About 10 days before Hosni Mubarak finally ended his 30-year reign as Egypt’s leader, bowing to an intense mass popular uprising against him, CBS News took a look at the unrest in the rest of the region, as it seemed to be fertile ground for more such uprisings.
Since then, Libya, Bahrain, Syria and Yemen, to name a few, have in some form or another had to deal with a large groundswell of discontent against their rulers. In light of these developments, it is time to revisit that examination.
No one could have predicted that an enraged Tunisian fruit vendor from a rural town who lit himself on fire in frustration against government policies would inspire millions to take to the streets in protest of government policies and economic duress.
Yet now, all the conditions that put Mohammed Bouazizi to the forefront as one of the 21st Century’s most important figures – such as high unemployment and food prices, totalitarian rulers, and widespread corruption – still exist throughout the Middle East.
Below is a list in no particular order with information on the major countries in and close to the Middle East region, many of whom could be vulnerable to popular uprisings similar to those that were successful in Tunisia and Egypt.
Special Section: Anger in the Arab World
There are some notable states missing, especially Iraq and Afghanistan, because a continued, large-scale U.S. military presence in each of those countries presents a different and more complicated set of variables. Additionally, many of the smaller actors in the region – like Djibouti and Eritrea for example – were left off the list due to limited information.
Most of the country data was taken from the latest CIA World Factbook, which contains mostly 2010 estimates. News reports and Associated Press wire stories supplemented the rest of the information.
Population – 1,214,705; Bahraini 62.4 percent, non-Bahraini 37.6 percent; Median Age is 31.
Duration of Current Government – Run by King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa since 1999. The country has been run by the the al-Khalifa dynasty since 1783.
Constitution and the Rule of Law – Constitutional monarchy; everyday law based on Islamic law and English common law.
Economic Indicators – Overall GDP is $29.8 billion (world rank is 23); Per capita GDP is $40,400 (world rank is 19); unemployment rate of 15 percent (world rank is 149).
Political/Popular Unrest – The relatively recent, ongoing violent struggle in Bahrain is as much fueled by ethnic rivalry – a repressed Shiite majority rising against their privileged Sunni rulers – as it is by economic factors, although it’s all related. Several Gulf leaders have rallied behind Bahrain’s Sunni dynasty to try to snuff out further revolts in the region, saying gains by Bahrain’s Shiites could give Iran a pathway for greater influence in the Gulf. To that end, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and other Gulf states have deployed their soldiers in Bahrain to quell the current uprising that has seen dozens of protesters killed thus far.
“I here announce the failure of the fomented subversive plot against security and stability,” King Hamad was quoted as saying recently by state-run Bahrain News Agency, while throwing veiled shots at the Iranian government for what he perceives as meddling in the protests. It remains to be seen whether that was true or not.
Population – 25,731,776; Arab 90 percent, Afro-Asian 10 percent; Median Age is 25.
Duration of Current Government – Run by King and Prime Minister Abdallah bin Abd al-Aziz Al Saud since August 2005. The country has been run by the Al Saud monarchy since 1932.
Constitution and the Rule of Law – Monarchy; everyday law based on Sharia law, but several secular codes have been introduced; commercial disputes handled by special committees.
Economic Indicators – Overall GDP is $622.5 billion (world rank is 23); Per capita GDP is $24,200 (world rank is 55); unemployment rate of 10..8 percent (world rank is 119; unofficial unemployment rate of 25 percent); world’s largest oil reserves.
Political/Popular Unrest – Other than the aforementioned troop deployment to Bahrain, Saudi Arabia has avoided involvement in the region’s turmoil, especially internally. After Tunisia’s uprising, there was at least one copycat self-immolation, in addition to some reports of protests, but their size and affect was limited, at best. King Abdullah took to the airwaves March 18 to promise a multibillion dollar package of reforms, raises, cash, loans and apartments in what appeared to be the Arab world’s most expensive attempt to appease residents inspired by the unrest that has swept two leaders from power. He also announced 60,000 new jobs in the security forces — a move that would employ huge numbers of otherwise jobless young men, while bolstering his kingdom’s ability to snuff out protests.
