On Sunday, as hundreds of rebels swarmed into Tripoli and took control of large parts of the capital, and Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi’s rule looked close to collapse, a photo was shared on Facebook and Twitter again and again and again.
Taken less than a year before, the photo captured the ear-to-ear smiles of the leaders of several autocratic regimes. At the center of the photo stood Gaddafi, smiling and resplendent in his golden-brown robes and trademark sunglasses.
To his far left stood then-Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, laughing, and looking for all the world like he was invincible. To his right stood then-Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, with Gaddafi’s elbow jauntily on his soldier.
Ben Ali would be ousted from power within three months of that photo; Mubarak would be ousted within four.
Yemen President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who stood directly to Gaddafi’s left, is the only leader in that front row still firmly in power, although he has been close to resignation several times and was injured and nearly killed in an RPG attack on his presidential compound in June.
“New wallpaper,” one man tweeted of the photo. “How things change,” al-Jazeera wrote.
Looking at a pic of Mubarak, Gadaffi,Ben Ali&Saleh. It is just amazing how the MidEast has changed in just under a year. One year!