The Middle East in revolt

The political uprising in Tunisia seems to have triggered a domino affect across the Arab peninsula, from Egypt in the west to Iran in the east. To help you make sense of this rapidly developing situation, we’ve mapped out the hotspots to show where the first brick fell and where the next regime is under threat of collapsing.


On December 17, 2010, Mohamed Bouazizi, refusing to bribe officials to get a vendor permit, set himself aflame outside the governor’s office in Sidi Bouzid. His desperate act of defiance was the last straw on the Tunisian people’s backs after 22 years under the oppressive regime of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. News of Bouaziz’s self-immolation spread, igniting a nation-wide uprising that culminated in Ben Ali’s exile to Saudi Arabia on January 14.


Inspired by Tunisia, the April 6 Youth Movement amped up its efforts to end President Hosni Mubarak’s 30 years of autocratic rule. A handful of demonstrators on National Police Day on January 25 grew quickly to millions.

Dozens were killed and countless were injured in clashes with police across the country. While the army remained largely neutral, union workers later joined the rally, further damaging the country’s economy. After 18 days of protests, Mubarak finally fled the country in secret on February 11, 2011. He left his intended heir, Omar Suleiman, to wave the white flag for him.


Following Mubarak’s ouster, the sprinkling of protests against Algeria’s repressive government gained momentum overnight in Algiers. By February 12, thousands defied the ban on demonstrations under the country’s longstanding state of emergency to demand President Abdelaziz Boutefilka’s resignation. The government’s response is similar to that of Egypt’s: police, in full riot gear, are cracking down hard on demonstrators and journalists. The situation is still developing.


Since Tunisia’s success on January 14, demonstrators have staged peaceful protests every Friday until Jordan’s King Abdullah officially replaced his Prime Minister – a move Abdullah has done 15 times since 1990 in response to popular dissent. The movement, organized by opposition groups, trade unions and leftist organizations, has drawn criticism from some political commentators for being disingenuous. Jordan is an oil-rich country plagued by rampant poverty, unemployment, rising inflation and a record deficit of $2 billion in 2011.


Paralleling Egypt, Yemeni protesters had been gathering every day until last week to demand President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s resignation after over 30 years in power. The “Day of Rage” on February 3 saw over 10,000 protesters gathered in Sanaa. Saleh has since made concessions, promising not to renew his term in 2013 and not to appoint his son as successor. But Saleh is known as a shrewd politician; he previously amended the constitution to give him mandate as president-for-life and has backed out of promises to step aside in the past. As of this article’s deadline, the situation has not been resolved.


The Green Wave’s call for demonstrations has spurred thousands onto Iran’s streets on Monday. The rally was spearheaded by Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi – two opposition presidential candidates for the 2009 election that saw President Ahmadinejad elected for a second term. News reports confirmed that clashes between police and demonstrators have erupted in Marshhad, Shiraz, Kermanshah and Isfahan.

In Tehran, 10,000 police have been deployed to prevent demonstrators from converging at Azadi (Freedom) Square, the country’s potential equivalent of Egypt’s Tahrir Square. Mobile networks around the protest area are said to be disabled, and there has been no mention of the protests in state-run television station and websites. As of this publication’s deadline, the situation is still developing.

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