cnn orig arwa damon isis north africa terror explainer_00005401.jpg
Exporting terror to North Africa
01:37 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

The Arab Spring began in Tunisia with the ouster of its longtime leader

Other uprisings -- some successful, some not -- came in Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Syria

Since then, many nations have experienced political turmoil and homegrown violence

CNN  — 

It wasn’t supposed to turn out like this.

The Arab Spring was supposed to bring peace, democracy and stability to not only the nations where it took root, but also others around it in the Middle East and North Africa. It was supposed to usher in an end of violence and heavy-handed government tactics, just like it ushered out entrenched leaders. In short, it was supposed to mean a brighter future.

Not more instability, not more violence, not fewer freedoms.

But that’s what happened, even if the level of unrest hasn’t been even or universal. Some countries, such as Jordan, instituted reforms without really roiling their societies. Others, such as Iraq, never saw a popular uprising, but have seen burgeoning violence. And now, Yemen is on the brink of civil war as it battles a rebel group that has overthrown the government and seized parts of key cities.

Here’s a look at some countries that were part of the Arab Spring, and what’s happened since.

Yemen

How it began:

Yemen has been turbulent for years, with widespread poverty and swaths of the Arab nation out of the central government’s control or, worse yet, in the hands of terrorist groups such as al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

Still, for 33 years, it had stability at the top, in the form of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Then came protests against his rule in early 2011. Security forces responded with violent crackdowns that left a number of people dead and dozens more wounded. As in other places, this emboldened, rather than scared off, demonstrators.

In November – after months of discussionSaleh signed a power transfer deal brokered by the Gulf Cooperation Council.

What’s happened since:

Despite sporadic violence in the run-up, Yemen held an election in February 2012 to officially choose a president. There was only one candidate – then-Vice President Abdurabu Mansur Hadi – but going to the ballot box gave some reason for hope.

“This is a people’s election,” said Mohammed al-Rowdy, a voter who worked with Yemen’s Interior Ministry. “That’s why we are optimistic things will get better.”

Unfortunately, they have not.

Instead, Yemen has been beset by even more turmoil that has steamrolled into an active and, in many ways, successful rebellion. The Houthis – a Shiite Muslim minority group that long has felt marginalized in the predominantly Sunni country – have led the charge, first taking over the capital of Sanaa and then other areas.

They pushed out Hadi – first out of power, though he still claims to be Yemen’s legitimate president, and more recently out of the country.

In the last few days, an international military coalition has come in to support the deposed president. The Saudis and their allies (all of them mostly Sunni nations) have pounded Houthi targets around the country by air, while threatening to send in ground troops as well.

Where does this leave terror groups like AQAP, arguably the most powerful and far-reaching branch of al Qaeda? It can only help, according to experts, with the chaos serving its recruiting aims and making conditions safer given that security forces are otherwise occupied. (The fact the U.S. military is out of the country helps on that front, too.)

And all of a sudden, al Qaeda has “real competition” from ISIS, according to a Yemeni official.