Old and New Minorities in the Middle East: Squaring the Circle through Common Solutions
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Diversity and integration issues are undoubtedly amongst the most salient ones on today’s political agenda. This is especially true for the Middle East, as the number of refugees and migrant workers with distinctive identities in terms of language, culture or religion has more than doubled since 2005. Due to the complexity of the region, the diversity of groups present and the socio-historic construction of minority groups coupled with their ever-changing relationships to power, Middle Eastern States follow a reluctant approach in terms of minority protection. Consequently, there is an urgent need for new forms of accommodating diversity, while preserving social cohesion, or in other terms, how recognizing minority rights while maintaining the bonds of ethnically diverse societies. This article addresses these issues by bridging two fields of research: minorities and migration. Looking at the interactions and linkages between old and new minorities is indeed an important task for research in the Middle East, where states only marginally if at all, established systems of ‘old’ minority and human rights protection mechanism, and are thus far from developing sound and coherent policies for the integration of new minority groups. For old minorities, however, there are at international level well-established standards that have been traditionally conceived and applied to old minorities only, which could be expanded to new ones as well. This paper argues that it is possible to devise a common but differentiated set of rights and obligations for old and new minority groups based on international as well as regional human and minority rights protection regimes.