The Arab Spring: revolt, war and transition

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 Several Arab countries have undergone major upheavals since December 2010, with the fall of regimes in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, an aborted revolt in Bahrain, a change of leadership in Yemen and a civil war in Syria that was still continuing as 2012 came to a close.

Key developments:

TUNISIA

The self-immolation in 2010 in the central town of Sidi Bouzid of Mohamed Bouazizi, a young Tunisian who could find no other job than selling fruits and vegetables, sparks off the first in a series of Arab uprisings.

President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali is ousted from power on January 14, 2011, after 23 years in power and finds refuge in Saudi Arabia.

Tunisia’s main Islamist party emerges victorious in October 2011 elections for a new assembly.

However, since mid-2012, unrest and strikes have gripped the country, with many Tunisians feeling bitterly disappointed by the failure of the revolution to improve their lives.

EGYPT

Mohamed Mursi is declared winner of the presidential election with 51.73 percent of the vote in June 2012. The vote follows a long transition, marked by sometimes deadly demonstrations, from the rule of Hosni Mubarak who stepped down on February 11, 2011 after massive demonstrations.

Mursi becomes the first Islamist to head the most populous country of the Arab world.

Egypt grapples with a deep political crisis marked by sometimes violent clashes, after Mursi’s decision on November 22 to decree himself near-absolute powers.

Mursi on December 8 revokes those powers, but puts a controversial constitution to a referendum. Half of Egypt is set to vote on December 15 and the rest of the country a week later on December 22.

LIBYA

Strongman Moamer Kadhafi is killed shortly after his capture on October 20, 2011, two months after rebels seize Tripoli with the help of a NATO-led military operation launched in March. According to the new authorities, 30,000 people died in the violence.

In July 2012, Libya’s liberal coalition beats Islamist parties in polls to the General National Congress, the first elected authority after more than four decades of dictatorship. Prime Minister Ali Zeidan’s new cabinet is sworn in in November.

However, the country has been faced with mounting extremism and a proliferation of militias. Numerous attacks take place, notably in the eastern city of Benghazi where four Americans, including the ambassador, are killed in an attack on their consulate by Islamist militias in September 2012.

SYRIA

Syria has been prey since March 15, 2011 to a bloody conflict. What started as peaceful protests for reform in the wake of the Arab Spring, has exploded into a bitter civil war faced with the brutal repression by the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

The 21-month conflict has killed more than 42,000 people dead, mainly civilians, says the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Rebels have gained ground and the influence of jihadist militants is growing, boosting their position in the north of the country to the detriment of the mainstream rebel Free Syrian Army.

Fighting intensifies in and around the capital Damascus, raising fears of a looming ground assault by the army to eradicate rebel bases.

The international community fears the possible use of chemical weapons by the regime, a scenario judged unlikely by experts.

Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov of Russia, the longtime ally of Syria, says the Damascus regime might lose its battle with the rebels, in what appears to be the first such admission by a senior Russian official.

YEMEN

In February, veteran Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh hands power to his successor Vice President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi.

The transfer of power puts the seal on a handover deal mediated by Gulf states, under which Saleh agrees to step down in return for a controversial promise of immunity from prosecution over the deaths of hundreds of people during 10 months of protests against his 33-year rule.

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula takes advantage of the weakness of Yemen’s central government, seizing large swathes of territory across the south and the east.

BAHRAIN

A Shiite-led opposition uprising, calling for a constitutional monarchy, is crushed in March 2011 by forces loyal to the Sunni monarch with the aid of Gulf troops led by Sunni neighbour Saudi Arabia. As of late 2012, sporadic protests continue among Shiites.

JORDAN

Since January 14, 2011, Jordan has seen small-scale, but regular, demonstrations, calling for political and economic reforms. The unrest has not taken on the proportions of other Arab countries.

The Daily Star

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