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Unrest in the Middle East and Africa -- country by country

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • Bahrain
  • Cameroon
  • Djibouti
  • Egypt
  • Iran
  • Iraq
  • Kuwait
  • Libya
  • Morocco
  • Syria
  • Yemen

(CNN) -- Demonstrations have spread across a swath of the Middle East and Africa. Here are the latest developments, including the roots of the unrest:

Friday developments:


Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's supporters "are reportedly conducting house-by-house searches and arrests. According to some reports, they have even gone into hospitals to kill wounded opponents," U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said Friday.

On state television, Gadhafi -- wearing a fur trooper's hat and addressing a crowd of supporters -- threatened to escalate the violence. "We can destroy any assault with the people's will, with the armed people," he said. "And when it is necessary, the weapons depots will be open to all the Libyan people to be armed."

Roots of unrest:

Protests in Libya began in January when demonstrators, fed up with delays, broke into a housing project the government was building and occupied it. Gadhafi's government, which has ruled since a 1969 coup, 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 the Abu Salim prison, according to Human Rights Watch. High unemployment has also fueled the protests.


Demonstrators clashed with security forces around Iraq on Friday in confrontations that killed at least five people and wounded many others. Protesters attacked and burned government offices in several cities, with particularly intense skirmishes in the northern Iraqi cities of Mosul and Hawijah.

Unrest also flared in Falluja, Ramadi and in two towns in the province of Salaheddin, as well as Baghdad where protesters railed against what they deemed corruption and poor government services.

Roots of unrest:

Demonstrations in Iraq have usually not targeted the national government. Instead, the protesters are angry over corruption, the quality of basic services, a crumbling infrastructure and high unemployment, particularly on a local level. They want an end to frequent power outages and food shortages.


Thousands of demonstrators, mostly students, lined streets outside Sanaa University on Friday, continuing their protests against long-time President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Anti-government throngs also were visible in the southern Yemeni city of Aden, according to eyewitnesses. Eyewitnesses reported that security forces tried to disperse the crowd with tear gas and attacked using batons -- an account authorities disputed. Protests also were reported in the cities of Taiz and Ibb.

The protest in Sanaa, the capital, was countered by a pro-government demonstration on Tahrir Square, where thousands waved flags and held up pictures of President Saleh.

Roots of unrest:

Protesters have called for the ouster of 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.


Hassan Mushaimaa, the leader of Bahrain's largest opposition party, said Friday he didn't know when he would be able to return home and blamed the kingdom for blocking his return. He said he had been detained in Lebanon.

Protesters have continued to mass at the Pearl Roundabout in the capital, Manama. They were buoyed this week by the king's release of high-profile political prisoners.

Roots of unrest:

Protesters initially took to the streets of Manama last week to demand reform and the introduction of a constitutional monarchy. But some are now calling for the removal of the royal family, which has led the Persian Gulf state since the 18th century. Young members of the country's Shiite Muslim majority have staged protests in recent years to complain about discrimination, unemployment and corruption, issues they say the country's Sunni rulers have done little to address. The Bahrain Center for Human Rights said authorities launched a clampdown on dissent in 2010. It accused the government of torturing some human rights activists.


Several thousand people protested Friday in Cairo's Tahrir Square to urge Egypt's new rulers to implement promised reforms. They pressed Egypt's Supreme Council to end an emergency law and release political prisoners, among other things. They also pressed for civilian representation in the government.

Roots of unrest:

Complaints about police corruption and abuses were among the top grievances of demonstrators who forced President Hosni Mubarak from office. Demonstrators were also angry about Mubarak's 30-year rule, a lack of free elections and economic issues such as high food prices, low wages and high unemployment.


Thousands of demonstrators -- many of them young and unemployed recent graduates of universities around the country -- flocked to Kasbah Square on Friday in Tunis to demand the election of a constitutional assembly and the resignation of the transitional government.

The interim government came to power after an uprising prompted autocratic President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali to leave the country on January 14. Those demonstrations sparked protests around North Africa and the Middle East.

Roots of unrest

The revolt was triggered when an unemployed college graduate set himself ablaze after police confiscated his fruit cart, cutting off his source of income. Protesters complained about high unemployment, corruption, rising prices and political repression.


Several hundred people gathered Friday in a rare demonstration in Noakchott, the northwest African nation's capital, calling for social and political reforms. The protests were organized via Facebook. Police gathered around the demonstrators, but did not intervene.

Roots of unrest

In January, a man set himself on fire in front of the presidential palace, according to news reports -- a self-immolation in the same spirit as others in Tunisia, Egypt and Algeria and elsewhere. There have been two bloodless coups since 2005 in the country, which borders Algeria and Mali, with ex-general Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz serving as president since 2009.


The U.N. Security Council met Friday to discuss a response to the Libyan crisis, after which Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon made numerous allegations against leader Moammar Gadhafi's government that he said "raise grave concerns about the nature and scale of the conflict." The world body's human rights commission also met Friday and recommended expelling Libya from its ranks. Meanwhile, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights said Libya's crackdown on protesters was "escalating alarmingly" and "thousands may have been killed or injured."

Some key recent events related to unrest in the Middle East and Africa:


Algeria lifted its 19-year-old state of emergency on Tuesday, February 22, according to the National Algerian Press Agency. The action lifts restrictions on freedom of speech and assembly imposed to combat an Islamist insurgency.

Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika announced this month that he would lift the emergency declaration, first imposed in 1992 and indefinitely renewed in 1993.

