June 14th, 2011
10:01 AM ET

Unrest: Middle East and North Africa, country by country

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 and escalated into seemingly unending violence.

Here are the latest developments from each country and information on the roots of the unrest.

LIBYA

NATO refused to say Tuesday whether or not it would bomb ancient Roman ruins in Libya if it knew Moammar Gadhafi was hiding military equipment there. The alliance recently extended its mission - officially to protect civilians in Libya from Gadhafi's efforts to crush an uprising that has left rebels in control of parts of the country - for another 90 days, into September.

Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said Germany formally recognizes the rebel Transitional National Council as the representative of the Libyan people, putting Berlin in line with the United States, France, Italy and a handful of other countries. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pressed for diplomatic support for the rebels at a meeting of the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The UAE has recognized the Transitional National Council as the legitimate Libyan government.

After a siege of nearly two months, rebels have freed the city of Al-Rayyana, northeast of Zintan, said rebel fighter Talha Al-Jiwali. Nine rebels were killed, and 35 were wounded.

What should NATO bomb first, soldiers or Gadhafi himself?

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. 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 Abu Salim prison, according to Human Rights Watch. High unemployment and demands for freedom have also fueled the protests.

SYRIA

The northwestern Syrian city of Jisr al-Shugur has been a focal point in the conflict, with reports of fighting, deaths - and competing narratives about what has happened. The Syrian military controlled Jisr al-Shugur after entering the city over the weekend, a network of human rights activists said Monday. The Local Coordination Committees of Syria said Syrian soldiers were going house-to-house conducting searches.

Syrian refugees who have fled to Turkey said some Syrian soldiers rebelled after being ordered to fire on unarmed protesters and instead started fighting among themselves.

As of Monday, 6,817 Syrian refugees had crossed into Turkey, said Metin Corabatir of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees office in Ankara.

After more than a thousand reported deaths from a government crackdown on dissidents and chilling videos of violence on social media, the unrest in Syria has drawn international attention - albeit no response from the United Nations Security Council.

Roots of Unrest: More than 1,100 people may have died since 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," "dignity" 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, which had been in effect since 1963. But security forces then moved quickly to crack down. Government opponents allege massive human rights abuses.

YEMEN

Yemen's vice president met with opposition parties Monday in Sanaa, as the nation's state news agency said President Ali Abdullah Saleh's health is improving. The meeting between Vice President Abdu Rabo Mansour Hadi and the opposition was the first of its kind since Hadi became acting president. Saleh and other senior officials were injured June 3 in an attack on the mosque at the presidential palace and are being treated in Saudi Arabia.

Mohammed Qahtan, spokesman for the Joint Meeting Parties, Yemen's largest opposition bloc, said Monday that the meeting between Hadi and the opposition was fruitful. A number of meetings are needed to ensure Saleh's power transfer, he said, and those will take place over the next couple of weeks.

Hadi was cooperative, opposition officials said, and was willing to reach an agreement. Hasan Zaid with the opposition Haq Party, who was among those meeting with Hadi, said that "when the opposition discussed the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) proposal, the VP seemed insistent that it is the only solution that can transfer power in Yemen peacefully and safely."

Roots of Unrest: Protesters have called for the ouster of 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. 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. Saleh has promised not to run for president in the next round of elections.

TUNISIA

Former Tunisian President Zine el Abidine Ben Ali will be tried in absentia next week, the country's interim prime minister said Tuesday. Ben Ali's trial will start on Monday, interim Prime Minister Beji Caid Essebsi told Al Jazeera television.

The former strongman's political party has since been dissolved by a court order. Parliamentary elections have been scheduled for July. At least 300 people were killed and 700 injured during the Tunisian uprising, a top U.N. human rights expert said last month.

Earlier this month, Ben Ali said he has been unfairly portrayed and discredited by political opponents seeking to make a break with their country's past. Ben Ali said that recent searches conducted of his official and personal offices were "merely stage dressing" meant to discredit him.

Roots of Unrest: Protests against Ben Ali - who had ruled Tunisia since 1987 - began to erupt late last year. Fed up with corruption, unemployment and escalating prices of food, people began demonstrating en masse after the self-immolation suicide of a fruit cart vendor in December. Ben Ali fled to Saudi Arabia earlier this year after a revolt led to his ouster and triggered a wave of protests against longtime rulers across North Africa and the Middle East.

