2015 has already seen some memorable political turnovers in the Middle East – and beyond. Rate your knowledge of recent developments.

1. Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah died on Thursday, January 22. Who succeeded him as Saudi head of state?

  1. Unclear. Elections have been scheduled for February 17, and parties are vying for the votes of Arabias’ 28 million citizens.
  2. King Abdullah’s son, Prince Mutaib, succeeded his father as absolute monarch.
  3. King Abdullah was replaced by his 79-year old half-brother, Prince Salman.
  4. Abd Al-‘Aziz al-Wahuibi, head of the Saudi opposition party Umma, became President.

Answer: C

Since the death of Saudi Arabian founder King Abdulaziz in 1953, Saudi Arabia’s absolute rulers have all been one of his many sons. (There are no exact figures, but there seem to be about 45, from a number of wives.) While the Umma party did form as an opposition Saudi party in February, 2011, its ten founders were arrested a week later and sentenced to prison. International observers complained about irregularities in their trials; the treatment of party leader Abd Al-‘Azia al-Wahuibi was particularly problematic: tried in secret, he is currently held in a military hospital, where Saudi officials say he’s suffered a mental breakdown.

2. Israelis are going to the polls on March 17, 2015. What new option will Arab Israeli voters will have on that day?

  1. None. Arab citizens are not allowed to vote in Israel.
  2. Arab voters will be able to vote for a special advisory committee that will relay their concerns to the Knesset, Israel’s legislative body.
  3. This will be the first Israeli election in which Arab Israelis can vote.
  4. Four Arab parties have joined together to create a radical new unified list, in order to maximize their share of seats in Israel’s next legislative session.

Answer: D

All Israeli citizens enjoy the right to vote. This year, four Arab parties – Raam, Ta’al and Balad, and the Arab-Jewish party Chadash – have unified to form a single electoral bloc in the March elections in order to boost voter turnout and maximize their numbers in the 120-seat Knesset. About a fifth of Israeli Arabs typically vote for mainstream Israeli political parties, with the remainder voting for a diverse range of Arab political parties.

3. World leaders lined up to praise Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah following his death. In Britain, flags flew at half mast on Westminster Abbey. US Secretary of State John Kerry hailed the late king as “a revered leader”. Yet a recent survey placed Saudi Arabia last in the world, tied only with North Korea, for civil liberties and political freedom. Which of the following events occurred in Saudi Arabia recently?

  1. “Witchcraft and sorcery” was the charge given in the beheading of a woman.
  2. A blogger was sentenced to 1,000 lashes, ten years in prison, and a hefty fine for questioning the link between state and religion.
  3. Two female activists were arrested for bringing food and drinks to a starving woman.
  4. Tens of thousands of foreign workers, especially Ethiopian residents, of the kingdom have been arrested, beaten and forced out of the country in recent months; witnesses report that many have been killed, though their deaths haven’t been formally acknowledged by Saudi authorities.

Answers: all of the above.

Amina bint Abdel Halim Nassar was beheaded on Monday, December 8, 2014 for, according to Saudi Arabia’s Interior Ministry, “committing the practice of witchcraft and sorcery” after authorities found books on witchcraft in her home.

The liberal blogger Raif Badawi was sentenced to ten years in prison, a large fine, and 1,000 lashes for his blog, which some said denigrated religious leaders; his first public whipping was carried out after Friday prayers on January 9, 2015 in the Saudi city Jedda. Wajeha al-Huwaider and Fawzia al-Oyouni, women’s rights activists, were arrested after delivering provisions to a Canadian woman whose Saudi husband imprisoned her in their home – without food and water: the activists were found guilty of the Sharia law of “takhbib”, or inciting a woman against her husband.

Witnesses testified they saw Saudi police beating Ethiopian workers – some fatally; in recent years, Saudi newspapers have characterized foreign workers as criminals, building tolerance for violence against them.

4. January 9, 2015 marked the 10th anniversary of what notable event for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas?

  1. It was his wedding anniversary.
  2. It was the 10th Anniversary of his 2005 election – to a four year term.
  3. The date marked a year and a half from his wife Amima’s surgery for a problem with her leg in a hospital in Tel Aviv – days after Abbas signed a Unity Government with Hamas, whose rockets routinely target hospitals in the Jewish state.
  4. It marked ten years from the withdrawal of Israeli civilians and troops from Gaza, turning the area over – Jew-free – to Palestinian control.

