Breaking down Middle East and North Africa unrest, country by country
Protests have erupted against regimes in Bahrain, top left, Libya, top right, Yemen, bottom right, and Syria, bottom left.
June 1st, 2011
11:00 AM ET

Breaking down Middle East and North Africa unrest, 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 Abedine Ben Ali. In many cases, these demonstrations and movements have been met with brute force and escalated into seemingly unending violence.

We take a look at what's next for the 'Arab Spring,' the roots of unrest from country to country, and look at the latest developments going on.


On Wednesday, Bahrain lifted state-of-emergency laws that had allowed for a crackdown on opposition leaders and journalists, while warning against anti-government activity.

The announcement by the country's Information Affairs Authority followed one from the justice ministry the day before, warning against "any type of activities that could affect the security or harm the national peace and safety."

The lifting of the emergency laws, imposed in mid-March, is thought to be an effort to signal an end to months of civil unrest.

On Tuesday, Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa appealed for dialogue, saying that talks with opposition groups are scheduled to begin in July.

GPS: How radical are Bahrain's Shia?

Bahrain warns against state protests

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.

Young members of the country's Shiite Muslim majority have staged protests to complain about discrimination, unemployment and corruption, issues they say the country's Sunni rulers have done little to address.


Syria on Tuesday announced that it is granting "amnesty" to protesters accused of committing crimes.

But a report published by the state-run news agency seemed to suggest the protesters were not actually being offered amnesty, as in a general pardon, but were having their punishments for alleged crimes decreased.

An announcement on state-run television said Syrian President Bashar al-Assad issued a decree granting amnesty to protesters arrested for crimes committed before Tuesday.

The announcement came after weeks of Syrian officials describing some protesters as "terrorists" trying to destabilize the country.

Report: Syrian abuses could be 'crimes against humanity'

GPS: What Syria's neighbors are thinking

Roots of Unrest:

A U.N. official says that as many as 850 people may have died since the unrest began in mid-March after teens were arrested for writing anti-government graffiti in Daraa. 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.


Four missiles struck a compound where generals who defected from the Yemeni regime were meeting, a spokesman for the defected generals said Wednesday.

The spokesman, Askar Zuail, said there were no injuries or deaths as a result of the Tuesday-night assault, which he believes was committed by Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh's regime.

A government spokesman denied the report to Al Jazeera on Tuesday. A senior defense ministry official who did not want to be named for security reasons also denied the claim to CNN.

The generals who defected are now running the largest military base in Sanaa. But despite such cracks in Saleh regime, the deadly unrest rages on.

Fierce clashes erupted between government security forces and Hashed tribesmen Wednesday in front of the Ministry of Local Administration in Sanna, eyewitnesses and residents said.

The Hashed tribe has opposed government forces in intermittent fighting for more than a month.

Fifteen tribesmen have died and 31 have been injured from clashes in the past two days, said Abdul Qawi Qaisi, spokesman for the head of Hashed tribe.

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.


NATO has decided to extend its mission in Libya by 90 days, continuing a campaign that began in March, the alliance announced Wednesday.

Resolution 1973 was approved by the U.N. Security Council in March and authorized member states "to take all necessary measures to protect civilians under threat of attack in the country, including Benghazi, while excluding a foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory."

The Libyan government has accused NATO of killing hundreds of civilians and wounding thousands more, during a two-month long bombing campaign in Libya.

CNN cannot independently verify the figures.

Libya: Zuma did not discuss 'exit' plan

GPS: Can Libya's stalemate be broken?

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.

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Filed under: Arab unrest: developments • Bahrain • Libya • Middle East • Syria • Yemen
soundoff (139 Responses)
  1. Jazzzzzzzzzz

    you would think the Shiite majority would want their own to rule but its the Sunni Rulers who should take notice that the ppl are only asking of a more favorable monary for their ppl and not the ousting of the sitting Royal family in Bahrain

    June 1, 2011 at 10:04 am | Report abuse |
  2. George Patton

    The British make me sick! They keep on belly-hooing "freedom and democracy" but at the same time aid and abet the cursed Saudis in crushing the protesters in neighboring Bahrain who only want more freedoms than they have now. I get so sick and tired of hearing the British talking out of both sides of their mouths!!!

    June 1, 2011 at 10:29 am | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      I don't know how it is in the UK George, but here in the US the Saudi royal family owns entire FAMILIES of politicians. I assure you, no matter what out gvt says about supporting 'democracy', we will do NOTHING against the oppressive dictatorial theocracy called Saudi Arabia. I mean, these guys make Iran look positively progressive and western friendly... but they own too many people in too high of places here. Our government will never act against them or speak badly of them. They have too much money and too much influence. We will bomb Libya, we will sanction Syria, but if the King sends his thugs to quell uprisings in Bahrain or Saudi, we will be dead silent.

      So George, you can be disgusted with the UK for the same hypocrisy if you want, I will be disgusted with the US.

