June 20th, 2011
01:19 PM ET

Arab 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.

GPS: Corruption and the Arab spring

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


- Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Monday offered vague promises of reform and clear threats against protesters. The Syrian leader said he was "working on getting the military back to their barracks as soon as possible" but also warned that the government would "work on tracking down everyone who shed blood or plotted in shedding the blood of the Syrian people, and we will hold them accountable." He raised the possibility of amending the country's constitution and referred to the need for a "national dialogue" - but made clear that his government would not engage in one-on-one talks with the opposition.

- Human rights activist Malath Aumran claimed that security forces attacked people at Aleppo University and arrested more than 50 students, some of whom were protesting against the Assad speech. CNN could not independently confirm the report.

- The European Union Monday condemned "in the strongest possible terms the worsening violence in Syria." The EU appealed to Syrian authorities to "put an immediate end to arbitrary arrests and intimidations, release all those arrested in connection with protests, as well as other political prisoners who remain in detention despite the recent amnesty."

- Syria's state news agency on Monday claimed a mass grave in Jisr al-Shugur - where thousands of people have fled a Syrian military offensive - contained "bodies of the martyrs of security forces and police who were assassinated by the armed terrorist gangs." The state news agency said a large cache of weapons had been discovered in the town, which is situated near the Turkish border.

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.


- NATO confirmed Monday that it carried out an airstrike against a high-level command and control center associated with Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's regime - an airstrike the Libyan government claims killed 15 people, among them three children. The target was "directly involved in coordinated and systematic attacks" against the Libyan people, NATO said. Earlier, NATO had denied the government's claims, saying it was not operating in the area at the time. Later, it said it was investigating the allegations.

What's really going on in Gadhafi's Tripoli? 

- Fighting was ongoing Monday between rebels and troops in Dafniya, west of Misrata. Several rounds of bombardments could be heard by a CNN crew, and three dead rebels were brought into a field hospital close to the front lines. Hospital staff said 20 other wounded rebels were also brought to the hospital. Earlier Monday, three other dead rebels were brought to a second field hospital.

- At least eight people died and 30 were wounded Sunday in the fighting in Dafniya, according to records at Al-Hikma hospital and a field hospital where casualties were being treated. Most of the dead appeared to be rebel fighters. Bombardments began in the area Sunday morning.

- On Sunday, NATO acknowledged an errant airstrike in Tripoli may have caused "a number of civilian casualties." Libya's government said nine people were killed and six injured when a NATO strike hit a residential neighborhood in the Libyan capital.

U.S. dispute grows over Libya funding

GPS: Congress barking, not biting on War Powers

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 velocity and strength and the movement to oust Gadhafi after more than four decades in power exploded into civil war. NATO began conducting airstrikes in March after a United Nations Security Council mandate to protect civilians.


- Ongoing clashes have left seven Yemeni soldiers and 17 Islamic militants dead in the past two days in the southern province of Abyan, a senior security official said Monday. At least eight soldiers were wounded in the clashes, and three of them were in serious condition, the official said. State-run Yemen TV reported that at least 17 al Qaeda militants have been killed in the fighting.

- On Sunday, more than 100 influential religious and tribal leaders said President Ali Abdullah Saleh was "injured seriously" in a June 3 attack on the mosque at the presidential palace, and should step down because he is unable to lead the country. In a statement circulated to media, the leaders called on Saleh to hand over powers to Vice President Abdu Rabu Mansoor Hadi.

What next for Yemen - implosion or a tribal bargain?

Officials loyal to Saleh have said the president, who is being treated in Saudi Arabia, will return when he has recovered. Among the signed the statement's signatories was Yemen's most influential cleric, Sheikh Abdul Majid al-Zindani, whom the United States considers a terrorist.

GPS: Yemen's battle of the sons

Roots of unrest: Inspired by the revolution that overturned Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, demonstrators on February 11 began protesting the 33-year-old regime of President Ali Abdullah Saleh. 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.


