Demographics of the Arab League

Demographics of the Arab League
Arab League
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Life in
the Arab League

The Arab League is a culturally and ethnically diverse league of 22 member states. As of January 1, 2007, the combined population of all the countries that are members of the Arab League was about 340 million people.

The most populous member state is Egypt, with a population of 80 million people. Djibouti is the least populated with around 500,000 inhabitants. Most of the Arab states of the Persian Gulf import high amounts of foreign labour. For example, the UAE's native inhabitants make up less than 20% of its overall population.

Some Persian Gulf Arab states import cheap labor from poorer Arab countries such as Yemen, and Egypt, while others turn to countries in Asia and Africa.


Population growth

The population of the Arab League as estimated by the CIA in the year 2007 was around 340,000,000. No exact figures of the League's annual population growth, fertility rate, or mortality rate are known to exist.

Most of the Arab League's population is concentrated in and around major urban areas.[citation needed]

Religion in the Arab World


Islam, Christianity, and Judaism were all founded in or near areas that are now Arab League countries. Consequently, the majority of the Arab League's citizens are either Muslims, Christians or Jews. The countries of the Arab League host several holy cities and other religiously significant locations, including Alexandria, Mecca, Medina, Kirkuk, Arbil, and Baghdad. Sunni Muslims make up the Majority of the Arab League's citizens. However, large numbers of Shi'a Muslims make up the majority in areas of Lebanon, Iraq, and Bahrain. Christianity is the second largest religion in the League, with over 20 million Christians living in countries such as Lebanon, Egypt, Iraq, Sudan, Syria, and Jordan. There are smaller Jewish populations living mainly in the western part of the Arab league. Places such as Morocco, Algeria, Yemen, Tunisia, Syria, Egypt and Iraq all have Jewish populations. However, most Arab Jews emigrated from the Arab states to Israel after its founding in 1948. Other minor religions such as Druze religion, the Bahá'í Faith, Mandeanism, Yazdanism, Zoroastrianism, Shabak religion and Yarsan are practiced on a much smaller scale.

the Holiest place for Muslims, the Kaaba, is located in Saudi Arabia
  • Muslim population - 311,093,951
  • Total population - 339,510,535

Religious percentages of the Arab League

N Country Muslims Christians Others
_  Arab League 90% 6% 4%
1  Algeria 97% 2% 1%
2  Bahrain 81.2% 9% 8.81%
3  Comoros 99% 1% n/a
4  Djibouti 94% 5% 1%
5  Egypt 90% 10% n/a
6  Iraq 95% 4.3% 0.7%
7  Jordan 93% 6% 1%
8  Kuwait 85% 10% 10%
9  Lebanon 55.7% 43% 1.3%
10  Libya 97% 2.4% 0.6%
11  Mauritania 100% 0% 0%
12  Morocco 95% 3% 2%
13  Oman 92.5% 5% 2.5%
14  Qatar 67.5% 20% 12.5%
15  Saudi Arabia 89% 4.5% 6.5%
16  Somalia 100% 0% 0%
17  Sudan 70% 25% 5%
18  Syria 80% 20% n/a
19  Tunisia 95% 3% 2%
20  United Arab Emirates 62% 8.5% 29.5%
21  Yemen 95% 0.2% 4.8%


Major Languages of the Arab League. (The map isn't precise)
Different Dialects of Arabic in the Arab World. (The map isn't precise & ignores minority languages)

Arabic is the Arab League's official language, but additional languages are often used in the daily lives of some of the League's citizens. Currently, three major languages other than Arabic are used widely: Kurdish in northern Iraq and parts of Syria, Berber in North Africa, and Somali in the Horn of Africa.

There are several minority languages that are still spoken today, such as Afar, Armenian, Hebrew, Nubian, Persian, Syriac, and Turkmen. Arabic is a non-native language to 20% of the Arab League's population, with the Somali, Berber and Kurdish languages considered the most widely-used after Arabic.

On the other hand, Arabic is divided into over 27 dialects. Almost every Arab state has at least one local dialect of its own. they can be divided into 5 major branches, the Peninsula Arabic, which is the Arabic used in the Arabian peninsula, with around 9 main dialects, Arabic of the Nile Valley, which includes the Masri, Saedi, Sudanese and Chadic Arabic, the Arabic of the Fertile Crescent, which includes the Bedawi, Levant Arabic, Iraqi Arabic and North Mesopotamian Arabic, the Magharbi Arabic, which includes the Dialects used in Mauritania, Morocco, Libya, Algeria and Tunisia, also another category of Arabic is the other isolated dialects of Arabic, like the Judeo-Arabic, Mediterranean Arabic, Nubi Arabic, and the juba Arabic, which have greatly been affected by these communities' own pronunciation, culture and native tongue.


