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

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • Protesters in Bahrain return to Pearl Roundabout
  • Libyans continue protests despite violent crackdown, witnesses say
  • The demonstrations started in Tunisia in December and have swept across region
  • The leaders of Tunisia and Egypt have resigned amid mass protests
  • Bahrain
  • Yemen
  • Libya
  • Iran

(CNN) -- Two months ago, a Tunisian fruit vendor struck a match that started a fire that has spread throughout 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.

Saturday developments:


Protests continued to turn violent Saturday, however the death and injury toll is unclear. The government has not responded to repeated requests by news media outlets, including CNN, to allow reporters into the country. In Benghazi, witnesses reported bloody clashes with soldiers firing tear gas and bullets. A doctor treating the injured at Al Jala hospital said at least 30 people were killed, most of them from gunshot wounds to the head. Witnesses said protests had erupted in cities across the country, including al-Baida, Ajdabiya and Misratah, where anti-government protesters leaving noon prayers at a local mosque were confronted by demonstrators supportive of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. Witnesses also said anti-Gadhafi protesters used a bulldozer to break through a wall at Alfadeel Abu-Omar military camp only to be fired upon as they retreated. A report aired on state-run Libyan television characterized demonstrators as saboteurs. Human Rights Watch reports that 84 people have been killed in Libyan demonstrations since Tuesday. The organization bases that estimate on telephone calls made to medical providers across the country.

Roots of unrest:

Protests in Libya, ruled by 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.


Thousands of Bahraini protesters returned to Pearl Roundabout on Saturday, two days after a deadly attack by security forces that left four dead and scores wounded. Crown Prince Salman ordered the military out of the center of the nation's capital and announced that protesters could remain there without fear of being attacked, a key demand demonstrators had made. The crown prince indicated he is deeply sorry for the deaths of protesters and said an investigation will be launched and that those responsible will be held accountable. Salman also said the government is willing to enter into talks with demonstrators.

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.


As Saturday's protests left six people wounded, President Ali Abdullah Saleh blamed the unrest on foreign agendas and a plot against Yemen's stability, according to the state-run Saba news agency. Hundreds of Yemeni anti-government protesters clashed with pro-government demonstrators at Sanaa University, eyewitnesses and a local human rights group said. Gunshots were fired into the crowd, leaving at least six wounded, they said. The brother of a protester who was wounded during the demonstration blamed the violence on several dozen pro-government gang members who "were randomly shooting at us."

Roots of unrest:

Protesters have called for the ouster of Saleh, who has ruled Yemen since 1978. The country has been racked 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.


Anti-government websites reported Saturday that the daughters of opposition leader Mir Hossein Moussavi and his wife, Zahra Rahnavard, haven't had contact with their parents since Wednesday. The websites reported that Moussavi and his wife remain under house arrest after he called for widespread anti-government demonstrations Monday.

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 were expected in other cities across the nation as well. The military has been in charge since February 11, when Mubarak's resignation was announced. Meanwhile, G20 leaders concluded a two-day meeting in Paris on Saturday with pledges to support the new emerging governments of Egypt and Tunisia.

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. Several were injured. The anti-government protesters called for reforms and for abolishing the peace treaty between Jordan and Israel. Anti-government protesters who participated in Friday's demonstration included leftists and independent activists demanding political and economic reforms.

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. Some protesters have also called for the abolishment of the peace treaty between Jordan and Israel.


Clashes Saturday between police and protesters in Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region left 14 people injured, according to a regional health official. Witnesses said police used water cannons and fired weapons over the heads of rock-throwing demonstrators in Sulaimaniya, who had taken to the streets to protest the violent response of security forces that killed one demonstrator and injured 57 after they attacked the local offices of ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party. The Kurdistan regional president, Massoud Barzani, heads the party and became a target of protesters' anger on Saturday. In Baghdad, hundreds of people rallied to demand that the government give orphans and widows monthly stipends.

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 about 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.


Protesters in Kuwait clashed with security forces on Saturday, the second straight day of unrest in the tiny Persian Gulf nation. The demonstration occurred in Sulaibiya, just north of Kuwait City, witnesses and a government official said. Hundreds of protesters demanding greater rights for longtime residents who are not citizens of the country demanded the release of people arrested in demonstrations Friday. The protesters attacked the security forces, who managed to disperse the people and make arrests, he said. The forces used tear gas on the demonstration involving between 200 and 400 protesters.

Roots of unrest:

Protesters are seeking greater rights for longtime residents who are not Kuwaiti citizens, an issue the country has been grappling with for decades. There are believed to be 100,000 non-citizens living in the country.


Thousands of people marched in protest through Djibouti on Friday. Riot police charged the crowd after the call to evening prayers, shooting canisters of tear gas at the demonstrators, according to Aly Verjee, director of the international election observation mission to Djibouti, who witnessed the event. Djibouti is home to Camp Lemonnier, the only U.S. military base on the African continent.

Roots of unrest:

Protesters have called for President Ismail Omar Guelleh -- whose family has ruled the country since its independence from France in 1977 -- to step down ahead of the elections scheduled in April. Guelleh has held the post since 1999 and is seeking a third term. Economic stagnation is also a source of anger among the people of Djibouti.

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 state of emergency that 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 the 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 Facebook against the al-Assad government 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.


An uprising in Tunisia prompted autocratic President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali to leave the country on January 14, after weeks of demonstrations. Those demonstrations sparked protests around North Africa and the Middle East.

Roots of unrest:

The revolt was triggered when an unemployed college graduate set himself ablaze after police confiscated his fruit cart, cutting off his source of income. Protesters complained about high unemployment, corruption, rising prices and political repression.


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.

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