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. H.A.M 99

    The world has been Coming to a End, everyday since you were born! The question is; What can you do about it?

    June 14, 2011 at 4:33 pm | Report abuse |
  2. EVERFATHFUL

    Bother i,m try 2 get you to understand . abar in hebrew that is the word that is hidden. with a meaning. Somepeople are not to understand. In Romans God put some people in the state of stuper or slumber. Try finding out what things mean 4 yourself, instead of asking a sage. On Judgementday is that what you will tell your Father, because he told me 2, or because that is what some man said. Judgemeat comes 2 the pulpit frist.

    June 14, 2011 at 4:50 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Frank

    People of the United States of America and President Obama.
    Mr.President.in the words of your previous Religious Advisor Reverend Wright.
    It appears the Arab Worlds Chickens have come home to Roost.

    June 14, 2011 at 4:50 pm | Report abuse |
  4. George Patton

    Now those cursed NATO air forces want to bomb the ancient Roman ruins in Libya. This goes to show just how little the NATO leaders respect anything, the sleazebags! How revolting indeed!!!

    June 14, 2011 at 4:52 pm | Report abuse |
  5. EVERFATHFUL

    John was in the spirt on the Lords Day . In the Spirt!

    June 14, 2011 at 4:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • godless_blashpemer_heathen

      what the hell is spirt?

      June 14, 2011 at 5:29 pm | Report abuse |
  6. H.A.M 99

    We need more Packastani, Indian, and Hispanic immigraints, so we learn to understand them. We might be able to convert them.

    June 14, 2011 at 5:02 pm | Report abuse |
  7. bill

    the united states is going to be the next libya

    June 14, 2011 at 5:10 pm | Report abuse |
  8. H.A.M 99

    Name a Arab/Islamic leader, who can lead these countries out of the Arab spring. There is no history of Arab leadership in the world.

    June 14, 2011 at 5:14 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Aces

    Arab Spring = Muslim Califate

    June 14, 2011 at 5:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Santiago

      You need to come out of your bubble and do some research....

      June 14, 2011 at 7:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Michael E

      Why are we the only one's who see the truth in the Arab Spring...............

      June 14, 2011 at 8:46 pm | Report abuse |
  10. James

    Im glad im an american. And live in the best county in the world. Canada, 2nd best..

    June 14, 2011 at 6:02 pm | Report abuse |
  11. James

    Im glad im an american. And live in the best country in the world. Canada, 2nd best..

    June 14, 2011 at 6:03 pm | Report abuse |
  12. r.i

    there is a lot of comments but most of it did not express that;s there is a good readers for the history or for the article any way when you hire some person to cook for you you'll rest for while but for sure he'll learn and after that you can not control him and that's the future for NATO and all the nations whom created this unrest very soon they'll know what kind of evil they create when they supported those conservative Islamic groups

    June 14, 2011 at 6:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • leeintulsa

      @r.i: i think the arab world is going to surprise a lot of people. The dreadful Muslim Brotherhood is allying itself with more liberal parties.

      You might say they want to take them over. I say they are realizing they all want the same thing: freedom. Every thing else is petty, really.

      June 14, 2011 at 8:20 pm | Report abuse |
  13. EVERFAITHFUL

    Dear godless, the 4 @ 7 r 2 close on my phone. Lol good 1. SPRIT! AND GOOD LUCK WITH BEING godless

    June 14, 2011 at 7:23 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Good Morning Haters

    We need to invade all those countries and put a person of our choice in charge.

    June 14, 2011 at 7:26 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Mauser

    F******** middle east politics, armpit of the world.

    June 14, 2011 at 8:40 pm | Report abuse |
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