Image 1 of 20: Protests against Morsi: On the 2nd anniversary of the Jan 25 revolution that ousted Hosni Mubarak from power, Egyptians took to the streets in Tahrir Square and Port Said to protest the Muslim Brotherhood leadership under president Mohamed Morsi. Security forces clashed with protesters, leaving dozens dead in the turmoil.
Image 1 of 20: Yemen talks launched: Yemeni unrest has escalated since President Ali Abdullah Saleh was ousted in 2011 - the south has repeatedly called for secession and Al Qaeda dominates the Gulf state. Dialogue began in March in a bid to reboot the constitution and pacify the south, but distrust between the north-south is at an all time high.
Image 1 of 20: #OccupyGezi: A small environmental protest in Istanbul over a development project in Gezi park sparked nationwide protests with demonstrators calling for Turkey PM Erdogan's resignation. The violent crackdown on the protesters put the #occupyGezi protests in the history books and in the world’s headlines.
Image 1 of 20: Hassan Rouhani elected: Hassan Rouhani’s election as Iranian president in June launched warm relations between Tehran and Washington for the first time in decades. There’s been a historic phone call between Rouhani and Obama that got Israel in a flap, an international nuclear deal, and a promise for a brighter economic future for Iran.
Image 1 of 20: Assaf wins Arab Idol: Gazan singer Mohammad Assaf winning the TV show Arab Idol in June gave Palestinian morale a boost, garnered renewed worldwide attention to their plight and boosted solidarity among the Arab diaspora. From center stage, Assaf is using his fame as a platform globally to encourage worldwide action on the Palestinian question.
Image 1 of 20: Morsi-gate: Massive protests across Egypt launched the country into what’s been called the second phase of the country’s 2011 revolution. Millions called for President Mohamed Morsi’s resignation, and on July 3, the military – headed by General Sisi – ousted Morsi following intense Cairo clashes and international scrutiny.
Image 1 of 20: Mohammed Brahmi killed: The assassination of Tunisia’s opposition MP Brahmi at the hands of Islamists in July launched the North African country into a political deadlock with many Tunisians calling for the resignation of the Islamist-led Ennahda party leadership. Protests and growing distrust from all sides has left the country in chaos.
Image 1 of 20: Peace talks resume: Israel and Palestine renewed peace negotiations in July after three years of stalemate. Hope was kindled with the release of Palestinian prisoners in August and October, but aggressive Israeli settlement activity threatens to derail the talks – many have lost faith in the U.S.-led talks and any hope of lasting peace.
Image 1 of 20: Iraq violence: 10 years on from the U.S. invasion, tragic levels of sectarian violence are still plaguing Iraq. The country has daily dosages of bloodshed and violence, with mosques and markets frequently targeted. During the holy month of Ramadan alone, more than 800 people were killed by suicide bombs and militant attacks.
Image 1 of 20: Rabaa Al Adawiya crackdown: The violent crackdown by Egyptian security forces on Morsi supporters in August left the country covered in bloodshed and counting its dead. Police stormed the Rabaa Al Adawiya mosque, a notorious pro-Morsi camp that was a central part in the summer’s revolution and hundreds were killed.
Image 1 of 20: Ghouta chemical weapon attacks: Chemical weapons use by the Syrian regime in Damascus in August shocked the world as pictures of dead children flooded in. Assad’s use of sarin nearly caused World War III as the West mulled a military strike. Now, a Russian-U.S. deal is aiming to remove the country’s entire chemical stockpile by mid-2014.
Image 1 of 20: Tripoli bombs: Twin bombs in Lebanon’s Tripoli killed dozens and wounded hundreds in a shocking attack reminiscent of the civil war. It launched a wave of sectarian tension in the restive city that forced the country to deploy the army to maintain order in October and again in December this year.