Roots of unrest:

Protests began in January over escalating food prices, high unemployment and housing issues. They started in Algiers but spread to other cities as more people joined and demonstrators toppled regimes in Tunisia and later Egypt. Analysts called Bouteflika's announcement about lifting the state of emergency law an attempt to head off a similar revolt.


Thousands of people have marched in protest through Djibouti. On Friday, February 18, riot police charged the crowd after the call to evening prayers, shooting canisters of tear gas at the demonstrators, according to Aly Verjee, director of the international election observation mission to Djibouti, who witnessed the event.

Djibouti is home to Camp Lemonnier, the only U.S. military base on the African continent.

Roots of unrest:

Protesters have called for President Ismail Omar Guelleh -- whose family has ruled the country since its independence from France in 1977 -- to step down ahead of elections scheduled in April. Guelleh has held the post since 1999 and is seeking a third term. Economic stagnation is also a source of anger among the people.


Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad urged Middle Eastern leaders this week to listen to the voices of citizens who have taken to the streets in masses to demand a change in government -- though such protests in his country have been crushed with brute force since February 14.

In Tehran, thousands of security officers patrolled Revolution Square on Sunday, February 20, at times striking at throngs of protesters with batons and rushing others on motorcycles. Opposition websites reported that security forces opened fire on protesters in Hafteh Tir Square, killing one person. Several were reported injured and detained. In Isfahan, protesters were met with batons and pepper spray in one square, while another peaceful march took place elsewhere under the watch of security agents.

Roots of unrest:

Opposition to the ruling clerics has simmered since the 2009 election, when hundreds of thousands of people filled Tehran streets to denounce Ahmadinejad's re-election as fraudulent.


Protesters in Jordan have called for reforms and for abolishing the peace treaty between Jordan and Israel. On Friday, February 18, about 200 people clashed with pro-government demonstrators in Amman. Several people were reported injured. Anti-government protesters who participated in those demonstration included leftists and independent activists demanding political and economic reforms.

Roots of unrest:

Jordan's economy has been hit hard by the global economic downturn and rising commodity prices, and youth unemployment is high, as it is in Egypt. Officials close to the palace have told CNN that King Abdullah II is trying to turn a regional upheaval into an opportunity for reform. He swore in a new government following anti-government protests. The new government has a mandate for political reform and is headed by a former general, with opposition and media figures among its ranks.


Protesters in Kuwait have clashed with authorities on at least two occasions. Hundreds of protesters are demanding greater rights for longtime residents who are not citizens of the country. They also demanded the release of people arrested in demonstrations. On Saturday, February 19, protesters attacked the security forces, who managed to disperse people and make arrests. The forces used tear gas on the demonstration involving between 200 and 400 protesters.

Roots of unrest:

Protesters are seeking greater rights for longtime residents who are not Kuwaiti citizens, an issue the country has been grappling with for decades. According to the CIA World Factbook, Kuwait has 2.7 million people, with 1.3 million registered as "non-nationals."


Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has decided not to run for another term in 2015, a senior member of Sudan's ruling National Congress Party said. Al-Bashir has ruled since a military coup in 1989. He won another five-year term in a 2010 vote that opposition parties boycotted over complaints of fraud. He also faces an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court on charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity in the region of Darfur.

Demonstrators have clashed with authorities on recent occasions in Sudan. Human Rights Watch has said that "authorities used excessive force during largely peaceful protests on January 30 and 31 in Khartoum and other northern cities." Witnesses said several people were arrested, including 20 who remain missing.

Roots of unrest:

Demonstrators seek an end to National Congress Party rule and government-imposed price increases, according to Human Rights Watch. It accuses the government of being heavy-handed in its response to demonstrations, and using pipes, sticks and tear gas to disperse protesters.


As protests heated up around the region, the Syrian government pulled back from a plan to withdraw some subsidies that keep the cost of living down in the country. President Bashar al-Assad also gave a rare interview to Western media, telling The Wall Street Journal last month that he planned reforms that would allow local elections and included a new media law and more power for private organizations. A planned "Day of Rage" that was being organized on Facebook against the al-Assad government failed to materialize, The New York Times reported.

Roots of unrest:

Opponents of the al-Assad government allege massive human rights abuses, and an emergency law has been in effect since 1963.


Protesters have taken to the streets in cities across Morocco to call for political reform. Labor unions, youth organizations and human rights groups demonstrated in at least six cities Sunday, February 20. Police stayed away from the demonstrations, most of which were peaceful, Human Rights Watch reported.

Roots of unrest

Protesters in Morocco are calling for political reform. Government officials say such protests are not unusual and that the protesters' demands are on the agenda of most political parties.


Hundreds of Palestinians rallied for unity Thursday, February 24, in Ramallah, West Bank, calling on Hamas, Fatah and other Palestinian political factions to heal their rifts amid arguments over elections scheduled for September in the Palestinian territories. "Division generates corruption" was one of banner slogans from demonstrators, who flooded the streets after calls went out on social-networking sites as well as at schools and university campuses.

Roots of unrest:

The Palestinian territories have not seen the kind of demonstrations as in many Arab countries, but the Fatah leaders of the Palestinian Authority have been under criticism since Al-Jazeera published secret papers claiming to reveal that Palestinian officials were prepared to make wide-ranging concessions in negotiations with Israel. Negotiations toward a resolution of the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict have since collapsed. Palestinian protests, largely in support of Egypt and Tunisia, were generally small and poorly attended, and in some cases the Hamas rulers of Gaza and the Palestinian Authority rulers of the West Bank actively tried to stifle protests. The split between Hamas and Fatah hampers internal change in the territories, although calls for political change are growing louder. Large-scale protests have failed to materialize as many Palestinians believe their problem remains Israel.

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