It was not the best of years, but then, it was not the worst either. The year 2015 will go down as one during which the world came together on many fronts, but remained implacably divisive on others. It was a year of achievements but also a year blemished by acts of shame; a year of growth and progress, as well as one of stymied development. There were unparalleled displays of humanity and acts of vicious barbarism as well…
The haunting and heart-rending story unfolding throughout 2015 is the unrelenting flow of refugees to Europe. Coming from wars in Syria and Afghanistan, as well as conflicts and economic downturns in Africa and elsewhere, these men women and children risk everything for the safety of European shores. Thousands die making the dangerous crossing across the Mediterranean in flimsy boats, and yet more continue to arrive. By late December, over a million men women and children had crossed into Europe triggering a crisis and creating divisions in the European Union on how best to deal with the evolving humanitarian situation.
We continue looking at other stories that made the news in 2015
22 January: Houti rebels in Yemen seize the presidential palace forcing President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi to seek refuge in neighboring Saudi Arabia. In September, he returns to Aden after a Saudi-led coalition of Arab states provide military support to government forces to help them recapture several cities. The stalemate continues...
12 February: Leaders from Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France, along with Belarus reach an agreement in Minsk, Belarus on the conflict in eastern Ukraine with a package of measures intended to alleviate the ongoing war in the Donbass region that included a ceasefire and withdrawal of heavy weapons. The ceasefire appears to be holding while the stalemate in the region continues...
Though not related, on the same day, the United Nations Security Council unanimously passes Resolution 2199, drafted by Russia, to combat terrorism. Provisions in the resolution mandate UN Security Council to enforce the decision with economic sanctions and to combat by all means, threats to international peace and security caused by terrorists.
6 March: After a journey of nearly eight years through space, NASA's Dawn probe arrives to orbit the dwarf planet Ceres, a few months ahead of an even deeper NASA space probe called New Horizons that flew by Pluto in July. Dawn is to remain in perpetual orbit around Ceres studying the proto-planet, which has remained largely mysterious since it was first spotted more than two centuries ago.
25 April: A 7.8-magnitude earthquake erupts approximately 137km east of the capital, Kathmandu, killing more than 8,800 people and destroying a half-million homes in Nepal with several hundreds more deaths reported from neighboring India, Bangladesh and China. Three weeks later, Nepal and the countries around it get hit by another quake this time of 7.3 magnitude near Mount Everest which kills over 200 and triggers landslides.
May 11: Pablo Picasso's Version O of 'Les Femmes d'Alger' sells for US$179.3 million at Christie's auction in New York, while the next day a sculpture 'L'Homme au doigt' by Alberto Giacometti sells for US$141.3 million, setting a new world record for a painting and for a sculpture, respectively.
25-26 June: Terrorists attacks by murderers masquerading under the label of religion kill hundreds during the holy month of Ramadan. Terrorists detonate three car bombs in Kobani, Syria and open fire on unarmed civilians, killing more than 220. A suicide bomber in Al-Hasakeh, also in Syria, causes 20 fatalities. In Tunisia, a deranged 22-year- old opens fire, again on unarmed tourists, killing 40 people in the resort of Port El Kantaoui. In Kuwait, another suicide bomber attacks Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq mosque in Kuwait City, killing 27 worshippers and injuring 227 others. Meanwhile, in Somalia, militants brutally kill 70 African Union soldiers from Burundi in Leego.
14 July: Based on a framework that was announced by the foreign ministers of France, Germany, the European Union, Iran, the United Kingdom and the United States as well as Chinese and Russian diplomats in Switzerland on 2 April, a comprehensive agreement on the Iran Nuclear Program was reached on 14 July. In exchange for lifting all nuclear-related economic sanctions imposed nine years earlier by the United Nations Security Council, Iran agreed to redesign, convert, and reduce its nuclear facilities. Ironically, Iran had proposed much of what the new agreement called for, way back in 2003, but it was then rejected by the Western powers.
20 July: Cuba and United States restore diplomatic relations, ending a 54-year stretch of hostility between the two nations. In April, President Obama had announced that the US would restore diplomatic relations with Cuba and remove the country from the US list of State sponsors of terrorism. The move was an admission by the United States that more than five decades of diplomatic and economic sanctions had failed to achieve the desired regime change in Cuba.
