An epoch of unrest


Considered to be the catalyst of the uprisings in Northern Africa, civil resistance sparked as 26-year-old Mohamed Bouazizi publicly lit himself on fire. Mass protests subsequently ensued following this act of defiance in the capital of Tunis calling for the removal of President Ben Ali from office. The movement was fueled over years of poor living conditions, food inflation and profound levels of corruption. Finally yielding to domestic pressures, President Ben Ali stepped down and fled the country on Jan. 14 after 23 years of power.


Protests began in various cities around Jordan, including the capital of Amman, calling for the removal of Prime Minister Samir Rifai. Attempting to quell surmounting protests, King Abdullah dissolved the government and appointed ex-army general Marouf al-Bakhit to organize a new cabinet.


Opposition formed around proposed amendments to the constitution and quickly escalated into major demonstration. Protestors called for the resignation of President Saleh. In response, Saleh announced that he will not run for re-election in 2013 and that the position will not be handed down to his son, Ahmed.


Demonstrations in Tahrir square in the capital city of Cairo resonated throughout the country as the epicentre of growing distaste for President Hosni Mubarak. Witness accounts estimated that a minimum of 250,000 protestors filled the square, with an additional million taking to adjacent streets. During the 18-day demonstrations Mubarak disbanded the government and introduced a vice president for the first time in almost 30 years. Following a meek promise to refrain from running for re-election, Mubarak finally stepped down as president and left executive power to the Egyptian armed forces. Temporarily suspending the constitution, the military is currently charged with drafting a brand new constitution with free elections set for the end of the year.


Unemployment and poor economic conditions inspired hundreds to take to the streets in protest. The Sultan of Oman, Qaboos bin Said Al Said, took to a cabinet shake up in hopes of pacifying growing unrest. Al Said has vowed to create an additional 50,000 jobs within the government while increasing unemployment benefits.


Spurred by the collapse of the government in early Jan., hundreds amassed in Beirut to oppose Lebanon’s sectarian government, formally known as confessionalism.


Within three days of protest, Libya’s second city, Benghazi, was already under opposition control, successfully repelling government forces. Domestic conditions quickly attracted international attention, deteriorating into mass humanitarian crisis. Many fear that Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi may launch airborne attacks to repel protestors as coalition forces debate the possibility of enacting a no-fly zone over Libya. In recent developments, the EU has announced the formation of a summit on March 11 to discuss how to proceed with developments in Libya and other nations in the Middle East and Northern Africa.

–Compiled by Alexandros Mitsiopoulos