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Unrest in the Middle East and North Africa -- country by country

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • The winds of unrest have swept through North Africa and the Middle East
  • The demonstrations started in Tunisia in December
  • The leaders of Tunisia and Egypt have resigned amid mass protests
  • Protests turned deadly in Bahrain and Iraq on Thursday
  • Bahrain
  • Yemen
  • Libya
  • Iran

(CNN) -- Two months ago, a Tunisian fruit vendor lit a match that started a fire that has spread throughout the much of North Africa and the Middle East. Muhammad Bouazizi's self-immolation prompted anti-government protests that toppled regimes in Tunisia and Egypt. Here are the latest developments, including the roots of the unrest, as well as a look at previous events in affected countries.

Recent developments:


Protesters began to gather in several areas of Bahrain on Friday morning, a day after a violent police and military crackdown left four dead and scores wounded. What seemed like thousands of people -- some chanting anti-government slogans -- marched in the town of Sitra to attend the funerals of three of the four people killed Thursday. Two other people died during disturbances earlier in the week. The tiny island nation is a U.S. ally and houses the headquarters of the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet.

Roots of unrest:

Protesters initially took to the streets of Manama on Monday to demand reform and the introduction of a constitutional monarchy. But some are now calling for the removal of the royal family, which has led the Persian Gulf island state since the 18th century. Young members of the country's Shiite Muslim majority have staged violent protests in recent years to complain about discrimination, unemployment and corruption, issues they say the country's Sunni rulers have done little to address. The Bahrain Center for Human Rights says authorities launched a clampdown on dissent in late 2010. It accused the government of torturing some human rights activists.


Pro-government gangs clashed with an anti-government demonstrators Friday in the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, throwing rocks and brandishing sticks. Anti-government demonstrators took to the streets of Sanaa following Friday's midday prayers, ushering in a second week of unrest to the Middle Eastern nation. It was unclear whether a call for calm by the country's most influential religious cleric, Sheikh Abdulmajeed Al-Zindani, would be heeded. Meanwhile, the death toll from Thursday's violence grew to four, government and hospital officials said Friday.

Roots of unrest:

Protesters have called for the ouster of longtime President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has ruled Yemen since 1978. The country has been wracked by a Shiite Muslim uprising, a U.S.-aided crackdown on al Qaeda operatives and a looming shortage of water. As in other countries, high unemployment fuels much of the anger among a growing young population steeped in poverty. The protesters also cite government corruption and a lack of political freedom.


Thousands of people who attended a pro-government rally in Tehran on Friday condemned opposition leaders and called for their execution, a witness said. Earlier this week, tens of thousands of pro- and anti-government protesters marched in downtown Tehran amid a crackdown. Two young men were killed this week. The government blamed its opponents in the deaths, but activists have dismissed those claims as government propogranda. An anti-government demonstration Monday was the largest such rally since 2009, when a series of anti-government demonstrations convulsed the country. Iranian authorities sought to restrict coverage of the protests this week by international media.

Roots of unrest:

Opposition to the ruling clerics has simmered since the country's 2009 election, when hundreds of thousands of people filled Tehran streets to denounce the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as fraudulent.


Waving flags and beating drums, thousands gathered at Cairo's Tahrir Square on Friday for a planned "Day of Victory" rally to celebrate the one-week anniversary of the ouster of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. The march at the square -- the epicenter of 18 days of protests that led to Mubarak stepping down -- is also meant to remind the military that Egyptians were watching the ongoing reform process. Celebrations are expected in other cities across the nation as well. The military has been in charge since February 11, when Mubarak's resignation was announced.

Roots of unrest:

Complaints about police corruption and abuses were among the top grievances of demonstrators who forced Mubarak from office last week. Demonstrators were also angry about Mubarak's 30-year rule, a lack of free elections and many economic issues, including high food prices, low wages and high unemployment.


About 200 people calling for reforms clashed with pro-government demonstrators in downtown Amman on Friday.

Roots of unrest:

Jordan's economy has been hit hard by the global economic downturn and rising commodity prices, and youth unemployment is high, as it is in Egypt. Officials close to the palace have told CNN that Abdullah is trying to turn a regional upheaval into an opportunity for reform. King Abdullah II swore in a new government following anti-government protests in his country. The new government has a mandate for political reform and is headed by a former general, with several opposition and media figures among its ranks.


Anti-government protests were reported Friday in several cities, according to a group opposed to the government. Raucous pro-government demonstrators took to the streets of Libya's capital, Tripoli, overnight Thursday, state television reported, hours after at least seven were killed in clashes between security forces and those opposed to the North African nation's longtime leader Moammar Gadhafi. Images from state television, labeled as "live" at what would be early Friday morning, featured men chanting pro-Gadhafi slogans, waving flags and singing around the Libyan leader's limousine as it crept through Tripoli. Confrontations between anti-government factions and security forces have contributed to at least 24 deaths in the North African nation, according to Human Rights Watch. CNN, which does not have journalists in Libya, could not independently confirm the figure.