Population – 6,407,085; Arab 98 percent, Circassian 1 percent, Armenian 1 percent; Median Age is 22.
Duration of Current Government – Run by King Abdullah II since 1999. King Abdullah II is the son of King Hussein, who ruled from 1953 to 1999.
Constitution and the Rule of Law – Constitutional monarchy; everyday law based on Islamic law and French codes; judicial review of legislative acts in a specially provided High Tribunal.
Economic Indicators – Overall GDP is $33.79 billion (world rank is 103); Per capita GDP is $5,300 (world rank is 142); unemployment rate of 13 percent (world rank is 132; unofficial unemployment rate is 30 percent).
Political/Popular Unrest – Since taking the throne, King Abdullah II has adeptly parlayed Jordan’s strategic regional importance to curry favor with Arab and Western states and help consolidate his power. However, after thousands inspired by the Egypt uprising took to the streets protesting rising food prices and the current government, King Abdullah sacked his prime minister and cabinet. The difference between Jordan and many of its neighbors, however, is that protesters in Jordan have said they do not want to overthrow their king, just implement better reforms. King Abdullah has promised to “increase popular participation in the decision-making … to correct the mistakes of the past.”
Population – 22,198,110; Arab 90.3 percent, Kurds, Armenians, and other 9.7 percent; Median Age is 22.
Duration of Current Government – Run by President Bashar al-Assad since being approved by popular referendum in July, 2000. Bashar’s father, Hafiz al-Assad, had run the country since seizing power in a bloodless coup in 1970.
Constitution and the Rule of Law – Republic under an authoritarian regime; Everyday law based on a combination of French and Ottoman civil law; Islamic law is used in the family court system.
Economic Indicators – Overall GDP is $106.4 billion (world rank is 68); Per capita GDP is $4,800 (world rank is 152); unemployment rate of 8.3 percent (world rank is 95).
Political/Popular Unrest – Syrians chanting “No more fear!” held a defiant march as recently as Monday after a deadly government crackdown failed to quash three days of mass protests in a southern city – an extraordinary outpouring in a country that has a history of brutally suppressing dissent. The violence has fast become a major challenge for Assad, who has tried to contain the situation by freeing detainees and promising to fire officials responsible for the violence.
Syria has long been closely aligned with Iran in their support of Shiite causes in the region, while simultaneously crushing discontent at home. Assad has said the Middle East is beginning “a new era, but it did not start now. It started with the Iranian revolution.”
Population – 23,495,361; predominantly Arab, but also some Afro-Arab, South Asians, Europeans; Median Age is 18.
Duration of Current Government – President Ali Abdallah Saleh has been leading the current form of Yemen’s republic since 1990, when Yemen became one country after being divided in two since 1967. However, Saleh has been president of Yemen in its various forms since 1978.
Constitution and the Rule of Law – Republic under an authoritarian regime; Everyday law based on Islamic law, Turkish law, English common law, and local tribal customary law.
Economic Indicators – Overall GDP is $61.9 billion (world rank is 85); Per capita GDP is $2,600 (world rank is 174); unemployment rate of 35 percent (world rank is 185).
Political/Popular Unrest – A popular uprising in Yemen against Saleh began shortly after Egypt’s protests started, and has only grown since. Longtime ruler – and important U.S. regional ally – Saleh has been plagued in recent weeks by mass defections from his government and army. He’s even been abandoned by his own tribe. The situation has deteriorated so much that some of the defectors have deployed tanks against him. After many protesters have died, resulting in greater anger against him, the latest development has Saleh finally offering to step down by the end of the year, but it is unclear if this will calm things down.
Population – 7,353,985; Jewish 76.4 percent, non-Jewish 23.6 percent (mostly Arab); Median Age is 29.
Duration of Current Government – Led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu since 2009.
Constitution and the Rule of Law – Parliamentary democracy; Everyday law is a mixture of English common law, British Mandate regulations, and in personal matters Jewish, Christian, and Muslim legal systems.
Economic Indicators – Overall GDP is $217.1 billion (world rank is 51); Per capita GDP is $29,500 (world rank is 47); unemployment rate of 6.4 percent (world rank is 60).
