Old autocrats fell, new rulers sprang forth, and everyday citizens were instrumental in bringing about change. Here are some of those names associated with the Arab Spring.
Egypt's first democratically elected president who came to power more than a year after his predecessor, Hosni Mubarak, was ousted in Egypt's Arab Spring revolution. A leading figure in the country's Muslim Brotherhood, which was banned under Mubarak. Morsi's presidency is 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?
Though not political by nature, ElBaradei and allies formed the National Association for Change in 2010 to push for reforms in a unified opposition movement against Mubarak's rule. The movement advocates for democracy and social justice. He has advocated for the Muslim Brotherhood being able to be a part of democracy in Egypt. His name has been floated as a possible presidential candidate, though some are skeptical of how he'd fare in a vote with Egyptians because he's spent so much time living outside the country.
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 for 2012.
After being recalled from his ophthamology studies and moving quickly through the ranks, Assad became a staff colonel in the Syrian military in 1999. The presidency is his first major political role. He promised to enact reforms when he took power but those have not been 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 has described himself as anti-Israel and anti-West, has been criticized for his alliance with Iran, and is accused of meddling in Lebanon.
Syrians have spilled out into the streets, risking their lives and sometimes paying with their in the process, to protest the tyrannical rule of Bashar al-Assad. But how is the opposition categorized and characterized, and is there enough organization to avoid a power vacuum if Assad is successfully ousted from office?
Malath Aumran is the alias for Rami Nakhle, a Syrian pro-democracy activist who has 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 has used Twitter and Facebook to keep the world abreast of the crackdown and continued demonstrations. Tweeting in English, the updates has filled a valuable void where media have not been allowed inside of Syria. Because of his activism, Aumran is under threat from the regime and continues his work from a safehouse in Lebanon.
The dictator of Libya since 1969 and the third-longest serving world ruler. Also known as being one of the most eccentric world rulers, from his days of sponsoring terrorism to recent years when he tried to make nice with the world and be seen as wise problem-solver. Killed when he was cornered by rebels while on the run in his hometown, Sirte.
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.