Arab uprisings: 10 key moments

  • Introduction

    There have been many dramatic events since the beginning of the Arab uprisings two years ago.

    From the death of Tunisian street trader Mohamed Bouazizi, to the protests in Egypt's Tahrir Square and the death of Libya's Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, the region has seen tremendous upheaval.

    Watch Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen's overview of the 10 key moments that tell the story of the Arab uprisings.

  • Trader's suicide

    17 December 2010

    When street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire in Tunisia, he set in motion a series of events that would change the Arab world forever.

    Bouazizi, who later died, represented a generation of disenchanted, often jobless or underemployed Arabs under the age of 30. They make up about 60% of the region's population and became the driving force behind the protests that were to follow.

    Even Feyda Hamdi, the government inspector said to have provoked Bouazizi's suicide (an allegation she denies), said: "It was like a full glass of water, and Bouazizi was the drop that made it overflow."

    Report by Chief international correspondent Lyse Doucet

  • Ben Ali flees

    14 January 2011

    Weeks of mass protests followed Mohamed Bouazizi's death, as anger over corruption, rising food prices, unemployment and a lack of freedom boiled over in Tunisia.

    The country's president, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, tried to appease demonstrators with pledges of reform, but was forced to flee Tunis for Saudi Arabia after 23 years in power. He was later sentenced, in absentia, to 35 years in prison for embezzlement and misuse of state funds.

    Bigger Arab leaders fell after him, but Ben Ali's downfall was a key sign that it was possible for a country's people to topple an Arab regime.

    Report by Adam Mynott

  • Square seized

    28 January 2011

    As protests spread to and across Egypt, demonstrators in Cairo took control of central Tahrir Square after a day of hard fighting with police.

    It was a huge challenge to the regime of President Hosni Mubarak, who at first refused to quit. However, after protesters marched on the Presidential Palace, he finally agreed to step aside on 12 February.

    Egypt is the most populous Arab country and its police state had previously looked too strong to topple. The Egyptian revolution went on to inspire uprisings in Yemen, Bahrain and Libya, and the following month, in Syria.

    Report by Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen

  • Troops enter Bahrain

    14 March 2011

    As protests in Bahrain took hold, Saudi Arabia led an intervention force to help out its neighbour. It was a crucial move in support of the Bahraini government against an uprising dominated by Shia Muslims - the majority community.

    The Saudis saw it as part of their cold war with adversaries in Iran, who they blamed for the Shia community unrest.

    Since March 2011 the Shia-Sunni sectarian divide has sharpened across the region. Bahrain, according to UK think tank Chatham House, is exporting sectarian tension to its neighbours in the Gulf.

    Report by International development correspondent David Loyn

  • Tripoli bombed

    17 March 2011

    In New York, the UN Security Council passed resolution 1973. Its key passage authorised member states "to take all necessary measures" to protect civilians in Libya. The resolution was given the broadest possible interpretation by Nato members, especially France, Britain and the US.

    Within days, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's forces near Benghazi were under attack and Tripoli itself was being bombed.

    Col Gaddafi had sworn he would hunt down rebel "rats" from house to house, alleyway to alleyway. However, resolution 1973 turned into a death warrant for his regime.

    Report by correspondent Andrew North

  • Assad speech

    30 March 2011

    President Bashar al-Assad made a long-awaited speech to the Syrian parliament, days after the first demonstrations against his regime. But instead of delivering on a decade of promises of reform, he declared that the first protests, which as far as is known were almost entirely peaceful, were part of a foreign conspiracy.

    Although never trusted by part of the population, President Assad had genuine legitimacy as a leader. Had he accepted at this moment that demonstrators had real grievances and moved to address them, he might have given Syria a different, more peaceful future.

    President Bashar al-Assad

  • Gaddafi killed

    20 October 2011

    After weeks on the run, Col Muammar Gaddafi was killed by rebel fighters, who found him hiding in a culvert close to his hometown of Sirte. It was a violent and ignominious end for a brutal man.

    Col Gaddafi would have remained a looming presence had he been captured and put on trial. Every Libyan I spoke to welcomed his death, believing it opened up a new future.

    Libya, in fact, had the most complete of the Arab revolutions. The colonel's regime was built around himself and his relations. Once he had been killed, and his sons were dead, imprisoned or exiled, nothing remained of a regime that relied on family not institutions.

    Report by World affairs correspondent Caroline Hawley

  • Saleh leaves

    22 January 2012

    After 33 years in power, President Ali Abdullah Saleh left Yemen, asking forgiveness in a TV speech for any "shortcomings" in his rule.

    He travelled to the US as part of a deal brokered by the Gulf Co-operation Council, in which he was guaranteed immunity from prosecution.

    But Saleh left behind a country facing serious problems. Yemen is short of food and is running out of water and oil - its only significant export. It is also dealing with internal wars and insurgencies as well as the presence of al-Qaeda in the Arabian peninsula, an aggressive and ambitious jihadist group.

    Report by correspondent Rupert Wingfield-Hayes

  • Morsi wins

    24 June 2012

    In Egypt's first free presidential election, Mohammed Morsi, of the Muslim Brotherhood, was declared the winner.

    However, the country's new leader inherited huge political and economic challenges. The biggest, as the row over the new constitution showed by the end of 2012, was holding together a bitter and divided country.

    Political Islamists have so far been the main electoral beneficiaries of the Arab uprisings. But a month after the Egyptian elections, voters in Libya, the most religious country in north Africa, showed that their faith did not guarantee an automatic vote for political Islamists.

    Report by Egypt correspondent Jon Leyne

  • Israel-Gaza conflict

    November 2012

    Israel launched its latest offensive against Hamas in Gaza on 14 November. It was the first flare-up between Israel and the Palestinians since the Arab uprisings started to change the Middle East.

    It showed just how much the constellation of forces in the region had shifted. Hamas celebrated the public backing of Turkey, Egypt and other Arab states. Israel once again enjoyed Western support, and showed its military strength, but it found its freedom to act cramped by the new political realities of the Middle East.

    Report by Middle East correspondent Wyre Davies

Produced by: Lucy Rodgers, Harjit Kaura, Mick Ruddy, Marina Shchukina, Sophia Domfeh

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