Thursday, February 17, 2011

Map of Middle East

Map of Middle East - BBC


Morocco's main opposition group has warned the "autocracy" will be swept away unless there are deep economic reforms. Earlier this year, Morocco's reputation was damaged after Wikileaks revealed allegations corruption involving the royal family and the people close to King Mohammed VI.


Earlier this month President Bouteflika promised to lift the country's state of emergency - in place in since 1992 - in the "near future", but hasn't done so yet.
Sporadic protests have been continuing since early January, with demonstrators demanding the resignation of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.


Protests have continued in Tunisia - despite President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali's decision to step down in January. He fled the country following weeks of anti-government demonstrations and clashes between protesters and police.

The trigger was a desperate act by a young unemployed man on 17 December. Mohamed Bouazizi set fire to himself when officials in his town prevented him from selling vegetables on the streets of Sidi Bouzid without permission.

This set off protests which then spread elsewhere. The violent response of the authorities - with the police opening fire on demonstrators - appears to have exacerbated anger and ignited further protests which ultimately led to the president's downfall.

Parliamentary Speaker Foued Mebazaa has been sworn in as interim president and has asked Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi, head of the government since 1999, to form a national unity government. The prime minister has also pledged to step down after elections in about six months' time.


Dozens of people were injured in violent demonstrations on 15 February in the eastern city of Benghazi. Clashes between protesters and the authorities were reported to have taken place on 16 February in two cities in Libya, with about four people reported dead in the eastern city of al-Bayda.


Mubarak announced he was stepping down on 11 February after 18 days of protests.
Aged 82, he had been in power since 1981.Egypt had long been known as a centre of stability in a volatile region, but that masked problems which erupted in popular demonstrations against the 30-year rule of President Mubarak on 25 January.

The main drivers of the unrest were poverty, rising prices, social exclusion, anger over corruption and personal enrichment among the political elite, and a demographic bulge of young people unable to find work.

With President Mubarak gone, Egypt's Armed Forces Supreme Council will run the country for the next six months, or until elections are held.


Thousands of Jordanians have taken to the streets over the past five weeks, demanding better employment prospects and cuts in foods and fuel costs. In response, King Abdullah II sacked Prime Minister Samir Rifai over the slow pace of reform and appointed Marouf al-Bakhit, a former army general and ambassador to Israel. A new 26-member cabinet was sworn in on 10 February.

The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is a small country with few natural resources, but it has played a pivotal role in the struggle for power in the Middle East. The death of King Hussein, who ruled for 46 years, left Jordan still struggling for economic and social survival, as well as regional peace.His son, Abdullah, who succeeded him to the throne, faces the task of maintaining stability while accommodating calls for reform.


President Bashar al-Assad has promised to push through political reforms after inheriting power from his father, Hafez, in 2000, after three decades of authoritarian rule. The country remains under emergency law, in place since 1963. Following the death of Hafez al-Assad, Syria underwent a degree of relaxation. Hundreds of political prisoners were released. But the granting of real political freedoms and a shake-up of the state-dominated economy have not materialised


One of the most devout and insular countries in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia has emerged from being an underdeveloped desert kingdom to become one of the wealthiest nations in the region thanks to vast oil resources. But its rulers face the delicate task of responding to pressure for reform while combating a growing problem of extremist violence. It has always been in the ruling al Saud family's interests to preserve stability in the region and to clamp down on extremist elements. Opposition movements are banned within the country.

Regionally, the country is important with King Abdullah Bin-Abd-al-Aziz Al Saud regarded in the Arab world as a supporter of wider Arab interests. It was to Saudi Arabia that Tunisia's ousted leader, Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, fled in January.


Following days of protests, Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh announced on 2 February that he would not seek another term in office, after three decades in power.He also told parliament that he would not hand over power to his son, saying: "No extension, no inheritance, no resetting the clock." But protests continue, with people taking to the streets in the cities of Sanaa, Aden and Taiz.

Anti-government protesters demanding political reform have clashed with pro-government loyalists and police have been sent in to break up the demonstrations.

Yemen is the Arab world's most impoverished nation, where nearly half of the population lives on less than $2 a da


Security forces in Bahrain have dispersed thousands of anti-government protesters in Pearl Square "Roundabout" in the centre of the capital, Manama. Hundreds of riot police using tear gas and batons moved in before dawn on Thursday. At least three people died in the operation, with 303 injured. Bahrain is vulnerable to unrest because of discontent among its majority Shia population against the ruling Sunni dynasty.

The Al-Khalifas have ruled the country since the 18th century. Protesters complain of economic hardship, lack of political freedom and discrimination in jobs in favour of Sunnis. Since coming to power in 1999, King Hamad bin Issa Al Khalifa has pushed economic and political reforms to improve relations with the Shia community. The country, which is a regional banking, trading and Islamic finance hub, became a constitutional monarchy in 2002.


President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, elected in 2005, is a hard-liner who has vowed to put down any protests against the regime.The government in Tehran has called for a rally on Friday (18 February) to express hatred for the opposition movement. It follows demonstrations organised by the regime's two main opposition leaders earlier in the week in support of the unrest in neighbouring countries. The protest quickly turned into anti-government unrest which left two people dead and others injured.

Iran's complex and unusual political system combines elements of a modern Islamic theocracy with democracy. A network of unelected institutions, controlled by the highly powerful conservative Supreme Leader, is countered by a president and parliament elected by the people.

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