Skip to main content

Unrest: Middle East and North Africa, country by country

By the CNN Wire Staff
Protesters throw stones at riot police during clashes in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, during the early hours of June 29.
Protesters throw stones at riot police during clashes in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, during the early hours of June 29.

(CNN) -- Countries in the Middle East and North Africa have been swept up in protests against longtime rulers since the January revolt that ousted Tunisian strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. In many cases, these demonstrations and movements have been met with brute force that has escalated into seemingly unending violence. Here are the latest developments and information about the roots of the unrest.


Egypt sent hundreds of troops with armored vehicles onto the streets Wednesday to protect the Ministry of the Interior, having the army take over from the police as anti-government protests raged for a second day. The confrontations began when a planned memorial for people killed in Egypt's revolution earlier this year turned into an angry demonstration against the country's interim military government.

Protesters burned tires and threw Molotov cocktails, and police responded with tear gas, bullets and pellets in the biggest demonstrations in Cairo in months.

A group called the January 25 Coalition issued a range of demands late Wednesday, including a call for the "speedy trial of snipers and killers of protesters, the removal of Cairo's head of security and the official spokesman of the Ministry of Interior," and "an immediate investigation in the events of last night."

Many Egyptians are angry at the slow pace of change after President Hosni Mubarak resigned on February 11 after protests. Egypt's military rulers have set parliamentary elections for September.

Roots of unrest

Yemeni VP: Saleh is part of the solution
Gallup analyzes Egyptians' outlook

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


Bahrain's king vowed Wednesday to set up a committee to investigate any possible human rights violations in the government's actions against protesters.

In a speech, King Hamad al-Khalifa said he ordered the establishment of an independent commission following discussions with the U.N. High Commissioner of Human Rights. The panel will look at events from February and March, the king said.

In February, the king set up a committee to investigate incidents that led to the deaths of protesters, but no results have been reported.

Roots of unrest

Protesters initially took to the streets of Manama 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 state since the 18th century.


The French Defense Ministry said Wednesday that its military air-dropped weapons and food to Libyan rebels earlier this month. Col. Thierry Burkhard told CNN the materials were dropped in the Nafusa region, south of Tripoli.

"It became clear that people there were defenseless and very much threatened by Gadhafi's forces," Burkhard said. "The weapons were given for self-defense because of the security situation. The materials were dropped by parachute."

NATO said Wednesday it hit some key targets Tuesday, including command and control centers in al-Brega.

Roots of unrest

Protests in Libya started in February, when demonstrators, fed up with delays, broke into a housing project the government was building and occupied it. They quickly gained strength, and a movement to demand democracy and oust Moammar Gadhafi after more than four decades in power exploded into civil war. NATO began airstrikes in March after a U.N. Security Council mandate to protect civilians.


-- Six people were killed by military fire Wednesday, according to Rami Abdulrahman with the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Five were killed in the village of Rama; the sixth in al-Sirjeh, near the Turkish border.

-- The state-run news agency SANA, meanwhile, said "Intellectuals and union members" from across the country decided that the government's recently issued draft law involving political parties "meets the citizens' desire to establish parties that represent their political aspirations and enable them to contribute to building their homeland."

Roots of Unrest

The unrest began in mid-March after teens were arrested for writing anti-government graffiti in Daraa, according to Amnesty International. As the crackdown intensified, demonstrators changed their demands from calls for freedom and an end to abuses by the security forces to calls for the regime's overthrow. On April 19, Syria's Cabinet lifted an emergency law that had been in effect since 1963. But security forces then moved quickly to crack down. Government opponents allege massive human rights abuses.


-- The Yemeni government has lost control over five provinces, and security in the country is deteriorating, the nation's acting president told CNN in an exclusive interview Wednesday. Vice President Abdu Rabu Mansoor Hadi detailed how U.S. drones are using voice recognition to target al Qaeda leaders and help the government win back control.

Hadi also said President Ali Abdullah Saleh's wounds from what he described as an assassination attempt were so severe that he has no idea when the president will return from medical treatment in Saudi Arabia. Hadi said Saleh's chest had been pierced by a piece of wood and his face, arms and upper body had been burned, though he said the 68-year-old president's health was improving daily.

-- In Washington, Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the chaos in Yemen has been a source of concern to the United States for years.

"Al Qaeda, the federated group that's in Yemen, is an incredibly dangerous group that has taken full advantage of the chaos that has been in that country," he told the National Press Club.

But, he added, the military cannot provide the whole answer. "The security piece is a necessary condition, but it is insufficient in and of itself and it's taken us a long time to figure that out."

Roots of unrest

Inspired by the revolution in Egypt, demonstrators began protesting Saleh's 33-year-old regime on February 11. A month later, Saleh offered to draft a new constitution that would establish a parliamentary system, but protesters persisted in calling for his resignation, and numerous high-ranking political and military officials resigned or were dismissed. Saleh balked after making overtures to accept an agreement with the Gulf Cooperation Council to step down, and fighting has escalated between security forces and opposition groups -- primarily tribal forces and Islamic militants -- since those efforts broke down in May.

Part of complete coverage on
'Sons of Mubarak' in plea for respect
Pro-Mubarak supporters believe Egypt's former president is innocent of charges of corruption and killing protesters.
Timeline of the conflict in Libya
Fighting in Libya started with anti-government demonstrations in February and escalated into a nationwide civil war.
Who are these rebels?
After months of seeming stalemate, Libyan rebels declared they were moving in on Tripoli. But who are they?
Why NATO's Libya mission has shifted
Six months and more than 17,000 air sorties after it began, NATO's Operation Unified Protector in the skies over Libya grinds on.
Interactive map: Arab unrest
Click on countries in CNN's interactive map to see the roots of their unrest and where things stand today.
Send your videos, stories
Are you in the Middle East or North Africa? Send iReport your images. Don't do anything that could put you at risk.
Libya through Gadhafi's keyhole
Behind the official smiles for the cameras some people in Libya's capital are waiting for the rebels, reports CNN's Ivan Watson.
How Arab youth found its voice
Tunisia's Mohamed Bouazizi not only ignited a series of revolts but heralded the first appearance of Arab youth on the stage of modern history.