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Filed under: Arab unrest: developments • Libya • Syria • Tunisia • Yemen
soundoff (82 Responses)
  1. Michael E

    I have a paper I wrote regarding Why Islam Will Never Be Democratic.............

    write me at http://www.ejagsystems.com/ for a copy.

    June 14, 2011 at 8:49 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • bronzezeus

      Really?? Democracy has brought nothing but overkill on freedom where society is going out of control and the unregualted economy takes a brutal nosedive every ten years leaving thousands jobless and broke. Suggest ways to improve democracy before poking at others

      June 15, 2011 at 2:03 am | Report abuse |
  2. Mike Oxbig

    People need to understand that all that can be done is: educate our children and treat others like you would like to be treated.

    June 14, 2011 at 9:14 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • what's in a name

      so simple but Islam doesn't allow this unless you are a believer of – who knows what they are thinking?

      June 14, 2011 at 10:12 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Boehner- Weiner

    1) The relics get blowtorched! 2) Why are Ali & Al used so often in the Middle East?

    June 14, 2011 at 9:21 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Ivanhoe

    read more about Middle East turmoil and behind the scenes what caused all this in groundbreaking novel -> king of Bat'ha

    June 14, 2011 at 9:43 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  5. ajd041

    I don't understand why people brought up the time old religion argument in the first place I am a christian but don't really do much outside of church in expression and this is about the countries in turmoil not religion! Anyway I agree that the arab nations that are stable should set a good example and revert to a democracy that way more would follow suit. In addition the destruction of ruins hurts no lives and lives are more important than buildings despite being timeless no matter what if they try to remove the weapons something will get killed and think about it this way would u rather save an ancient village w/ no people whatsoever or save an entire town full of people from being destroyed?

    June 14, 2011 at 10:11 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Brian

    There is a solution to all of the problems that we are currently experiencing. The Peaceful Solution Character Education Program.

    June 14, 2011 at 11:56 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Gecul

    I'll take the ancient village with no people.

    June 15, 2011 at 12:16 am | Report abuse | Reply
  8. D Grant

    We need to leave each other alone period. Live and let live.

    June 15, 2011 at 12:49 am | Report abuse | Reply
  9. jon

    Osama,osama...where art thou Osama!!long live the warrior osama!!!!

    June 15, 2011 at 1:34 am | Report abuse | Reply
  10. jon

    I am thinking...Arbys!

    June 15, 2011 at 1:36 am | Report abuse | Reply
  11. killbill

    Has any body seen hangover 2...what a riot!!

    June 15, 2011 at 1:54 am | Report abuse | Reply
  12. naut humon

    By the time I read all the comments that have nothing to do with the article I forgot what I wanted to say. Oooh yea. When a country is in a time of financial crisis, what better to stimulate the economy than war. And better yet, a bunch of smaller wars. And better yet, a bunch of bad guys that don't really exist. Hey it got us @ war for the last 10 years. I don't care what religion you are. I'm going to tell you a secret because you don't know who I am. I may be a divine spirit. I may be a killer. I may be a old man. I could be a alien. I am a person and that means I'm touching you with my words. You all say how your going to get into the afterlife. Fight with each other over who's going to suffer and who's right. The secret that all you morons are missing is that the "god" will burn the best. Love one another and look out for your brother is the undertone in every single religious text ever written. You can say what you want but if you hurt another human for any reason that's just wrong. If everyone in the world could read this and personally follow those 2 rules, guess what. War would stop. Nobody would starve.
    Naut Humon. Were not your mothers music.

    June 15, 2011 at 3:08 am | Report abuse | Reply
  13. CynicLgrrl

    You ain't seen nothin' yet.

    June 15, 2011 at 3:47 am | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Joseph Zrnchik, MAJ (Ret.)

    This Gaddafi/Viagra nonsense is nothing but propaganda and information warfare directed against the American people to get them to go for ANOTHER illegal war. It also shows that the ICC is a tool of Western powers.

    Notice the rebels are in the part of the country that contains all the oil.

    NATO Making Libya a Failed State.

    http://beforeitsnews.com/story/707/207/NATO_Making_Libya_a_Failed_State.html

    June 16, 2011 at 7:51 pm | Report abuse | Reply
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