World Leaders in the Arab Spring Era

Egypt's Mohamed Morsi and Moammar Gadhafi of Libya were leaders at the time

Old autocrats fell, new rulers sprang forth, and everyday citizens were instrumental in bringing about change. Here are some of the names associated with the Arab Spring.

Mohamed Morsi

Egyptian President Mursi Visits Berlin
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Egypt's first democratically elected president came to power more than a year after his predecessor, Hosni Mubarak, was ousted in Egypt's Arab Spring revolution. Morsi was a leading figure in the country's Muslim Brotherhood, which was banned under Mubarak. His presidency was seen as a critical test for Egypt's future. Did the revolutionaries who filled Tahrir Square calling for democracy and a country free of tyranny trade autocratic Mubarak for a theocratic regime that would implement Sharia and squeeze out Egypt's Coptic Christians and secularists?

Mohamed ElBaradei

Mohamed ElBaradei at Cinema For Peace Gala 2012 - Inside Ceremony
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Though not political by nature, ElBaradei and his allies formed the National Association for Change in 2010 to push for reforms in a unified opposition movement against Mubarak's rule. The movement advocated for democracy and social justice. ElBaradei advocated for the Muslim Brotherhood's inclusion in Egyptian democracy. His name was floated as a possible presidential candidate, though many were skeptical of how he'd fare in a vote with Egyptians because he's spent so much time living outside the country.

Manal al-Sharif

Manal al-Sharif, TIME'S 100 Most Influential People In The World - Cocktails
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There was an uprising in Saudi Arabia—a contingent of women who dared to simply get behind the wheel and drive, thus upending the strict Islamist code of the country. In May 2011, al-Sharif was filmed by another women's rights activist, Wajeha al-Huwaider, driving the streets of Khobar in defiance of the ban on women behind the wheel. After the video was posted online, she was arrested and imprisoned for nine days. She was named one of TIME magazine's 100 most influential people in the world in 2012.

Russian President Medvedev Visits Syria
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Assad became a staff colonel in the Syrian military in 1999. The Syrian presidency was his first major political role. He promised to enact reforms when he took power, but many were never realized, with human rights groups accusing Assad's regime of imprisoning, torturing and killing political opponents. State security is strongly intertwined with the presidency and loyal to the regime. He described himself as anti-Israel and anti-West, was criticized for his alliance with Iran, and is accused of meddling in Lebanon. More »

Malath Aumran

Syrians Stage Rally
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Malath Aumran is the alias for Rami Nakhle, a Syrian pro-democracy activist who waged a cyber campaign of dissent against the regime of Bashar Assad. After the Arab Spring protests spilled over into the Syrian uprisings of 2011, Malath Aumran used Twitter and Facebook to keep the world abreast of the crackdown and continued demonstrations. Tweeting in English, the updates filled a valuable void when media was not allowed inside of Syria. Because of his activism, Aumran was under threat from the regime and continued his work from a safe house in Lebanon.

Muammar Gaddafi

Libyan Leader Muammar Gaddafi Official Visit In Rome
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The dictator of Libya since 1969 and the third-longest serving world ruler, Gadhafi was known as one of the world's most eccentric rulers. From his days of sponsoring terrorism to recent years when he tried to make nice with the world, his goal was to be seen as wise problem-solver. He was killed when he was cornered by rebels while on the run in his hometown of Sirte.

Hosni Mubarak

Egyptian President Mubarak
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Egypt's president from 1981, when, as vice president, he took the reins of the government following the assassination of Anwar Sadat, to 2011, when he stepped down in the face of intense anti-government protests. The fourth Egyptian president came under criticism for human rights and a lack of democratic institutions in the nation ​but was also seen by many as a necessary ally who has kept extremists at bay in that critical region.