Ethnicity Total Estimated Date
Arabs 295,921,955 est.2007
Afars 456,000 2007
Amhara 191,000 2007
Assyrians 1,779,700 2006
Armenians 260,500 2007
Beja 2,779,000 2007
Berbers 16,364,100 2007
Cherkes 229,600 20006
Western Europeans 853,950 2007
Filipino 2,000,000 2007
Greeks 89,100 2007
Gypsies 500,000 2007
Han Chinese 105,590 2007
Hindi 228,900 2004
Somalis 8,882,500 2007
Jews 19,940 2007
Kurds 6,216,500 2007
Malays 516,100 2007
Nubians 1,700,000 2006
Persians 1,192,000 2006
Swahili 497,200 2006
Tigrinya 47,800 2007
Tuareg 242,000 2007
Turkish 152,400 2004
Turkmens 458,900 2007
Urdu 963,300 2006


the town of Aït Benhaddou is a typical desert Berber Town, the berbers make up the largest non-Arab ethnicity in the Arab League

In the Maghreb (North Africa) most of the population speaks Arabic although there is a significant Berber population. Arab and Berber identity in these countries is generally defined situationally by both language and ancestry. In Morocco, Berber speakers form about 30% of the total population; in Algeria, they represent about 20% of the population. In Libya, they form about 13% of the population[citation needed]. There are much smaller isolated Berber communities in Mauritania and one oasis in Egypt's Western Desert. The nomadic Tuareg people whose traditional areas straddle the borders of several countries in the Sahara desert, are Berber. Government worries about ethnic separatism, and condescending attitudes towards the mainly rural Berber-speaking areas, led to the Berber communities being denied full linguistic and cultural rights; in Algeria, for example, Berber chairs at universities were closed, and Berber singers were occasionally banned from singing in their own language, although an official Berber radio station continued to operate throughout. These problems have to some extent been redressed in later years in Morocco and Algeria; both have started teaching Berber languages in schools and universities, and Algeria has amended its constitution to declare Berber a fundamental aspect of Algerian identity (along with Islam and Arabness.) In Libya, however, any suggestion that Berbers might be non-Arab remains taboo[citation needed].


Nubians, found in Northern Sudan and Southern Egypt, are a different ethnicity from their upper and southern Arab neighbors in Egypt and Sudan, numbering 1.7 million in Sudan and Egypt. The Nubian people in Sudan inhabit the region between Wadi Halfa in the north and Aldaba in the south. The main Nubian groups from north to south are the Halfaweyen, Sikut (Sickkout), Mahas, and Danagla. They speak different dialects of the Nubian language.

In ancient times Nubians were depicted by Egyptians as having very dark skin, often shown with hooped earrings and with braided or extended hair. Ancient Nubians were famous for their vast wealth, their trade between Central Africa and the lower Nile valley civilizations, including Egypt, their skill and precision with the bow, their 23-letter alphabet, the use of deadly poison on the heads of their arrows, their great military, their advanced civilization, and their century-long rule over the united upper and lower Egyptian kingdoms.


In the northern regions of Iraq (15-20%) and Syria (5-8%) live the Kurds, an Indo-European ethnic group who speak Kurdish, a language closely related to Persian and using Persian alphabet. The majority of Kurds are Sunni Muslim, others are Alevi Muslim, with Christian, Yarsan and Jewish minorities. The nationalist aspiration for self-rule or for a state of Kurdistan has created conflict between Kurdish minorities and their governments in Iraq, Iran (20-28%), Syria and Turkey (25-30%).


Assyrians (also known as Chaldo-Assyrians) can be found in Iraq, north eastern Syria, and to a lesser degree north western Iran and south eastern Turkey. They are an ancient Semitic people who retain Aramaic as a spoken language. They are exclusively Christian and are descendants of the ancient pre Arab Assyrians/Mesopotamians. Almost all Christians in Iraq are ethnic Assyrians, where they number approximately 800,000. Numbers in Syria are harder to identify, because they are often included in with the general Christian population, however the Christians of the Tur Abdin and Al Hasakah regions in the north east are predominantly Assyrians.


Many Christian people in Syria reject an Arab Identity, and prefer to be called Syriacs or Arameans. Arameans reject the term Syriac because of its probable Assyrian origin. Some Syriacs identify with the Assyrians of Iraq and north east Syria, others claim a separate native non Arab Syriac identity.


Armenian Diaspora, The native Arabs sheltered and supported persecuted Armenians[citation needed]. A lot of them setteled in Syria, Lebanon and Egypt

The Arab World has between 500,000 and 1 million Armenians inhabiting its geographical area. Armenians are largely concentrated in countries such as Lebanon 150,000 - 300,000 and Syria 200,000, and to a lesser degree Iraq, but Armenians can also be found in countries like Qatar and the UAE. These Armenians are economic migrants from Lebanon and Syria. Most Armenians are mainly Christians following the orthodox church of Armenia. The apostolic church of Armenia has one of its headquarters in Lebanon.