- A few thousand people turned out Sunday to protest in Morocco, saying King Mohammed VI's proposed constitutional reforms don't go far enough. Though many expressed support for their king to stay in power, demonstrators argued that a network of privilege and patronage surrounding him must end, and that he must part with more power than he has proposed.

- In a nationally televised address Friday, the king declared sweeping reforms that will boost the power of the prime minister and take away some of his own. The revamped draft constitution will make officials more accountable, the parliament in Rabat more dynamic and will give the government greater powers, the 47-year-old king said.

Roots of unrest: Protesters are seeking, among other things, political reforms to curb the power of the centuries-old monarchy. Like other nations in the region, Morocco is grappling with economic woes, including high unemployment.

soundoff (18 Responses)

    What the West needs to do is to adopt a laissez-faire policy toward the Middle East. In other words, let things take their course over there. Any interference from the West will do far more harm than any good so we need to take a hands off approach to that region.

    June 20, 2011 at 1:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Craig

      Fortunately, we have a great example of how that works, so we can look to history for possible lessons. Hmmmm. Let's see. As we shuffle through the pages here we find...Munich! Yup, let's take a hands-off approach to things in other countries and we'll all be much better off. Yup. That worked out real well, didn't.

      At some point you have to have the guts to stand up for humanity, regardless of where they live, what color their skin is, what religion they practice (including none) and some basic notions of human rights as a whole.

      Oh yeah. In case Munich doesn't ring a bell, try using Google to look up Adolf Hitler!

      June 20, 2011 at 4:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Terence

      All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing. Do we not have an obligation to help?

      June 20, 2011 at 5:30 pm | Report abuse |

      I noticed that Pope Benedict XVIII has been silent over the NATO bombing of Libya's cities lately. That's wrong. In fact, WW2 started because Germany refused to follow a laissez-faire foreign policy and Pope Pius XII said nothing and that makes you right,Terence. We need to quit electing these warmongering fools for President so that we once more can have peace!

      June 20, 2011 at 7:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Terence

      RUFFNUTT " Germany refused to follow a laissez-faire foreign policy ... so that we once more can have peace!"
      This is the center of the issue. Does it matter what leaders do to their own people in domestic affairs? In RUFFNUTT's view, if Hitler had only stuck to killing Jews in his own country, that would have been ok. Is there a moral imperative to help peaceful protesters from unfair imprisonment, torture, or killing? In RUFFNUTT's worldview, the most peaceful country would be China (Amnesty International says "Torture and other ill-treatment remained widespread"). Do we have an obligation to help? Obviously some like RUFFNUTT says NO.

      June 20, 2011 at 10:08 pm | Report abuse |
  2. felton

    And while all this is going on in these countries, Israel is on edge because the results of Syria & Yemen will directly affect their ability to gain an agreement with the Palestinians. Egypt's down fall has taken one of the 3 leg pillars of the Muslim foundation away, and it's the foundation that controls the emotions and actions of the Muslim people with respect to how they react to all issues of the Jewish State.

    June 20, 2011 at 2:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Belj

      Don't know that I would exactly call the removal of a brutal dictator renowned for torture and oppression (Mubarak) 'Egypt's downfall'; they are hoping for a more positive future and although there has been some turmoil there in the past few months, let's hope with them that they achieve that. I don't think the feelings towards Israel will change very much as a result of the Arab countries' revolutions, actions might but the feelings were there already. I think what is happening in these countries relates primarily to the future of the populations within them; people want change and to be rid of the oppressive leaders. You seem to be seeing it in a rather Israel-centric way. What happens in Arab countries matters to them in terms of their own futures, not in terms of the effect it will have on Israel.

      June 20, 2011 at 4:48 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Sparkey Murray

    I really feel sory for the people who are caught up in the massive unreast sweeping the area. Many are not even old enough to know what the fighting is all about! These are people, for the most part, whose mothers and fathers are fighting for Liberty and a Democratic State for themselves and their children. My hat goes off at the courageous and fearless civilians in these countries who want change and they want it now. I hope that peace will prevail in the area.

