Looking Back at the Arab Spring

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It all began when Mohamed Bouazizi, a fruit vendor driven to desperation by lack of economic opportunity and harassment by the police, set himself alight using paint thinner on Dec. 17. He soon became a cause célèbre, as Tunisians took to the streets to protest against unemployment, rising food prices, and an autocratic government that was seemingly indifferent to their suffering. President Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali originally blamed protests that left at least 14 people dead on "gangs of thugs," dismissing increasing concern from the international community. By Jan. 14, the long-time strongman was forced from office,  sparking similar uprisings throughout the Middle East.

Here, a Tunisian demonstrator prepares to throw a rock during clashes with security forces in the town of Regueb on Jan. 10.

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A demonstrator offers flowers to soldiers on their tank on Jan. 21 in Tunis. Tunisians observed three days of mourning out of respect for the people who died during the "Jasmine Revolution."

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Above, thousands of anti-Mubarak demonstrators gather and pray in Tahrir Square.


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Riot police attempt to force Egyptians back across the Kasr Al Nile Bridge as they attempt to reach Tahrir Square on Jan. 28, which was dubbed by protesters the "Friday of Anger." Thousands of police swarmed the streets of the capital and hundreds of arrests were made in an attempt to quell the demonstrations. Nevertheless, hundreds of thousands of Egyptians took to the streets in the clearest sign yet that the country was slipping from Mubarak's grasp.

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Tahrir Square quickly turned into the nerve center of the revolt, and protesters' refusal to abandon it was a symbol of their determination not to leave the streets until Egypt's political system was fundamentally overhauled. Here, demonstrators sleep in front of army tanks next to the Egyptian museum.

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On Feb. 11, Egypt's generals announced Mubarak's resignation. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, a committee of the country's top military officers, promised to ensure the stability of the country and to hand over power to a civilian government in six months. Here, Egyptians celebrate for the second night in Tahrir Square, the epicentre of the popular revolt, on Feb. 12.

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A general view shows hundreds of thousands of Egyptians gathered at Cairo's central Tahrir Square on Feb. 18 during celebrations marking one week after Egypt's Mubarak was forced out of office.

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But nine months later, with the generals showing no sign of relinquishing power, some Egyptians feared they had simply traded one dictatorship for another. Thousands of Egyptians gathered in Tahrir Square on Nov. 22 after three days of deadly clashes with security forces as protesters came out to demonstrate against the military junta. Here, a protester runs as another throws a tear gas cannister back at police lines.

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Yemenis hold loaves of bread reading 'Leave' in Arabic during a protest against the regime of President Saleh in Sanaa on March 6, a day after the president vowed to stay on until 2013.

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A Yemeni young girl takes part with her fully veiled mother a protest in Sanaa, Oct. 26,  against the death of sereval women by forces loyal to President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

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Bahrain's days of rage began on Feb. 14, and as protesters gathered they were met with a swift but clumsy police crackdown that killed one person and injured dozens more. Lulu (Pearl) Roundabout, pictured above, a busy traffic circle along the waterfront in Manama's financial district, became the center of the protest movement. The roundabout, named for the giant statue that once sat at its center -- an enormous white pearl held aloft by six swooping arms said to represent sails -- was destroyed by the government in March as part of an effort to end demonstrations in the country.

 

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Protests in Libya became an armed insurrection, which eventually garnered support from NATO. 

Above, a rebel fighter celebrates as his comrades fire a barrage of rockets toward troops loyal to Libyan ruler Muammar Qaddafi. The two sides exchanged fire on April 14 in this coastal town, just south of the opposition stronghold, Benghazi.This photo was taken by photographer Chris Hondros, who was killed during fighting in Libya.

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A Libyan National Transitional Council (NTC) fighter fires his rocket-propelled grenade toward buildings in District Two of Qaddafi's home city of Sirte on Oct.11.The battle forSirte ended with the dictator's death on Oct. 20.

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NTC fighters stand guard next to the corpses of Libya's ex-strongman Moammar Qaddafi and his son Mutassem, displayed inside the cold storage room of a vegetable market near a mosque on the outskirts of Misrata on Oct. 22.

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Foreign workers from Nigeria, Ghana, and other African countries pile in the back of a truck with their belongings trying to leave the besieged city of Misrata April 18. Thousands of foreign workers and Libyans alike tried to flee war-torn Misrata as fighting intensified.

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At least 50 burnt bodies were discovered in a construction site shed near the base for the infamous Khamis Brigade on Aug. 27  in Tripoli, Libya. Eyewitnesses who escaped the massacre said people were murdered by pro-Qaddafi forces on Aug. 23 and 24.

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A Libyan rebel poses on an ornate mermaid loveseat, a wedding gift made to resemble Aisha Gaddafi, daughter of former Libyan dictator Moammar Qaddafi, while guarding Aisha's home from looters on Aug. 29 in Tripoli.

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Rebel fighters carefully move into a building where they had trapped government loyalist troops during street fighting on Tripoli Street in downtown Misrata  on April 20.

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A libyan rebel fighter runs up a burning stairwell during an effort to dislodge some ensconced government loyalist troops who were firing on them from an upstairs room during house-to-house fighting on Tripoli Street in downtown Misrata on April 20.

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A Libyan NTC fighter fires a rocket-propelled grenade toward buildings in Qaddafi's home city of Sirte on Oct. 11.

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Syrian anti-government protesters hold up candles as they rally in the coastal town of Banias, on May 1, after hundreds of dissidents were arrested across Syria, including in the flashpoint town of Daraa (written out in candles above). The United Nations estimates that more than 5,000 people have been killed during the Syrian uprising.

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Syrian anti-government protesters hold banners calling for an end to a military siege in Nawa near the southern town of Daraa, the epicentre of protests that have shaken President Bashar al-Assad's once uncontested rule, on April 28.

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A Syrian military tank takes position in a residential street in the flashpoint city of Homs, about 100 miles northeast of Damascus, on Aug. 30, as rights activists reported widespread anti-regime protests across Syria on the first day of the feast marking the end of Ramadan.

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Protesters hold Yemeni, Syrian and Egyptian flags in support of anti-regime uprisings as tens of thousands of Egyptians gathered for a demonstration at Cairo's Tahrir Square on April 8, two months after president Hosni Mubarak was ousted. Slogans read "God, Syria, and freedom only" on the Syrian flag and "Stay loyal to the revolution and beware of traitors" on the Egyptian flag.

 

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