Political/Popular Unrest – Israel’s democracy itself is relatively stable, frequently holding free and fair elections. It’s greatest strife – which could be called internal, depending on your political leanings – is with the Hamas-occupied Gaza Strip. A recent round of back-and-forth violence has once again imperiled the peace process between Palestinians and Israelis. Additionally, Israeli leaders fear the unrest in Egypt will most likely strengthen anti-Israeli factions in the Gaza Strip, who wage an ongoing war against Israel.
Israeli President Shimon Peres said “we always have had and still have a great respect (for Mubarak.) I don’t say everything that he did was right, but he did one thing for which all of us are thankful to him: He kept the peace in the Middle East.”
West Bank and Gaza Strip
Population – Gaza Strip – 1,604,238; almost entirely Palestinian Arab; Median Age is 18. West Bank – 2,514,845; Palestinian Arab and other 83 percent, Jewish 17 percent; Median Age is 21.
Duration of Current Government – The Gaza Strip has been run by the extremist Islamic group Hamas since 2007; exact leadership is unclear, but it is rumored to be heavily influenced by Syria, Iran and the Lebanon-based extremist group Hezbollah. The West Bank has been under the control of the Palestinian Authority (PA) and their president has been Fatah party leader Mahmoud Abbas since 2007.
Constitution and the Rule of Law – The Gaza Strip’s rule of law is unclear, but most likely follows some strict form of Islamic law. The West Bank is under the control of the more secular PA, which was designed to be an interim administrative authority decades ago.
Economic Indicators – Overall GDP is $12.8 billion (world rank is 141); Per capita GDP is $2,900 (world rank is 170); unemployment rate of 16.5 percent (world rank is 157).
Political/Popular Unrest – Since the two Palestinian territories split in 2007 after fierce fighting between Hamas and Fatah, Hamas has largely focused on fighting Israel; the Egypt-Gaza border has been a huge supply route for weapons in that fight. Politically, however, there has been little turmoil in either Palestinian territory since 2007. In the Gaza Strip recently, there was a demonstration calling for Palestinian unification and reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah. Hamas authorities arrested some of the protesters.
Population – 77,804,122; Turkish 70-75 percent, Kurdish 18 percent, other minorities 7-12 percent; Median Age is 28
Duration of Current Government – Led by President Abdullah Gul since 2007.
Constitution and the Rule of Law – Republican parliamentary democracy; Everyday law is a civil law system derived from various European legal systems.
Economic Indicators – Overall GDP is $958.3 billion (world rank is 17); Per capita GDP is $12,300 (world rank is 95); unemployment rate of 12.4 percent (world rank is 131).
Political/Popular Unrest – Turkey has been beset by many periods of instability and intermittent military coups since its official inception as a country in 1923. Much of the internal strife is over attempted Kurdish secession and the rise of hard-line Muslim groups. However, it is a largely secular, democratic government, for now. Over the past decade, it has undertaken many reforms to strengthen its democracy and economy. In recent years, Turkey has emerged as an important broker in regional conflicts. A NATO member, Turkey blocked initial attempts to establish an alliance military plan for involvement in Libya, repeating regional fears of foreign occupation.
“NATO should only enter Libya to determine that Libya belongs to Libyans and not to distribute its natural resources and richness to others,” Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said during a recent visit to Saudi Arabia.
Population – 2,967,717; Mostly Arab, also some Baluchi, Indian, Pakistani, Sri Lankan, Bangladeshi, African; Median Age is 24
Duration of Current Government – Led by Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al-Said since 1970. The sultan took power after overthrowing the restrictive rule of his father.
Constitution and the Rule of Law – Monarchy; Everyday law is based on English common law and Islamic law; ultimate appeal lies with the sultan.
Economic Indicators – Overall GDP is $76.5 billion (world rank is 80); Per capita GDP is $25,800 (world rank is 52); unemployment rate of 15 percent (world rank is 151).
Political/Popular Unrest – Oman imports many foreign workers, and has experienced several bouts of unrest in recent years from them when unemployment rises. As of writing this report, there have been two weeks of sporadic demonstrations calling for more jobs and political openness. Protests in the tightly ruled nation have been low key compared to unrest elsewhere in the Mideast, but the government is taking them seriously. Oman’s ruler, Sultan Qaboos bin Said, has made significant changes in his government and is offering more civil service jobs.
