Unrest Begins in Tunisia Like many other young Tunisians, Mohammed Bouazizi was struggling to make a living in impoverished Tunisia. Although he had graduated high school, opportunities were little and he managed to support his family of 8 for seven years by selling produce from a pushcart. But on Dec. 17 his livelihood was threatened when a policewoman confiscated his unlicensed vegetable cart and its goods.. Not satisfied with accepting the 10-dinar fine that Bouazizi tried to pay ($7, the equivalent of a good day's earnings), the policewoman allegedly slapped the scrawny young man, spat in his face and insulted his dead father. Humiliated and dejected, Bouazizi, went to the provincial headquarters, hoping to complain to local officials, but they refused to see him. At 11:30 a.m., Bouazizi returned to the government offices, poured fuel over himself and set himself on fire. He did not die right away but lingered in the hospital until Jan. 4. The event represented the frustration of hopeless poverty, corruption, and lack of civil rights felt by many in Tunisia and sparked massive protests. On Jan. 14, just 10 days after Bouazizi died, Ben Ali', the dictator of Tunisia for 23-years, stepped down.
Algeria • Anti-government demonstrations began in January 2011 over escalating food prices, high unemployment and housing issues. The protests started in the capital but spread to other cities after regimes fell in Tunisia and Egypt. • A month later, Algerian President AbdelazizBouteflika lifted restrictions on freedom of speech and ended a 19 year law being used to muzzle critics of the government. • Bouteflika announced in April 2011 that a commission would be reviewing the country's constitution and that changes must be made to strengthen democracy.
Egypt • Inspired by the success of Tunisia's uprising, thousands of Egyptians turned out in January 2011 to voice their own displeasure with the government. • President Hosni Mubarak promised reform after protesters used social media to organize a 'Day of Rage,' but he eventually gave in to demands that he step down after nearly 30 years of rule. • The frustrations expressed by Egyptians were similar to those expressed by Tunisians: authoritarian rule, police corruption, a lack of free elections, and a woeful economy with high unemployment and low wages. • Violent protests resumed in November as many Egyptians expressed concern about the country's military leaders and their grip on power. • Mubarak has been sentenced to life in prison for ordering the killing of demonstrators.
Morocco • Moroccan voters approved sweeping constitutional reforms last year to weaken the powers of King Mohammed VI and boost those of the government. • The revamped constitution, proposed by the king himself, makes officials more accountable, he said before the referendum. It also empowers voters to select a prime minister, ending the longstanding practice in which the king has selected his own man for the job. • Thousands of young Moroccans took to the streets in 2011, calling for jobs and an end to corruption that many people say comes from royal cronies. In November's election, a moderate Islamist party won an overwhelming victory
Anti-government protests turned into an all-out civil war after Libyan security forces began firing on demonstrators in February 2011. Rebels established a headquarters in the eastern city of Benghazi, 600 miles away from the western capital of Tripoli. In a televised speech, leader Moammar Gadhafi swore that he would die a martyr rather than give up the power he had held since 1969. The United Nations responded by freezing Gadhafi's assets, imposing an arms embargo and banning international travel by Gadhafi and his family. Later, the U.N. Security Council voted to impose a no-fly zone over Libya and take 'all necessary measures' to protect civilians from Gadhafi's forces. By late August, Gadhafi had lost his hold on power. Rebel fighters made deep gains inside Tripoli (the capital). On October 20, Gadahfi was hunted down by rebel forces and executed by an 18 year old fighter. Libya
Yemen • In January 2011, protesters began calling for the ouster of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who had ruled Yemen since 1978. • On November 23, after months of bloodshed, Saleh signed a deal to immediately hand over powers to the vice president. • High unemployment fuels much of the anger among a growing young population. People have also cited government corruption and a lack of political freedom as reasons for their outrage. • The transfer of power backed by the United States and the European Union, allowed Saleh to resign in exchange for immunity from prosecution. • Saleh's vice president, Abdurabu Mansur Hadi, was sworn in as the country's new president in February. Saleh still wields political power as head of the ruling party.
Jordan • Jordan's King Abdullah II announced sweeping reforms in June, promising to establish a parliamentary majority government -- a key demand of protesters calling for changes to the regime. • The king also announced economic reforms, including changes to the country's tax system in order to "raise the level of competitiveness, enhance the atmosphere for investment, secure work opportunities for youth and maintain the state's active, observatory role in an open-market economy.“ • Jordan's economy has been hit hard by the global economic downturn and rising commodity prices, and youth unemployment is high.
Syria • The Syrian government, led by President Bashar al-Assad, has been accused of violently cracking down on activists who are demanding more economic prosperity, political freedom and civil liberties. • The death toll exceeds 7,500, according to U.N. estimates in February, and there are fears that the situation could soon result in full-scale civil war. • U.S. President Barack Obama and other global leaders have imposed economic sanctions on al-Assad, whose family has ruled Syria since 1970. They've also called for him to give up power. • Throughout the uprising, the Syrian government has described opposition leaders as terrorists looking to destabilize the country. Opposition leaders say those claims are a ruse to justify attacks on protesters. In the most recent episode of violence on May 26, group of villages in the northwest were bombed, killing more than 90 people, including at least 32 children under the age of 10. There are talks of U.N. intervention but China and Russia continue to resist sending troops to the region.