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The Rebellion in the Middle East and North Africa

    “I will remember forever that the power is in the people's hands” An activist reflects on protests in early 2011.

    In 2011, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) shook as ordinary people summoned up the courage to provide a demonstration of “people’s power” such as the region had never seen before. Incredibly, protesters returned day after day, even when the might of the state and its repressive security forces were deployed against them. Human rights were and are at the core of the demands for change.

    Peaceful protest prevailed in Tunisia and Egypt, though many paid a heavy price. In Libya, the uprising spiraled into armed conflict. All three countries have held elections and are facing the challenges of accountability for past abuses and transition to new governments. In the summer of 2013, however, Egypt once again descended into crisis as the military resumed power.

    In Yemen, the President’s obstinate refusal until almost the end of the year to stand down despite mass protests has left the country divided.

    Bahrain’s rulers, backed by Saudi Arabia, also faced down the protests with brutal force. Though the year ended on a note of hope with the government committing to reform, reparation and reconciliation, few of those promises have been kept.

    Syria has collapsed into an internal armed conflict that deepens every day. Serious abuses, some amounting to war crimes and crimes against humanity, have been committed by all parties to the conflict. Meanwhile, the international community struggles to respond. Over 100,000 are dead and millions displaced. 

    Recommended links

    The Rebellion in the Middle East and North Africa: A Human Rights Agenda for Change