Beginning in January 2011, activists used Facebook to organize protests across Egypt against three decades of rule by President Hosni Mubarak. Despite a growing economy and rapid reforms, the price of basic staples and job creation remained stagnant. Large numbers of the Egyptian populace work in the informal sector. The Mubarak regime initially felt comfortable confronting the protesters with police forces and riot police were deployed across the country. The most strident protests were in Alexandria, Cairo, and cities along the Suez Canal. Mubarak responded by calling in the military, who refused to fire on the protesters. Following 18 days of protests in which as many as 600 people were killed, Mubarak transferred power to Egypt's military.
What To Watch For: state Security files now online and simmering religious tensions; presidential race.
Concessions: government toppled, constitution amended (pending referendum), tentative election calendar announced.
On December 17, Mohamed Bouazizi from the Sidi Bouazid province lit himself on fire after his cart and goods were seized by local authorities and he was slapped by a junior government official. Sustained local protests began to attract the attention of government authorities, and images on social media of the protests in Sidi Bouazid spread them throughout the country. President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali's security apparatus and military refused to fire on demonstrators. The Tunisian leader fled to Saudi Arabian exile after 28 days of protests, hastily appointing Mohamed Ghannouchi prime minister. But Ghannouchi's appointment riled demonstrators who regarded him as too close to the former administration, and he, too, was forced to step down on February 27. The country is now in the hands of acting President Fouad Mebazaa and Prime Minister Beji Caid el Sebsi. Both men have tertiary ties to the Ben Ali government.
What To Watch For: Election calendar
Concessions: government toppled, secret police abolished, a constitutional assembly will be elected in July.
Violent protests broke out on February 14. The Pearl Roundabout in Manama became a center for the protesters. Sectarian issues have accumulated in the island state. The population is 70 percent Shi'a, but the king and government are Sunni. Crucially, the military is open only to Sunnis, many of whom are of South Asian origin. After the shooting of protesters attracted the attention of international media, the government of King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa changed tactics and sought to address protesters' demands. Officially, seven protesters have been killed and more than 500 wounded since the protests began.
Bahrain also saw protests in the 1990s calling for democratic reform in the island nation, which has been ruled by the Al Khalifa family since 1783.
What To Watch For: long-standing support from Saudi Arabia of the Al Khalifa family, U.S leverage deriving from the basing of its Fifth Fleet on the island, the fact that no monarchy has been toppled in the Middle East since the Iranian Revolution of 1979.
Concessions: The government has ordered the release of hundreds of political prisoners and began serious talks with the protesters. A cabinet reshuffle has also been announced.
-- Joseph Hammond