Answer: B, C, and D

9 January, 2005 was marked by scenes of jubilation as Palestinians elected Abbas to a four year term, replacing Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat, who had allowed no political opposition to his reign. Although Abbas’ term was meant to be for four years, he has yet to schedule elections for his successor.

5. Although it’s not in the Middle East, Greece’s radical new governing party, Syriza, which was the big winner in elections on January 25, 2015, has a lot to say about the region. Which of the following events did not happen in recent weeks?

  1. Theodoros Karypidis, Syriza’s candidate for Governor of Western Macedonia, criticized a visit by then-Prime Minister Antonis Samaras to a synagogue in the Greek town of Thessaloniki, accusing Greek Jews of seeking another “Hanukkah” victory against Greece.
  2. Syriza formed a coalition with the political party ANEL, whose leader falsely claimed that Greek Jews pay no taxes.
  3. Senior Syriza member Theodoris Dristas, a possible candidate for Finance Minister in Greece’s new government, sailed on a flotilla to Gaza, bringing building supplies to the Hamas-controlled region in defiance of international sanctions.
  4. Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has called on the continuation of Greece’s close ties with Israel, citing diplomatic tensions both nations have with their common neighbor, Turkey.

Answer: D.

While Theodoros Karypidis was forced to withdraw his candidacy by Syriza, Greece’s recent election was marked by a feeling of hostility towards Jews and Israel. It is expected that relations between Greece and Israel will cool somewhat under Prime Minister Tsipras’ rule.

6. The Palestinian Unity Government of 2014 set a deadline of December 2 for new elections. When that date for voting came and went with no vote, what causes have Palestinian leaders not blamed for the delay?

  1. Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar blamed Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas: “because he fears the results”.
  2. Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah blamed the war in Gaza, insisting rebuilding homes there is more important than holding elections.
  3. Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh has blamed Israel, saying “Although individual Israelis are sometimes kind – for instance, Israeli hospitals have treated my close family members when they needed care – the Israeli Government has taken a hostile stance towards me and my party, outlawing Palestinian elections.”
  4. Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah has said the harsh winter cold makes holding elections a low priority at this time.

Answer: C

Although Haniyeh’s granddaughter was treated in a Tel Aviv hospital in November 2013 and his daughter was cared for in a Tel Aviv hospital one year later, Haniyeh has repeatedly called for the destruction of the Jewish state. Nonetheless, he has not blamed Israel for halting Palestinian elections; his party, Hamas, has instead blamed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for failing to call for the mandated vote.

7. On January 20, 2015, rebels stormed the Presidential Palace in Yemen’s capital Sanaa; two days later, the US-backed president, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi resigned. Which armed group was responsible for this coup?

  1. Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula: the Yemen-based group that masterminded the terror attacks on a kosher grocery store and the Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris.
  2. The Iranian-backed Houthis, a Shiite ethnic group from Yemen’s north.
  3. ISIS: Yemeni authorities describe it gaining ground in several provinces in the country.
  4. The Yemeni Military

Answer: B

Despite the growing presence of terror groups such as Al Qaida and ISIS in Yemen, January’s presidential coup was overseen by Iranian-backed Houthi rebels; a representative of Iran’s Government described the groups as “similar” to the Iranian-backed terror organization Hezbollah.

8. “A strong advocate for women” is how Christine Lagarde, the female head of the International Monetary Fund, eulogized King Abdullah. Which of the following statements about King Abdullah’s commitment to women’s rights is false?

  1. King Abdullah broke with long-standing Saudi tradition, allowing married women to drive, albeit with special drivers’ licenses.
  2. King Abdullah instituted radical new changes in employment law. Banned from most occupations, it’s now legal for Saudi women to work in lingerie stores: a rule instituted to preserve women’s modesty and prevent them from buying undergarments from male salespeople.
  3. Four of King Abdullah’s daughters have been kept under house arrest for twelve years, forbidden to leave their royal palace. Recent news reports indicate the royal princesses are maltreated, and are running out of food and water.
  4. When King Abdullah funded scholarships to send 100,000 Saudis abroad for higher education, he specified that one third of the scholarships be reserved for women – and that the female students would have to bring chaperones abroad with them.

Answer: A.

Although an advisory committee recommended that Saudi women over the age of 30 be allowed to drive with some conditions: their rights would only extend from 7am to 8pm Sunday to Wednesday and noon to 8pm on Thursday and Friday, and it would be illegal to wear makeup while behind the wheel – King Abdullah rejected the recommendation. Women continue to be banned from driving; in 2014, one woman who did so recently received 150 lashes.