Roots of unrest:

Protests in Libya, ruled by Moammar Gadhafi since a 1969 coup, began in January when demonstrators, fed up with delays, broke into a housing project the government was building and occupied it. Gadhafi's government responded with a $24 billion fund for housing and development. A month later, more demonstrations were sparked when police detained relatives of those killed in an alleged 1996 massacre at the Abu Salim prison, according to Human Rights Watch. High unemployment has also fueled the protests, as have anti-Gadhafi groups.


One person was killed and 57 were wounded Thursday when hundreds of protesters clashed with security forces in Sulaimaniya, a city in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq, according to Dr. Raykot Hamed Salih, a health official there. Dozens of protesters attacked the Kurdistan Democratic Party headquarters in the city and destroyed furniture and computers inside the building, police officials in Sulaimaniya told CNN. Witnesses told CNN that a number of Kurdish security forces, known as peshmerga, opened fire to disperse the protesters.

Roots of unrest:

Demonstrations in Iraq, unlike in other parts of the Mideast and North Africa, have usually not targeted the national government. Instead, the protesters are angry over corruption, the quality of basic services, a crumbling infrastructure and high unemployment, particularly on a local level. They want an end to frequent power outages and food shortages.


Hundreds of Palestinians rallied for unity in Ramallah on Thursday, calling on Hamas, Fatah and other Palestinian political factions to heal their rifts amid arguments over elections scheduled for September in the Palestinian territories. "Division generates corruption," was one of several slogans written on banners held up by the demonstrators, who flooded the streets after calls went out on social networking sites, as well as schools and university campuses for them to attend.

Roots of unrest:

The Palestinian territories have not seen the kind of demonstrations as in many Arab countries, but the Fatah leaders of the Palestinian Authority have been under criticism since Al-Jazeera published secret papers claiming to reveal that Palestinian officials were prepared to make wide-ranging concessions in negotiations with Israel. Negotiations toward a resolution of the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict have since collapsed. Palestinian protests, largely in support of Egypt and Tunisia, were generally small and poorly attended, and in some cases the Hamas rulers of Gaza and the Palestinian Authority rulers of the West Bank actively tried to stifle protests. The split between Hamas and Fatah hampers internal change in the territories, although calls for political change are growing louder among Palestinians. Large-scale protests, as seen elsewhere in the Arab world, have failed to materialize, as many Palestinians believe their problem remains the Israeli occupation.

Here's a look at some key recent events related to unrest in the Middle East and North Africa:


Protesters have demanded government reform, prompting authorities to say they will soon lift a 20-year state of emergency. The state of emergency was imposed in 1992 to quell a civil war that led to the deaths of more than 150,000. The rule was used to clamp down on Islamist groups, but critics say the insurgency has long since diminished and the law exists only to muzzle government critics.

Roots of unrest:

Protests began in January over escalating food prices, high rates of unemployment and housing issues. They started in Algiers, but spread to other cities as more people joined and demonstrators toppled regimes in neighboring Tunisia, and later Egypt. Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika announced that he would lift a nearly 20-year-old state of emergency law in what analysts said was an attempt to head off a similar revolt.


Demonstrators have clashed with authorities on several recent occasions in Sudan. Human Rights Watch has said that "authorities used excessive force during largely peaceful protests on January 30 and 31 in Khartoum and other northern cities." Witnesses said that several people were arrested, including 20 who remain missing.

Roots of unrest:

Demonstrators seek an end to the National Congress Party rule and government-imposed price increases, according to Human Rights Watch. It accuses the government of being heavy-handed in its response to demonstrations, and using pipes, sticks and tear gas to disperse protesters.


As protests heated up around the region, the Syrian government pulled back from a plan to withdraw some subsidies that keep the cost of living down in the country. President Bashar al-Assad also gave a rare interview to Western media, telling The Wall Street Journal last month that he planned reforms that would allow local elections and included a new media law and more power for private organizations. A planned "Day of Rage" that was being organized on Facebookal-Assad government claim massive human rights abuses, and an emergency law has been in effect since 1963 for February 5 failed to materialize, The New York Times reported.

Roots of unrest:

Opponents of the al-Assad government claim massive human rights abuses, and an emergency law has been in effect since 1963


A government-imposed curfew in Tunisia has been lifted, but a state of emergency put in January remains in effect, the Interior Ministry said Tuesday. The curfew was from midnight until 4 a.m.

Roots of unrest:

Autocratic President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali fled the country January 14 after weeks of demonstrations. Violent protests continued against the inclusion of Ben Ali's party in the new government, eventually forcing all Constitutional Democratic Rally ministers to resign from the party, followed by the disbanding of the party's central committee. Later, former members of the party resigned from the government. The protests began in December to complain about high unemployment, corruption, rising prices and political repression. The revolt was triggered when an unemployed college graduate set himself ablaze after police confiscated his fruit cart, cutting off his source of income.

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