Middle Eastern Countries Undergoing Change By: Jamie Morgan
Tunisia • Tunisians recently ousted the authoritarian government of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali due to ongoing political changes. Tunisia was the birthplace of the so-called Arab Spring movement currently sweeping the middle east. • In late 2011, the country’s first representative government in more than three decades was formed, as the Constituent Assembly was seated. Hundreds of legitimate candidates ran in an election that was free, fair, and enjoyed nearly 90% participation by eligible voters.
Algeria • In early January 2011, riots broke out in several cities, provoked by a rise in food prices but also long-simmering discontent among younger urban residents. While the riots were quickly brought under control, public demonstrations escalated. • Senate president AbdelkaderBensalah then led “consultations” that culminated in a series of laws introduced in the parliament and before the cabinet in mid-2011. A constitutional revision is expected in 2012, following parliamentary elections scheduled for May.
Egypt • Currently, thousands of protesters took to the streets in Cairo, Alexandria, Suez, and other cities, to air a sort of grievances to the Egyptian government. The Egyptian government then restricted the phone and internet use of its citizens. The president of the Muslim Brotherhood, MohamadMorsi, dissolved his entire cabinet and began appointing new leaders. • A video recently depicting Islam on Youtube infuriated the Islamic people. The people breached the walls of the American Embassy in Cairo. Although this attack didn't result in any American deaths, Mr. Morsi's response concerned Americans. He waited 24 hours after the attack to comment and issued only a mild rebuke of the rioters.
Libya • In February 2011, anti-government mass protests sprung up against Gaddafi in Benghazi, Bayda, and Zintan. Following this, demonstrators took control of Benghazi, the second largest city in Libya. The government then sent troops and on February 20 more than 200 people died over the course of four protests. In March, the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 1973, which established a "no fly zone" and the use of all means necessary to protect the citizens in Libya. • On June 27, the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Gaddafi, alleging that he had been personally involved in planning and implementing "a policy of widespread and systematic attacks against civilians and demonstrators and dissidents." On October 20, NTC forces captured Sirte and in the process killed Gaddafi. Since his death, the NTC has occupied Libya, and protests have been initiated against them. Elections are to take place soon to elect a new leader.
Saudi Arabia • Many people here are speaking openly about the need for democratic changes — things like an elected parliament, a transparent regulatory system and women's rights to vote and drive cars — which they cannot do now. • King Abdullah issued an edict that will allow women to vote and run for office in future municipal elections and to serve as voting members on the Shura Council, a national body that advises the government and helps write laws — think of the House or Senate, but with much less power and influence. • The government is relaxing formerly strict rules on men and women mingling in public. The kingdom has also opened up more avenues for women to work. There are female teachers and doctors.
Jordan • Jordan was hit in late January 2011 by the waves of unrest that spread across the Arab world in the wake of the revolution in Tunisia. Protests were led by the Islamic Action Front, the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, but included leftists and trade unions. Demonstrators protested economic hardship and demanded the right to elect the prime minister, who is currently appointed by King Abdullah II. • On Feb. 1, the king dismissed his cabinet and prime minister in a surprise effort to calm street protests that had also been fueled by the country’s worst economic crisis in years. In June, he announced that the government would in the future be elected, not appointed, responding to a demand of protesters calling for democratic change. That fall, the king fired his government yet again. The protests then ceased. • But in September 2012, angry protests erupted over a planned 10 percent increase in gas prices, part of an effort to reduce the subsidy burden on the state budget. King Abdullah quickly cancelled the increase after a weekend of demonstrations and after 89 of Parliament’s 120 members signed a statement of no confidence in the prime minister over the hikes. In October, King Abdullah dissolved Parliament, a constitutional move to pave the way for elections expected early in 2013.
Yemen • The Yemeni revolution followed the initial stages of the Tunisian Revolution and occurred simultaneously with the Egyptian Revolution and other mass protests in the Middle East in early 2011. In its early phase, protests in Yemen were initially against unemployment, economic conditions and corruption, as well as against the government's proposals to modify Yemen's constitution. The protestors' demands then escalated to calls for Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh to resign. Mass defections from the military, as well as from Saleh's government, effectively rendered much of the country outside of the government's control, and protesters vowed to defy its authority. • A major demonstration of over 16,000 protestors took place in Sana'a, Yemen's capital, on January 27. On February 2, Saleh announced he would not run for reelection in 2013 and that he would not pass power to his son. Protests and violence ensued for a long time. • A presidential election was held in Yemen on February 21, 2012. With a report claims that it has 65 percent of its turnout, Hadi won 99.8% of the vote. AbdRabbuh Mansur al-Haditook the oath of office in Yemen's parliament on February 25, 2012. Saleh returned home at the same day to attend Hadi's presidency inauguration. After months of protests, Saleh had resigned from the presidency and formally transfer power to his successor, marking the end of his 33-year rule.
Syria • Protests in Syria started on January 26, 2011, when a police officer assaulted a man in public at "Al-Hareeka Street" in old Damascus. The man was arrested right after the assault. As a result, protesters called for the freedom of the arrested man. Soon a "day of rage" was set for February 4-5, but it was uneventful. On March 6, the Syrian security forces arrested about 15 children in Daraa, in southern Syria, for writing slogans against the government. Soon protests erupted over the arrest and alleged mistreatment of the children. Daraa was to be the first city to protest against the Baathist regime, which has been ruling Syria since 1963. • King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa declared a three-month state of emergency on March 15 and asked the military to reassert its control as clashes spread across the country. On March 16, armed soldiers and riot police cleared the protesters' camp in the Pearl Roundabout, in which 3 policemen and 3 protesters were reportedly killed. Later, on March 18, the government tore down Pearl Roundabout monument. After the lifting of emergency law on June 1, several large rallies were staged by the opposition parties. Smaller-scale protests and clashes outside of the capital have continued to occur almost daily. On March 9 2012 over 100,000 protested in what the opposition called "the biggest march in our history".