Skip to main content

Unrest: Middle East and North Africa, country by country

By the CNN Wire Staff

(CNN) -- 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.

.

.

SYRIA

.

Protests unfolded in several towns big and small across the country, including the Damascus area, Latakia, Homs and Hama, where thousands of people took to the streets, according to Rami Abdelrahman of the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Abdelrahman said four people died in Homs and one in Deir El Zour during demonstrations in Syria. The Lebanese army said fighting over the Syrian issue in the Lebanese city of Tripoli left at least four dead.

Three Syrian security personnel were injured by "militants" in a Damascus suburb, the government's state-run TV said, the first report of violence on another tense Friday of mass protests erupting across the nation.

Rami Makhlouf, the powerful head of the Syriatel phone company and part of the regime's inner circle, has announced that he plans to quit his business and go into charity work. Makhlouf, who is the cousin and confidant of President Bashar al-Assad, is widely unpopular among protesters and is a symbol among many citizens of the regime.

Many Syrians fleeing the violence continued to pour across the Turkish border, with the number of refugees now more than 9,600. In the Altinozu refugee camp across the restive Syrian border, actress Angelina Jolie, who is a goodwill ambassador for the U.N. refugee agency, is visiting Syrian refugees in Turkey on Friday, a trip aimed at shining a spotlight on the plight of civilians in the country.

.

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.

.

LIBYA

.

A string of fresh explosions hit the Libyan capital Friday.

Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi claimed that NATO's alliance will be defeated, according to an audio address played to pro-government crowds in Tripoli's Green Square. He called the Libyan rebels traitors.

Elections watched by international observers could take place in Libya within three months, one of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's sons says in a published interview.

The European Union, the African Union, the United Nations or NATO could be present to ensure transparency, Saif Gadhafi told the Italian newspaper Corriere Della Sera.

.

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.

.

BAHRAIN

.

An estimated 30,000 people gathered in Sitra on Friday, according to an opposition figure CNN does not name for security reasons and an Al Wefaq opposition official.

It is the second public gathering organized by the opposition Al Wefaq after the end of martial law June 1.

Al Wefaq notified the government of its intent to gather this week, as required.

Security forces were present but did not interfere in the gathering. This shows "we have a very high level of control" over the crowds, said Khalil al Marzooq, the Al Wefaq official.

.

Roots of Unrest

.

Protesters initially took to the streets of Manama 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.