    June 20, 2011 at 2:14 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Hasselhoff

    That's not much of a promise. Doesn't sound like he's going to ease up on attacking civilians. This guy is a war criminal plain and simple and something needs to be done. Basically his speech means nothing. I feel sorry for the people of Syria. If the U.S. government did this to it's own people , I'm sure someone else would step in and help.

    June 20, 2011 at 2:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Belj

      Syrian protesters were detailing the number of attacks by Assad's forces on unarmed people after the speech. I haven't seen the full text but apparently Assad described his speech as 'beautiful'; sounds as if he was talking like a lunatic, by accounts of those who heard it. And he is murdering Syrians in huge numbers, he isn't capable of reform.Hope the UN resolution does not get vetoed.

      June 20, 2011 at 4:42 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Joe

    With less than .2% of the world's total population being Jewish, the world's focus is on these unique people who will be the major players in the end of times scenario that can be found in Bible prophecy.

    Out of a world population that numbers 6.9 billion people, the Jewish people and their very small nation in the Middle East has attracted the attention of the world. It seems that daily some world leader is talking about the Jewish state of Israel and what is happening there as it relates to the existence of this young nation among the nations of the world. The Jewish people came into existence 4000 years ago when Abraham became the Father of the Jews and passed that heritage along to his son and grandson Isaac and Jacob.

    Though there have been countless attempts to destroy the Jewish people down through the centuries God has protected a people that He calls His chosen people, that is according to Deuteronomy 7:6-8. In fact, God divided humankind on this earth and he set the bounds for them based upon the Jewish people in this world – that's recorded in Deuteronomy 32:8.

    Every student of Bible prophecy is aware that God's plan for the end times will happen in order to fulfill the Lord's promises to the Jewish people. Those promises found in the Abrahamic Covenant, (Genesis 15) the Land Covenant, (Deuteronomy 30) the Davidic Covenant, (II Samuel 7) and the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31).

    Though the Jewish people are small in numbers in our world today, they will be the major players for the last days. Bible prophecy will be fulfilled.

    June 20, 2011 at 2:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mycology

      with so much hatred and lies directed at the jews, it pains me sometimes that I carry this burden.. at least, it feels a burden sometimes, to be jewish. But I know I am what I am, and I know I am NOT what the haters / liars say I am,

      I am good, and I wish good on other people if they wish good on themselves and others. It seems so cheesey, it seems like empty words but... I hope we can find peace one day... we being ALL of us on Earth, not just jews.

      anyway, thanks for your kind words.

      June 20, 2011 at 4:41 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Taylor West

    For God sake leave the jews alone i thnk they been through enough..Evertime u turn around someone is trying to enslave them..

    June 20, 2011 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse |
  7. OaktonT

    Obama Doctrine: The American president can wage war against any nation, any time, for any reason, by any means, so long as they don't call it hostility. So we will just have to wait and see where he and the next president decide to attack.

    June 20, 2011 at 4:08 pm | Report abuse |
  8. David Minotti

    I once read that the energy needs of Europe could be filled with solar power placed in North Africa. Perhaps there are forces in play that wants to take the sovereignty of North African countries for this use. How about this little tidbit of wisdom. You don"t like your country, then leave. Thats how America got its population.

    June 20, 2011 at 10:32 pm | Report abuse |
  9. joe

    @Ruffnutt: you don't know what the hell you're talking about. WW2 started because Hitler thought he could control the world and every single country including Russia, the U.S. And Britain didn't want to go to war so they. Signed a non aggression treaty with Germany. Germany took full advantage of that fact a built it's military up sweeping through Europe in the process. America didn't sign a pact but they did state that they intended on staying out of it.

    June 21, 2011 at 9:40 am | Report abuse |
  10. joe

    It was pacifism that caused on our's and Britain's part that caused WW2.

    June 21, 2011 at 9:46 am | Report abuse |
  11. joe

    Sorry meant-it was pacifism, on our's and Britain's part, that caused WW2.

    June 21, 2011 at 11:59 am | Report abuse |