      (neither defending nor exonerating the UK here, just saying my own country is at LEAST as bad about claiming to be pro-democracy, while we smooch the rear end of the dictators that are our 'friends'... like the King of Saudi Arabia... Find me a _LESS_ democratic state than Saudi, and I will buy you a pint)

      Actually, come to think of it, most of the time we say we are fighting for 'democracy' we are doing no such thing. Usually 'democracy' is a code word for 'capitalism'... not just any capitalism mind you, but a form most friendly to the big moneyed interest that out and out own both of our political parties here.

      June 1, 2011 at 2:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • George Patton

      Well said,Dave. Actually,I'm even more disgusted with the right-wing thugs in Washington than I am with the British,especially with the unmitigated arrogance of both Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton. My sincere apologies.

      June 1, 2011 at 4:32 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Alejandro Dron

    'Fill the hole with water and then split it". Hydrogen
    Graphic Commentaries on the Middle East

    June 1, 2011 at 11:54 am | Report abuse |
  4. Ellis

    Good post George,thank you.

    June 1, 2011 at 11:57 am | Report abuse |
  5. countryboy

    Death and destruction in the last days. http://WWW.CDBABY.COM/ALL/NUMONE bye now.

    June 1, 2011 at 11:59 am | Report abuse |
  6. descarado

    Although he is showing signs of nervousness, Thomas Friedman is still chanting his "Arab Spring" mantra in the NY Times. It is hard to believe that one man could be so wrong about a situation. The good news is, Friedman is not in government. The bad news is, Friedman is Obama's delusional parrot. This is "Arab Spring" for the Muslim Brotherhood, not for anything resembling democracy.

    June 1, 2011 at 12:03 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Bradford E. Nelms

    I was hoping that this article would discuss in depth the different religious sects of countries in the regions of unrest and their political parties such as Bahrain and Syria. I am desperately trying to understand the divisionism amongst those that are protesting and those that back their government ... I am certain it is complex, but please give the world more understanding of the backgrounds, Country by Country. Why is there such hate that the Basher government in Syria resorts to shooting at the heads of protestors, rounding up of Human Rights activists, and so much torture and detentions? Why do those that support the government deny such acts or do not even care of the extreme lack of Justice? Please write an article to educate the 'West' and to help us comprehend. ~ Peace through Understanding

    June 1, 2011 at 12:22 pm | Report abuse |
  8. PhilG.

    Who do you tell they cannot unbind the straps of opression that have held back the majority of thewir fellow citizens to the benefit of the rich,very few.

    There are lessons in the Middle Eastern unrest that the very filthy rich and the well funded politicians in America better learn as well.

    You can't take all the wealth out of a nation and expect it's people to stay silent forever.

    And when they have been silent as long as there populations have-it's like a tsunami wave that drowns everything in chaos.

    June 1, 2011 at 12:24 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Riff*Raff

    Syria has been under martial law for 48 years!? Syria would be best advised to not renege on their promises of amnesty. If they do,things will just get worse. It may be time for the ICC to step in for the human rights abuses. Its Bashar's brother who oversees the military. The Bashar's seem to be a bloodthirsty family who will defend 'their' country @ all costs. .It seems that the unhappinessis due to high unemployment. The people want opportunities like everyone else. Doesnt this all sound like Iraq circa 2001?
    I also find it interesting that Libya started over an incomplete housing project.

    June 1, 2011 at 1:12 pm | Report abuse |
  10. jonathan

    Forgot to mention the root of palestinian unrest, which is zionists killing them, kicking them off their land and continued occupation, persecution and abuse by the israelis. Give the palestinians their rights, treat them as equals instead of as goyim and you'll see peace spread throughout the region. Any who say otherwise are only doing so to further the zionist agenda, apartheid, and continued violence in the region

    June 1, 2011 at 1:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • mark

      You hit the nail on the head! I'm sick of the biased, one sided media that makes israel look like an angel while other countries who have done less harm face war crime charges.

      June 1, 2011 at 1:17 pm | Report abuse |
  11. amy

    Jonathan you're so right. That is the only solution. Israel has to make "concessions"...south africa did, now it's their turn to give the palestinians their rights

    June 1, 2011 at 1:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • yaakov

      I am israeli and agree. We should give the arabs ther rights and make them citizen of israel. I have many arab friend and we not better them. We the same. Children of abraham

      June 1, 2011 at 1:28 pm | Report abuse |
  12. justice

    The world, especially the usa, needs to wake up. It's a simple equation -no justice no peace. This applies all across the middle east. We can't keep up our hypocrisy, supporting despots that support us while still preaching democracy. We also need to be fair between the israelis and palestinians. We have to stop listening to aipac and start working for a just solution for the greater piece

    June 1, 2011 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • justice


      June 1, 2011 at 1:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • David

      u sound like a filthy arab. We will take all of our land from the arabs. Theres no such thing as a "palestinian". The land is ours and I dunt care if they've been there for hundreds of years.

      June 1, 2011 at 1:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • ali

      David, this is the kind of prejudice and simple minded hatred that prevents peace. Get a life

      June 1, 2011 at 1:56 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Texan

    It all starts and ends with Israel giving up their notion of j*ewish superiority and recognizing palestinians right to exist peacefully in their own homeland. Israeli war crimes and abuses started the trickle down across the middle east and forces our country to support dictators in the area so long as they put up with israels inhumane treatment of the occupied palestinians. Lets play fair and good things can and will happen

    June 1, 2011 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Smell the coffee

    The problem in the midle east is IRAN, stop blaming the jewish, they will be a big problem to the world,arabes been to unite and bring them down.

