The death of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il over the weekend marked a pretty difficult year for the world’s dictators. State television said Kim Jong-Il died on Saturday, Dec. 17, 2011. As it turns out, exactly one year earlier, a young Tunisian named Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire after he was banned from selling fruit to earn a living. Bouazizi’s brave move set off a wave of protests throughout Tunisia and the region, now known as the Arab Spring. Here’s a run-down of deposed dictators and autocrats since January:
January 14: Tunisia’s president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali fled to Saudi Arabia after weeks of mass protests. On June 20, Ben Ali and his wife were tried and convicted in absentia on theft charges and sentenced to 35 years in prison. Saudi Arabia has refused to extradite. Tunisians went to the polls in October to elect a new government in voting that international observers are calling remarkably free and fair.
February 11: Egyptian pro-democracy demonstrations ousted President Hosni Mubarak after weeks of protests inspired by the events in Tunisia. While Egypt faces new rounds of violent turmoil after recent parliamentary elections, the next session of Mubarak’s trial is set for this month.
April 11: Côte d’Ivoire President Laurent Gbagbo was forced from power after refusing to relinquish the presidency after losing an election in November 2010. Gbagbo has been transferred to the International Criminal court where he faces four charges of crimes against humanity.
October 20: Libyans joined the Arab Spring fervor in mid-February. NATO-assisted rebels took the capital Tripoli in August, and the forces of Libya’s new government captured and killed former leader Muammar Qaddafi in what the ICC recently said could be considered a war crime. Elections are expected to be conducted next year.
November 23: After months of Arab Spring inspired protests, Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh signed a deal in which he would step down and “transfer his powers to his deputy ahead of an early election and in return will get immunity from prosecution.”
December 17: Exactly one year after a Tunisian vendor set himself on fire, sparking a wave of fallen autocracies throughout the region, North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il dies. However, there are currently no hopes for transfer to a democratic system in the communist country as Kim Jong-Il’s son, Kim Jong Un is expected to take over leadership.
Of course, while not technically considered a “dictator” or the leader of any particular country, it wasn’t a great year for al Qaeda No. 1 Osama bin Laden, who was killed in a Navy SEAL raid on May 1.
So if 2011 wasn’t exactly the year of the despot, will the trend continue in 2012? A near civil war in Syria threatens President Bashar al-Assad’s rule there; mass backlash against rigged elections in Russia is getting larger; and in Iran, the Green Movement hasn’t entirely disappeared.