Population – 6,461,454; Berber and Arab 97 percent, other 3 percent; Median Age is 24
Duration of Current Government – Run by Col. Muammar Abu Minyar al-Qaddafi since he staged a successful coup in 1969.
Constitution and the Rule of Law – Jamahiriya (a state of the masses) which, in theory, is a combination of socialism and Islamic law whereby the state is governed by the populace through local councils; in practice, it is an authoritarian state. Everyday law is based on Italian and French civil law systems and Islamic law; separate religious courts; no constitutional provision for judicial review of legislative acts.
Economic Indicators – Overall GDP is $89 billion (world rank is 74); Per capita GDP is $13,800 (world rank is 84); unemployment rate of 30% (world rank is 181).
Political/Popular Unrest – A leaked diplomatic cable claims Qaddafi has created a decadent, money-hungry family dynasty during his reign. The Qaddafis are currently holding desperately to power as a disorganized opposition fighting force attempts to unseat him with the backing of an UN-mandated bombing campaign in support of a no-fly zone. Even with the help of the U.S. air force, the rebels are still something less than an effective fighting force, raising the specter of a prolonged standoff, because the U.S. and its allies insist their mission does not include removing Qaddafi. As of writing this report, the country is more or less divided in half, with the rebels dug in in the East, and Qaddafi firmly controlling the capital Tripoli and its surrounding environs.
Population – 34,586,184; Arab-Berber 99 percent, European less than 1 percent; Median Age is 27
Duration of Current Government – Run by President Abdelaziz Bouteflika since 1999 with the backing of the military.
Constitution and the Rule of Law – Republic; Everyday rule of law is socialist, based on French and Islamic law; judicial review of legislative acts is ad hoc Constitutional Council composed of various public officials including several Supreme Court justices.
Economic Indicators – Overall GDP is $254.7 billion (world rank is 48); Per capita GDP is $7,400 (world rank is 127); unemployment rate of 9.9 percent (world rank is 110).
Political/Popular Unrest -After a bloody, decade-long secession battle against French colonialism ended in 1962, Algeria has been marked by repeated uprisings, military interventions and fraudulent elections. Much of it has been focused around the rise of Islamic hardliners, but terrible economic conditions and political corruption also have given rise to unrest, especially right now. The uprising in Tunisia sparked public protests throughout the country against President Bouteflika, who had the constitution changed to allow him to be elected to a third five-year term in 2009, in an election many observers declared fraudulent.
Bouteflika on February 24 promised to place “anti-corruption” at the heart of government action, along with reforms to help the economy, employment and housing to regain Algerians’ support, Agence France Presse reports. The most recent demonstrations include 10,000 auxiliary police storming parliament demanding pay rises. In general, Bouteflika has aggressively used security forces in squashing discontent, and demonstrations have largely floundered in small numbers.
Population – 31,627,428; Arab-Berber 99.1 percent, other 0.7 percent, Jewish 0.2 percent; Median Age is 27
Duration of Current Government – Led by King Mohammed VI since 1999. The Alaouite dynasty, to which the current Moroccan royal family belongs, established a sultanate in Morocco beginning in the 17th century.
Constitution and the Rule of Law – Constitutional monarchy; Everyday law is based on Islamic law and French and Spanish civil law systems; judicial review of legislative acts in Constitutional Chamber of Supreme Court.
Economic Indicators – Overall GDP is $153.8 billion (world rank is 58); Per capita GDP is $4,900 (world rank is 148); unemployment rate of 9.8 percent (world rank is 109).
Political/Popular Unrest – King Mohammed’s cousin said after Egypt’s uprising that Morocco will probably not be spared the unrest sweeping the region because of economic conditions and the country’s authoritarian rule.He was right. 35,000 people took to the streets recently, protesting corruption and demanding political reforms. These protests happened in spite of King Mohammed VI’s recent announcement of a broad revision of Morocco’s constitution to make the country more democratic. In a rare speech to the nation on radio and TV, the king said a new commission would recommend constitutional revisions to him by June, and the overall project would be put to Moroccan voters in a referendum.
