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.


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.


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'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.


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. Joey Isotta-Fraschini

    If Gadhafi hides his military power in Roman ruins, I say, "bombs away."

    June 14, 2011 at 10:10 am | Report abuse |
  2. JT

    I am so sick and tired of the casey anthony case I will literally punch the first person who I see talking about it. Fortunately most rational people I know (indeed everyone I know, including the crazies) also couldn't care less about it and have never mentioned it. Why can't the few idiots on CNN get with the picture...

    June 14, 2011 at 10:46 am | Report abuse |
  3. CSnSC

    Yet you feel the need to post a comment on an unrelated story. Stop obssesing JT.

    June 14, 2011 at 10:53 am | Report abuse |
  4. Brian

    A similar dilemma was faced during WWII in Italy. People did not want to destroy the Monestary at Monte Casino despite the fact that it was being used by the Germans as an Observation Post. In the End General Eisenhower decided that as always lives are more important than relics. If a choice must be made it should be to protect the people not the ruins.

    June 14, 2011 at 10:56 am | Report abuse |
  5. tom

    ESURANCE advertisement before video of a MASS GRAVE?

    You should be ashamed of yourselves even if it wasn't your decision to place it there.

    Advertisements before tragedy are in very poor taste in my opinion.

    June 14, 2011 at 11:07 am | Report abuse |
  6. R

    What about India ? One of the most corrupt country in the world. There is a movement going on in the country to stop corruption and yes, people died there too. Why CNN is not posting ? Why Farid Zakaria is not speaking about it ?
    1. Because, this is not entirely Muslim's movement. So if its not Islamist, its not important and lives lost there is acceptable causality for CNN.
    2. Non-violent protest. No action, no fun for CNN.
    3. Its not the only reason, why Farid Zakaria is not talking about it. Farid Zakaria's dad was part of most corrupt govt. in India. He supports people who are involved in scam. Farid's silence here is most criminal.
    CNN = Corrupt News Network.
    – I believe, corruption should be opposed in every part of world in any form. CNN cannot support corruption in one country and oppose in other.

    June 14, 2011 at 11:41 am | Report abuse |
    • saywhat

      India, Kashmir,Palestine – these are not our problems.
      God knows we have enough on our plate right now to keep us busy for decades. Bombing Libya, Afghanistan & North West of Pakistan, fighting on the ground in Iraq, Afghanistan & Yemen. Preparing for a war in Syria and Iran.

      Drug cartels in Mexico, arms smuggling, violent crime, jails over flowing, jobs, health care, education, crumbling infrastructure, immigration, economy, our states & cities going bankrupt. These are irritants. We don't have time for these and the money. Americans can get by as they are doing now.
      We are up to our necks in debt feeding wars and our military. Do you folks want us to borrow more ? Hunh??

      June 14, 2011 at 12:09 pm | Report abuse |
  7. smellyfeet

    nuke 'em and pave over the remains of their worthless countries. All of them. Not kidding.

    June 14, 2011 at 11:50 am | Report abuse |
  8. Ry

    There will be wars and rumors of wars. Jesus wins in the end. No need to fear. I know some of you athiests out there will have some rude remarks, but thats ok. I appreciate your views and ideas just as much ad my own. My prayer is that these countries will find peace and unity someday. Its hard to watch humans killing humans on the news day after day after day.

    June 14, 2011 at 12:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jay

      not sure why it isn't posting my first reply but your dispensational view of the new testament is really alarming, because it is shared with the modern american church and is a relatively new intepretation of scripture, dating back to the late 1800's. it creates an apathy in christians that keeps them from being the good stewards we are called to be by god. Reformist theology is a more accurate intepretation of scripture based on historical knowledge of language and not just literal translation of words

      furthermore every single generation from the apostles to the modern church believed they were living in the end of time. I doubt this one finally guessed right, just sayin

      June 14, 2011 at 12:58 pm | Report abuse |
  9. dacodah

    smellyfeet... i totally agree with youi

    June 14, 2011 at 12:29 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Jay

    The united states want you to think this is in opposition to oppresive governments but in actuality its Extremist muslims who are attempting to topple governments aligned with the west who they consider to be too moderate for the Caluphet. Wake up people, the middle east is on the brink sliding back another 100 years politically

    June 14, 2011 at 12:47 pm | Report abuse |
  11. elyeonora

    Humans are self destructive creatures.Because of this wars, greed, murder, coruption will continue. As far as america goes ower problems won't stop until the american people grow a set. When the goverment goes bad we have a right to destroy the goverment and rebuild it. But until you people relize that putting ower problems in the hands of coruptpolitians isn't gonna change anything. Ower problems will continue.

    June 14, 2011 at 12:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jay

      that's spelled our, just saying

      June 14, 2011 at 1:00 pm | Report abuse |
  12. ProIsrael

    The Mahdi is coming!! The Mahdi is coming!!! The Mahdi is coming!!! Oops! He's the real antichrist!! Embrace Jesus your true Lord and Savior!! He speaks the truth.

    June 14, 2011 at 12:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • mkakeh

      In Islam Jesus (God's blessings be upon him) IS CONSIDERED THE MESSIAH!!! The only difference is he is not considered the son of God, just a Messenger and Prophet of God. Muslims are required to believe in the teachings of Jesus, it is one of the Pillars of Faith and if you do not believe in the teachings of Jesus YOU ARE NOT A MUSLIM!!! In Islam they believe that Jesus (God's peace and blessings be upon him) was raised up to heaven and will return in the future and kill the anti-Christ before the end of days. Bet you didn't know that genius.

      June 14, 2011 at 1:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • ProIsrael

      Hey genius??? Did I know that? Yes I sure did!!! Jesus IS the son of God!!! He is our Savior not the Mahdi!! I bet you didn't know that did you Mr.-Know-It-All. In the Muslim myth is that their Mahdi and Jesus is their prophet will kill the Dajjal (the antichrist). Well my Jesus and my God will kill the antichrist...and that will be the Mahdi and the their false Jesus.

      June 14, 2011 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • mkakeh

      My mistake then, I applaud your knowledge of multiple faiths. I guess we will have to wait and see who is right. Also, the concept of Jesus as the Son of God wasn't unilaterally believed throughout Christendom until the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD made the ruling of Chirst as a deity (a large minority of Christians believed that Jesus was not the son of God but just a Prophet and the Messiah) . No need for the hate pal, as I said we can wait and see who is right and then whoever is right can gloat all they want and say I told you so.

      June 14, 2011 at 3:26 pm | Report abuse |

    You left out Saudi Arabia, Bah Rain, Sudan, Qatar.

    June 14, 2011 at 1:10 pm | Report abuse |
  14. sick n tired

    So how long before we see the same type of "protests" right here in the Divided States of America?

    June 14, 2011 at 1:10 pm | Report abuse |

    The time for Kings and Monarchs is over. In the world today people know if they are slaves. The only way to suppress it, is with violence.

    June 14, 2011 at 1:30 pm | Report abuse |
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