    June 1, 2011 at 2:06 pm | Report abuse |
  15. angeleyes

    Palestinians don't want peace they want it all. Land for peace hasn't worked for thousands of years. Iran and egypt and everyone else wants the Jewish nation to cease to exist. Aint gonna happen. God gave that land to the seed of Abraham and I don't care how much they whine. It was never their land and it never will be. And if Nobama thinks they are going back to 1967 borders he is as stupid as I think he is.
    One more thing I have to get out. Don't pull the race card. That is getting old. He's only have black the otlher half is white. Get over it

    June 1, 2011 at 2:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Adam

      Arabs are sons of Abraham. So you stop whining. you've left it for 3000 years and now you re coming back. Stay away plz.

      June 1, 2011 at 2:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      So... God is providing binding legal contracts these days?

      I am actually pro-Israel most of the time. Glad they exist and support their right to exist. I disagree with their actions pretty often though.

      But to claim 'God gave it to them' is dangerous at best. Yes, yes, you have an old book translated countless times that says it's theirs... guess what? Muslims have an old book that says it's theirs. Christians thought it was theirs for a while too (the crusades and all that). Maybe the Buddhists should claim it next, they haven't had a good 'holy war' for a while....

      If you want to be a pious person I can respect that, but statements like this are gas to the flame. Religion is the PROBLEM not the solution. (Oh, I am sure religion is the solution when it's _YOUR_ religion... the one true religion that separates you from all of us heretics and infidels, but to anyone else, it's the problem)

      Mostly because there are 2 possibilities in the long term over Israel/Palestine;
      Compromise or Genocide.

      Not much room for much else. The status quo is untenable, at no point has Israel enjoyed real peace.

      Bringing religion into the mix means we are now operating on absolute Truth (note the capital T). When religious 'truth' gets dragged into politics compromise becomes an impossibility.

      So whether you realize it or not, what you propose is for one side or the other to finally and ultimately eradicate their rivals. Because as long as religion is the basis of the argument, people will fight and die until the entire world is in flames. Each fighting for what they KNOW is right, what they KNOW God wants for the world. (Although more likely what their religious leader told them God wants for the world). And now that you are looking at this with a religious paradigm, you won't compromise. God said it belongs to them and that is FINAL.

      This is why I say religion is the problem, not the solution here.

      June 1, 2011 at 2:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • David

      Many arabs I know want peace. Unfortunately, we jews want the entire piece. We have to begin considering the arabs as our equals and not our slaves. shalom

      June 1, 2011 at 3:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Washington

      Arabs are sons of Abraham
      In their dreams! Muhammed never visited Jerusalem, nor is it in the Koran. The first and Second Jewish Temples were built THOUSANDS of yearsbefore the first Arab stepped foot out of the Arabian Peninsula.
      They have zero claim..

      June 1, 2011 at 4:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brian Gold

      You just said that God gave them that land... does your brain work? Since when did God become a real estate agent in the 20th Century? What would the world look like today if we all went back to where our ancestors lived for sometime 4,000 years ago? Are you laughing right now because I am haha. By the way, when zionism started in eastern europe in the late 1800's the first place the decided to go was UGANDA! Then it was MADAGASCAR! Then it was ARGENTINA! Then in 1897 they decided to take Palestine because it made the most biblical sense. These were aristocrat Jews for your information some were atheists. Israel is a criminal settler state that was founded on racism. Do your homework and look up the history because i was a zionist before i did but now that i know the truth, you have to be blind deaf dumb and stupid to be a supporter of israel. No where in the torah does it say we should have a homeland, only until the arrival of the messiah. Your ignorance makes me sick! this comment is blasphemy and is packed with lies and israeli propaganda the only way for their to be peace is for a one Palestinian state, with a fully functional democratic government where anyone can run for office despite race or religion they just need to be a citizen. Thats the truth and the way netanyahu addressed Obama's peace plan is only speeding up the demise of israel. People are starting to wake up.

      June 1, 2011 at 4:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • washington you lie

      Washington, it is in the quran and even if it wasnt that doesn't mean that the jews should continue their apartheid and genocide of the palestinians. The palestinians were there long before the there was never "a land without a people for a people without a land"...

      June 1, 2011 at 4:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • KeeKeeDee

      Angeleyes, when you've spent just one day imprisoned in your home; when you have to ask an 18-year-old kid holding a machine gun for permission to visit your dying mother; when you wake up every day unsure if that 18-yr-old will give you permission to go to school or work, then–and, kindly, only then–try to imagine doing that every day of your entire life, along with each and every member of your family. Then, possibly, you could imagine how you'd vent your frustration,when the only resource you have to fight back against an army of giant men armed with weapons is the rock under your foot.

      Thanks, hon.

      June 1, 2011 at 7:10 pm | Report abuse |
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