Population – 3,205,060; mixed Moor/black 40 percent, Moor 30 percent, black 30 percent; Median Age is 19
Duration of Current Government – General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz was elected president in 2009 after his military junta deposed the previously democratically elected civilian president.
Constitution and the Rule of Law – Military junta; Everyday law is a combination of Islamic law and French civil law.
Economic Indicators – Overall GDP is $6.8 billion (world rank is 152); Per capita GDP is $2,100 (world rank is 188); unemployment rate of 30 percent (world rank is 180).
Political/Popular Unrest – The country continues to experience ethnic tensions among its black population (Afro-Mauritanians) and white and black Moor (Arab-Berber) communities, and it is having to confront a growing terrorism threat by al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). After the Tunisian uprisings, there were cases of copycat self-immolations and sporadic protests, although the junta has been quick to squash discontent. There was an almost-unprecedented demonstration of hundreds last month demanding Aziz’s ouster, but nothing became of them.
Population – 4,125,247; Arab 95 percent, Armenian 4 percent, other 1 percent; Median Age is 29
Duration of Current Government – Temporarily led by interim Prime Minister Saad Hariri, the Hezbollah-led opposition voted last month to have him replaced by Najib Mikati.
Constitution and the Rule of Law – Republic; Everyday law is a mixture of Ottoman law, canon law, Napoleonic code, and civil law; the constitutional court reviews laws only after they have been passed.
Economic Indicators – Overall GDP is $58.7 billion (world rank is 87); Per capita GDP is $14,200 (world rank is 83); unemployment rate NA.
Political/Popular Unrest – The current tempestuous political dispute in Lebanon revolves around a UN tribunal investigation into the 2005 assassination of Hariri’s father, Rafic Hariri, who was prime minister at the time. Many expect the tribunal to blame Hezbollah (defined by most Western countries as a terrorist group,) so Hezbollah has been seeking to politically delegitimize the tribunal by installing politicians who will reject it. There are persistent rumors of Syria’s and Iran’s support for Hezbollah, and international observers blame both for fomenting Lebanon’s turmoil to their benefit. Additionally, the country has not fully recovered, emotionally or otherwise, from a brutal 15-year civil war that ended in 1990. As for the recent turmoil, the divide between Hezbollah and the rest of the country has only grown over the Islamic militant group’s vocal support of Shiite uprisings.
Population – 76,923,300; Persian 51 percent, Azeri 24 percent, Gilaki and Mazandarani 8 percent, Kurd 7 percent, Arab 3 percent, Lur 2 percent, Baloch 2 percent, Turkmen 2 percent, other 1 percent; Median Age is 26
Duration of Current Government – Although the government has technically been led by democratically elected President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad since 2005, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has been controlling state policy since 1989. He is elected by and answerable only to the Assembly of Experts, a deliberative body of 86 Islamic scholars.
Constitution and the Rule of Law – Theocratic republic; Everyday law is based on the Sharia law system.
Economic Indicators – Overall GDP is $863.5 billion (world rank is 19); Per capita GDP is $11,200 (world rank is 100); unemployment rate 14.6 percent (world rank is 146).
Political/Popular Unrest – Hundreds of thousands of Iranians took to the streets in summer of 2009 amid allegations of voter fraud to protest the reelection of conservative President Ahmadinejad. The demonstrations were violently stamped out by Iranian government forces, who also conducted mass arrests, the suspension of Internet and phone service and broad intimidation. Inspired by the wave of Mideast uprisings, Iranian opposition members again have taken to the streets in protests, the most recent being March 1, which have all been aggressively stamped out by state security forces.
Without displaying the necessary sense of irony, Iran’s hard-line rulers have tried to take credit for the wave of regional uprisings, calling them a replay of the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami said in a recent prayer sermon: “A new Middle East is emerging based on Islam … based on religious democracy.” Khatami added that Chants of “Allahu Akbar,” or “God is Great,” from protesters signal a new Middle East based on Islamic values, not U.S. goals, is emerging.