Image 1 of 20: Bahrain cracks down on Shiites: Tension between Bahrain’s Shiite majority and Sunni leadership escalated in September following the arrest of a former opposition MP for “inciting terrorism” and both sides boycotted talks. Mass protests were met with police tear gas and there have been hundreds of arrests since the September crackdown.
Image 1 of 20: Libya PM kidnapped: Turmoil has enveloped Libya since Gaddafi’s 2011 ouster as tribal militias and Tripoli’s weak central government vie for power and control. The short lived kidnapping of Libya’s Prime Minister Ali Zeidan at the hands of armed Islamist militants shed light on the divisions responsible for causing the country’s chaos.
Image 1 of 20: Saudi says no to UNSC: In an unprecedented decision, Saudi Arabia declined a UN Security Council seat in October in protest of Western policies and actions in the region, particularly in terms of the Syrian conflict. After much talk about Kuwait assuming the seat in lieu of KSA, Jordan announced that it won the bid for the seat in December.
Image 1 of 20: Saudi labor deportations: KSA’s decision to send home all foreign workers without status starting in early November led to a deportation disaster. Representing more than two-thirds of the labor force, Saudi industries are looking to hire, but it is not yet certain how KSA’s deport decision will fare on the country’s economy in the long-term.
Image 1 of 20: Beirut bomb of Iranian embassy: With sectarian tensions running high throughout the country, Beirut was an anomalous modicum of calm…until November. A double car bomb attack on the Iranian embassy killed 22 people – including the Iranian cultural attaché, Ibrahim Ansari. Sunni jihadist group Abdullah Azzam Brigades claimed the attack.
Image 1 of 20: Nuclear deal with Iran: 2013 headlines have been all about “nothing but nukes” since Rouhani’s historic call with Obama in September. In another historic-precedent-setting moment, Iran and six world powers signed a preliminary deal in late November to curb Tehran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanction relief.
Image 1 of 20: Arafat theories debunked: French scientists said in December that former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat was not poisoned to death, ending a decade-long allegation that Israel assassinated him. Theories are still rife - a Dutch report proved that Arafat did have high levels of polonium in his blood at the time of death.
Image 1 of 20: Jordan, Palestinian and Israel water deal: After years of talks, the Dead Sea-Red Sea deal was signed by these three governments in early December. Water scarcity is a crucial issue in the peace talks and the source of regional tension, so the deal represents a critical moment for water conservation and diplomacy between Arab states and Israel.
Renewed movement towards peace and change has continued to lend hope to the Middle East in 2013. Through protest, violence, as well as dialogues and peace negotiations, people throughout the region have been mobilizing to change the status quo in their respective countries.
Egypt and Syria dominated headlines. The ousting of Egypt’s President Mohamed Morsi in July and the army’s bloody crackdown on Islamists and the Muslim Brotherhood placed the north African country in the spotlight globally throughout the year. Chemical attacks, proposed peace negotiations, 33-months of bloodshed and counting, and the growing regional Syrian refugee crisis marked 2013 out as one of the darkest years for a region hosting yet another bloody and potentially protracted civil war.
In Tunisia and Yemen, national dialogue talks were launched to end political turmoil that has enveloped the countries since the ousting of their former leaders during Arab Spring uprisings. Bahrain also initiated a dialogue to solve tension between its Shi’ite majority and Sunni leadership, but the talks in all three countries have largely ended in deadlock or failure, except for Tunisia which has signalled some hope in recent weeks with the announcement of a new interim Prime Minister to lead the country’s transition.
The culmination of such movements and events in 2013 expose how growing regional tensions and divisions are linked to shifting regional--and global--dynamics and alliances. Beyond the ‘Arab Spring’ discourse, the attempts made towards peace and change both domestically by Middle Eastern countries and the international community are bound to have a lasting legacy on the region and global order in the years to come.
In a year of huge upheaval, revolutions and civil war, what were the biggest events that took place in 2013? Here’s Al Bawaba’s comprehensive guide to the most significant events that occurred in the Middle East this year.