What is the Arab Spring and how did it start? | News of the Arab Spring

From the fall of old authoritarian leaders to the suppression of riots, here are some key dates and events that make up what is known as the Arab Spring.

The Tunisian spark

On December 17, 2010, a young Tunisian who was selling vegetables from a mound set himself on fire to protest police harassment.

Mohamed Bouazizi died on January 4, 2011, but not before his gesture went viral, sparking protests against the cost of living and the authoritarian president of the country Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

Ben Ali’s 23 years of rule ended 10 days later when he fled to Saudi Arabia, becoming the first leader of an Arab nation to be pushed back by popular protests.

The protests inspired a wave of riots across the Arab world as people rose to protest authoritarianism, corruption and poverty.

The protests spread from Sidi Bouzid throughout Tunisia, becoming deadly [File: Christophe Ena/AP Photo]

“Mubarak out!”

On January 25, 2011, thousands of Egyptians marched in Cairo, Alexandria and other cities, demanding the departure of President Hosni Mubarak, who has been in power for 30 years.

On February 11, as more than a million people took to the streets, Mubarak resigned and handed over control to the military.

Mohammed Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood-linked government was elected in 2012, but was overthrown the following year by military led by general, now president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

Egypt’s 18-day uprising led to the downfall of then-president Hosni Mubarak on February 11, 2011 [File: Mohamed Abd el-Ghany/Reuters]

The “Tahrir” of Bahrain

On February 15, protesters took control of the Pearl Square roundabout in the capital, which they renamed “Tahrir Square”, and called for a constitutional monarchy among other reforms.

But their camp was stormed by riot police three days later, killing three people and injuring many.

Months of anti-government protests in Bahrain were suppressed by the monarchy [File: Hasan Jamali/AP Photo]

Libya explodes

On the same day protests started in Bahrain, Libyan police used force to disrupt an anti-government sit-in in the second city, Benghazi.

The country’s leader Muammar Gaddafi has pledged to hunt down the “rats” who oppose him.

The revolt turned into a civil war with the French, British and American air forces intervening against Gaddafi.

On 20 October 2011, Gaddafi was captured and killed in his home region of Sirte by rebels who found him hiding in a manhole.

The country is now divided between rival Eastern and Western administrations.

Protests against Gaddafi’s 42-year rule broke out in February 2011 [File: Esam al-Fetori/Reuters]

Syria follows

On March 6, a dozen teenagers labeled the wall of their school in southern Syria with “Your turn, doctor,” referring to President Bashar al-Assad, a qualified ophthalmologist.

The torture of young people initially triggered mainly peaceful protests and calls for democratic reform.

But with the government’s violent repression, the revolt turned into a civil war.

The Syrian war also contributed to the rise of the ISIL group (ISIS) and the renewed conflict in neighboring Iraq, which culminated in a genocidal attack on minorities in the north of the country.

The first elections in Tunisia

On October 23, 2011, Tunisians poured into the polls for their first free elections, in which members of the Ennahdha movement triumph.

Saleh of Yemen leaves

On February 27, 2012, Ali Abdullah Saleh, who had ruled Yemen for 33 years, handed over power to his deputy Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi after a year of protests.

The poorest country in the Arab world, Yemen, also fell into violence after the initial protests.

Then President Ali Abdullah Saleh was injured in an assassination attempt in June 2011, forcing him to seek treatment in Saudi Arabia [File: Muhammed Muheisen/AP Photo]

Moscow saves al-Assad

Russia, which is al-Assad’s greatest ally with Iran, began air strikes against Syrian rebels on September 30, 2015, changing the course of the war.

After 10 years of fighting, which resulted in 380,000 deaths, al-Assad was able to claim significant victories.

In Syria, hundreds of thousands of people have died since the start of the uprising and more than half of the country’s pre-war population has been displaced [File: AP Photo]