Population – 43,939,598; black 52 percent, Arab 39 percent, Beja 6 percent, foreigners 2 percent, other 1 percent; Median Age is 18
Duration of Current Government – President Omar al-Bashir was eventually installed as president after helping lead a military coup in 1989.
Constitution and the Rule of Law – Government of National Unity (the National Congress Party and Sudan People’s Liberation Movement formed a power-sharing government under the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement after a bloody civil war; the NCP, which came to power by military coup in 1989, was the majority partner; as part of the CPA, South Sudan voted recently to secede from the north (the division process is underway); Everyday law in the north is based on Sharia law, although there is some protection for non-Muslims living in the capital, Khartoum.
Economic Indicators – Overall GDP is $98.8 billion (world rank is 71); Per capita GDP is $2,200 (world rank is 187); unemployment rate 18.7 percent (world rank is 163).
Political/Popular Unrest – Although the recent secession vote in South Sudan was peaceful, the Bashir government is allegedly still supporting violence against residents of the disputed Darfur region in the west. Additionally, the unrest in Tunisia and Egypt has inspired several small, student-led anti-government protests in Khartoum, the most recent being March 21. They were all quickly beaten back by state security forces.
Despite the peaceful secession vote, the north and south continue to violently clash over disputed oil fields on their borders.
Population – 184,404,791; Punjabi 44.68 percent, Pashtun (Pathan) 15.42 percent, Sindhi 14.1 percent, Sariaki 8.38 percent, Muhajirs 7.57 percent, Balochi 3.57 percent, other 6.28 percent; Median Age is 21
Duration of Current Government – Asif Ali Zardari was elected president in parliamentary elections in 2008.
Constitution and the Rule of Law – Federal republic; Everyday law in the north is based on English common law with provisions to accommodate Pakistan’s status as an Islamic state.
Economic Indicators – Overall GDP is $451.2 billion (world rank is 28); Per capita GDP is $2,400 (world rank is 182); unemployment rate 15 percent (world rank is 150).
Political/Popular Unrest – Never mind that a large swath of the northwest of the country is out of the control of the central government, Islamic hard liners consistently spring attacks on the public, government officials and security forces. Most alarming, however, were last year’s devastating floods that left 11 million homeless. The Red Cross recently warned that food shortages caused by the floods could lead to revolts similar to what happened in Tunisia.
Population – 82,079,636; Egyptian 99.6 percent, Other 0.4 percent; Median Age is 24
Duration of Current Government – A military caretaker government has been in charge for about a month. Egypt is currently undergoing massive constitutional changes following the recent end of Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year reign.
Constitution and the Rule of Law – Republic; Everyday law is a combination of Islamic and European, particularly Napoleonic, codes.
Economic Indicators – Overall GDP is $500.9 billion (world rank is 27); Per capita GDP is $6,200 (world rank is 136); unemployment rate 9.7 percent (world rank is 106).
Political/Popular Unrest – While Egypt continues to define itself and reform its constitution in the new post-Mubarak era, old ethnic tensions between native Christians and Muslims have recently resurfaced. The country has also been beset recently by labor protests from several factions demanding better pay and conditions. What these challenges mean to the ebullient feeling of hope and togetherness that permeated the country after Mubarak’s fall is still unclear.
Population – 10,629,186; Arab 98 percent, European 1 percent, Jewish and other 1 percent; Median Age is 30
Duration of Current Government – An interim government headed by interim President Fouad M’Bazaa took office on Jan. 17 to replace the government of ousted strongman Zine el Abidine Ben Ali
Constitution and the Rule of Law – Republic; Everyday law is a combination of French civil law and Islamic law.
Economic Indicators – Overall GDP is $100.3 billion (world rank is 70); Per capita GDP is $9,500 (world rank is 113); unemployment rate 14 percent (world rank is 142).
Political/Popular Unrest – The birthplace of the popular uprisings that have spread throughout the region, Tunisia, like Egypt, still has a way to go to define itself. Unlike Egypt, it’s been fortunate to avoid much post-dictator violence. In July the country will vote on a 200-member assembly that will elect temporary leaders and write a constitution in anticipation of new elections.
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