Press release

NEW REPORT: Freedom in the Middle East Improved Slightly in 2022

Iran suffered declines, and 93 percent of the region’s people still live in countries rated Not Free.

WASHINGTONFreedom in the Middle East improved slightly in 2022, with four countries making improvements in their political rights and civil liberties and one country experiencing declines, according to a new report released today by Freedom House.

The report—Freedom in the World 2023: Marking 50 Years in the Struggle for Democracy—finds that popular demand for greater freedom in the Middle East continues to run up against some of the most entrenched systems of repression in the world, many of which are supported or shielded by foreign powers—including democracies—with vested trade and security interests in the region. In Iran, massive prodemocracy protests broke out following the death of a Kurdish woman in police custody, bringing global attention to the Islamic Republic’s long history of discrimination and brutality.

Other report findings on the Middle East include:

  • The largest one-year decline in the region took place in Iran, which is rated Not Free and lost 2 points on Freedom in the World’s 100-point scale, for a new aggregate score of 12.
  • Modest improvements during calendar year 2022 occurred in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, and Israel, which each gained one point. The United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia are rated Not Free, while Lebanon is designated as Partly Free and Israel is Free.
  • Israel has the highest aggregate score (77) and is currently the only country rated Free in the region, though the government elected late in 2022 ran on a policy agenda that raised concerns about judicial independence and other core elements of democracy. Freedom House assesses the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip as separate territories, and both are rated Not Free.
  • Syria (1) has the worst aggregate score in the region, followed by Saudi Arabia (8).
  • Some 93 percent of the region’s people live in countries rated Not Free, while 4 percent live in Partly Free countries and 3 percent live in a Free country.

Beyond the Middle East, Freedom in the World 2023 finds that global freedom declined for a 17th consecutive year in 2022 as 35 countries suffered deterioration in their political rights and civil liberties. A total of 34 countries made improvements during the year, however, meaning the gap between the numbers of countries that improved and declined was the narrowest it has ever been since the negative pattern began. The report suggests that the struggle for democracy may be approaching a turning point, and offers recommendations on how democratic governments and societies should work together to roll back authoritarian gains.

The new report includes scores and narrative assessments on political rights and civil liberties for 195 countries and 15 territories around the globe. This year’s edition, the 50th in its series, covers developments in 2022 and provides a brief analysis of long-term trends. The report’s methodology is derived in large measure from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1948.

The report identifies a number of steps that democratic governments can take to protect and expand political rights and civil liberties. They include:

  • Help Ukraine win. Democratic governments must maintain unwavering support for Ukraine and its people, whose cause is crucial to the future of freedom. This should include providing the weapons and technical and security assistance necessary to help ensure Ukrainian success on the battlefield.
  • Stop enabling authoritarians. Democracies must address corruption and kleptocracy head on by closing the many financial loopholes that allow authoritarian rulers to hide or launder stolen assets in democratic settings. 
  • Be clear and unapologetic about the virtues of democracy and tireless in efforts to uphold and defend it. Democratic states should make the protection of freedom and democracy a fundamental component of all international policy efforts—including in foreign, security, and economic affairs—and every diplomatic engagement. Human rights concerns should be raised in meetings with foreign counterparts at all levels.
  • Dramatically ramp up support for human rights defenders and for countries and regions at critical junctures. Democratic governments should help human rights defenders and civil society groups remain active in their home countries whenever possible, and provide technical assistance and training. When democracy advocates come under threat, their foreign partners should provide medical, legal, and psychosocial support as needed.

View the report’s complete recommendations here. Click here to read additional report press releases: GlobalAfrica, Americas, Asia-Pacific, Eurasia, Europe.

Freedom House is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that works to create a world where all are free. We inform the world about threats to freedom, mobilize global action, and support democracy’s defenders.