tribes From Iraq: Country Profile [map], CIA, January 2003 (215K) and pdf format (216K)
--Iraq: Distribution of Religious Groups and Ethnic Groups from Map No. 503930 1978 (163K)
I had never heard of the Yazidi before this week, although they may have been the subject of an earlier post. I also had no idea the Mandaeans were still around. On the ethnic side of things, you have the Kurds, the Iranians, the Turkomen (not to be confused with Turks), the Assyrians, and so forth. That's at least three different religions (four if you count Sunni and Shia separately, along with Yezidi and Madaeanism, not to mention random Jewish and Christian populations) and five languages (Arabic, Kurdish, Aramaic, Persian, and Turkic).

Afghanistan is even more fun (so to speak). I'm not even going to try to count all the provinces. The 11 ethnolinguistic groups listed on at least one map are also quite diverse: some Iranian language family, some Turkic, a little bit of "Other" thrown in.

Given how determined some people are to have a single official language here in the U.S., I kind of wonder if we can ever really understand the hodgepodge that is these two countries.

Man, that's kind of depressing. I hope you were at least enlightened a little.

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