Cairo/London: The year 2011 will go down in the history as a game-changing period especially for the millions in the Middle East who led the 'Arab Spring' that saw the overthrow of despots, to al-Qaeda that saw its 'emir' Osama bin Laden being killed, and for the crisis-hit Europe.

The year started off with the fall of Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, the strongman who lorded over Tunisia for 23 years, in January. He escaped the wrath of his people and found refuge in Saudi Arabia.

The rising in Tunisia was first seen as just a stand-alone incident but within days, the rage spread too many countries in the region engulfing the despots who had ruled for decades with an iron fist and sheer brutality.

The next to go was Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, who was overthrown in February and put to trial ending his 30-year-old reign.

While the above two were lucky to have escaped alive, Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi had to pay with his life, and that too in a very gruesome manner.

The leader went underground after protesters aided by NATO stormed his strongholds. He surfaced again only to be seen by the world being shockingly dragged through the Libyan streets, punched and shot to death.

Protests are still on in Syria and Bahrain and have already claimed the lives of hundreds. Only time will decide the fate of the rulers of these nations.

Even as the world watched in amazement the fast changing atmosphere in the Middle East, American Navy SEALs commandos flew into Pakistan on May 2 evading the country's radars into the garrison city of Abbottabad.

Within hours, news channels, websites, social networking sites, newspapers screamed ‘Osama bin Laden shot dead’.

Yes, after 10 years of search, the world's then most wanted terrorist was shot dead in a safe-house in Pakistan.

The incident not only brought cheers to many across the world but also brought Islamabad under intense criticism and scrutiny.

Everyone wondered how can the most wanted terrorist spent about five years without being noticed just a stone throw away from Pakistan's elite military training centre?

Even as al-Qaeda was dealt with a terrible blow, its original friend Taliban was being edged for peace talks.

Reports suggest that Taliban and US did try and talk but the outcomes are all wrapped under a thick blanket of secrecy.

The process was dealt a terrible blow when a suicide bomber killed former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani, who was leading peace negotiations with the Taliban.

As international forces got ready to leave Afghanistan, US troops pulled out of Iraq ending nearly nine years of war.

Heavy expenditure was one of the many reason that contributed to US pulling out its troops.

Finance was also a hot topic in Europe. The world is bracing itself for the Euro-crisis that has seen Greece being bailed out by the European Union even as the grouping itself faced a huge economic crisis.

Economic experts say the euro-crisis will have spillover effects and countries including India are praying against it.

Another incident that changed the way the world thinks was the deadly Fukoshima nuclear disaster in March.

The tsunami and the subsequent floods lead to a nuclear leakage in Japan and the world stopped and went over the safety features of nuclear reactors.

A debate on the increasing usage of nuclear energy has also been started.

Amidst all the turmoil, Myanmar, which was been ruled by the junta for years, took steps towards democracy.

The rulers also released Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest and such moves led to the visit of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Myanmar, the first visit by a senior US official in more than 50 years.

Like Myanmar, the other country that US was not in good terms - North Korea - also saw events that could be game changer in the longer run.

Kim Jong-il, the leader of the country since 1994 died of an heart attack. A week after state media reported Jong's December 17 death, the campaign to install successor and youngest son Kim Jong Un gained momentum.

Another significant event that 2011 will be remembered for is the bid by Palestinian Authority to be inducted in the United Nations as an independent member.

Their bid for membership has been admitted and the global body will vote in what could be seen as a keenly contested campaign.

(Agencies)