Coptic Egyptians

Egyptian Copts do not recognise themselves as Arab, but emphasise their pre Arab Ancient Egyptian identity. They comprise 10% - 20% of the Egyptian population. They are Christians. They retain a form of ancient Egyptian language to this day for religious ceremonies.


A large proportion of Lebanese Maronite Christians identify with a pre Arab and pre Islamic Phoenician identity, and do not self identify as ethnic Arabs.


Somalia is a Muslim country, but many Somalis just recognize themselves as Somali instead of Arab despite centuries-old ties to Arabia.[1] Although Somalia joined the Arab League in 1974, accords Arabic official language status, and Arabic is spoken by Somalis in commerce, religion and education, the country's primary language is Somali. The population also predominantly consists of ethnic Somalis with small communities of Indian, Indonesian, Italians, Britons, and Portuguese.[citation needed]

Djibouti, whose demographics are approximately 60% Somali and 35% Afar, is in a similar position. Arabic is one of the official languages, 94% of the nation's population is Muslim, and its location on the Red Sea places it in close proximity to the Arabian Peninsula.


The Arab world is also home to sizeable populations of Turkmen. These are related to the Azeri people of Iran. The vast majority are secular Muslim, but there are a small number of Christians also.


The Yezidi people are mainly found in Iraq and Syria. They are closely related to Kurds, but emphasise their separate identity. They follow their own religion, Yazdanism.


Shabaks are mainly found in Iraq, they are either Muslim or follow native religions. They are also related to Kurds, but like the Yazidi, emphasise their separate identity.


Mandaeans, sometimes also called Sabians are a people found mainly in southern Iraq. Their numbers total no more than 10,000. They follow an ancient Gnostic religion.


Roma are to be found in many parts of the middle east, numbers are hard to judge, they speak their own language and may loosely follow Islam, Christianity or their own native beliefs.


Circassians are a people who originate in the North Caucasus. They are predominantly Muslim, and can be found in Iraq, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon in relatively small numbers.


Mhallami are a tiny minority of Assyrians and Syriacs/Arameans who have converted to Islam but retained their Assyrian or Syriac culture.


Many Jews in Israel have roots in Arab countries, from where most were expelled in the first decades following the creation of Israel and the 1948 Arab war on Israel. Small minorities exist still in Syria and Morocco.

Since most modern borders of the Arab world are products of Western imperial powers, they often ignore distinct ethnic and geographic boundaries. Thus, in addition to regions with large Arab populations being located in non-Arab countries (such as the Turkish province of Hatay, populated mainly by indigenous Iskanderun Syrians, and the Iranian province of Khuzestan, which has a minority of Iranian Arabs), many peripheral states of the Arab world have border-straddling minorities of non-Arab peoples, as is the case with the non-Arab Black Africans of southern Sudan and southern Mauritania.

Many Arab countries in the Persian Gulf have sizable (10–30%) non-Arab populations, usually of a temporary nature, at least in theory. Iraq, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, United Arab Emirates and Oman has a sizeable Persian speaking minority. The same countries also have Hindi-Urdu speakers and Filipinos as sizable minority. Balochi speakers are a good size minority in Oman. Countries like Bahrain, UAE, Oman and Kuwait have significant non-Muslim / non-Arab minorities (10–20%) like Hindus and Christians from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and the Philippines.

Many non-Arab countries bordering the core Arab world states have large Arab populations, as is the case in Chad, Israel, Turkey, Mali, Niger, and Senegal.

Comparison of population to area and GDP

Country Area (km²) Population (est. 2007) GDP PPP (in billions $)
 Arab League 13,333,296 340,043,965 1,860,193
 Algeria 2,381,740 33,333,216 250,000
 Bahrain 665 708,573 18,000
 Comoros 2,170 711,417 1,275
 Djibouti 23,000 496,374 1,878
 Egypt 1,001,450 80,335,036 334,400
 Iraq 437,072 27,499,638 50,720
 Jordan 92,300 6,053,193 30,000
 Kuwait 17,820 2,505,559 55,910
 Lebanon 10,400 4,224,000 51,474
 Libya 1,759,540 6,036,914 72,680
 Mauritania 1,030,700 3,270,065 8,124
 Morocco 446,550 33,757,175 152,500
 Oman 212,460 3,204,897 44,530
 Qatar 11,437 907,229 26,370
 Saudi Arabia 2,149,690 27,601,038 366,200
 Somalia 637,657 9,118,773 5,575
 Sudan 1,886,068 30,894,000 97,470
 Syria 185,180 19,314,747 77,660
 Tunisia 163,610 10,276,158 89,740
 United Arab Emirates 83,600 4,444,011 129,500
 Yemen 527,970 22,230,531 20,630

See also


  1. ^ David D. Laitin, Politics, Language, and Thought, (University of Chicago Press: 1977), p.50

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