5 August: Debris from Malaysian Airlines Flight 370, missing since March 2014, washes up on the remote Indian Ocean island of Reunion. The jet, carrying 227 passengers and 12 crew, had gone missing while on a regular flight from Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia to Beijing in China. A multi-national search operation lasting over an year had failed to find any trace of the jet before positively identifying the debris on Reunion Island as belonging to the ill-fated flight.
18 September: German automaker Volkswagen is accused of rigging diesel emissions tests worldwide, affecting an estimated 11 million vehicles globally. The Environmental Protection Agency in the United States finds that the automaker had intentionally programmed its turbocharged diesel engines to lower emissions during laboratory testing. The programming caused the vehicles' emission output to meet US standards during regulatory testing, but emit up to 40 times more in real-world driving. The CEO of Volkswagen resigns following the incident and the company announces plans to spend US$7.3 billion on rectifying the emissions issues, and to refit the affected vehicles as part of a recall campaign.
24 September: A crowd stampede while performing the Haj pilgrimage in Mina, Saudi Arabia, leads to the death of over 2,250 international pilgrims, more than three times the official death toll given by the Kingdom. Despite the toll making it the deadliest Hajj disaster in history, the kingdom rebuffs criticism from its regional rival Iran and rejects efforts by other countries to join a probe into the deaths. Saudi King Salman orders an investigation into the tragedy, yet few details have been made public and hundreds of pilgrims still remain missing.
19 October: In Canada's parliamentary elections, Justin Trudeau's Liberal Party pulls off an upset victory, stunning incumbent Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Conservative Party. Over 45 years after his father Pierre Elliott Trudeau, held the office, Justin Trudeau becomes Canada's new prime minister. The 43 year-old Trudeau also becomes the country's second-youngest prime minister and the first to follow a parent into the position.
29 October: China permits all married couples to have two children as a way to offset the country's aging workforce. The announcement puts an end to China's unpopular one-child policy, which has been in effect for 35 years. The announcement states that the country will fully implement a policy of allowing each couple to have two children as an active response to an aging population.
31 October: Metrojet Flight KGL9268, an Airbus A321 operated by Russian airline Kogalymavia, en route to Saint Petersburg from Sharm el-Sheikh, crashes near Al-Hasana in Sinai, killing all 217 passengers and 7 crew members on board. The possibility that a bomb was put on the aircraft at Sharm el-Sheikh, leads several countries to suspend flights to that airport and Russia intensifies its bombing campaign against terrorists in Syria.
13 November: A series of coordinated attacks in Paris kill 130 people in Paris, including 89 at the Bataclan Theater, where the attackers take hostages before engaging in a stand-off with police. Three suicide bombers also strike near the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, while further shootings take place at nearby cafés and restaurants. Nearly 368 are injured in the attack which also kills the seven attackers with police mounting searches for an eight attacker and other accomplices.
12 December: After 20 years of fraught meetings, including over two weeks spent in an exhibition hall on the outskirts of Paris, negotiators from nearly 200 countries finally sign a global agreement that sets ambitious goals to limit temperature rises and to hold governments to account for reaching those targets. Government and business leaders say the agreement, which set a new goal to reach net zero emissions in the second half of the century, sends a powerful signal to global markets, hastening the transition away from fossil fuels and to a clean energy economy.
12 December: Saudi Arabia holds its third municipal elections, where for the first time women are allowed to vote and stand as candidates. The results show a total of 18 women securing seats in municipal council spread across the country. The municipal poll, hailed by many as historic, saw a turnout of about 47 percent, according to Saudi officials. More than 900 women and nearly 6,000 men competed for the 2016 seats available in 284 municipal councils.
1 December: Severe spells of rain in late November and early December floods large parts of Chennai in India. More than 400 people are killed and nearly 2 million are displaced; estimates of damage range from US$3 to 5 billion, making it one of the costliest natural disasters this year. Flood waters submerge residences, roads, vehicles, hospitals, schools and other public buildings for the better part of the week. The Army is called in to rescue thousands of marooned residents, while local volunteers and the public on social media actively help engage and coordinate relief efforts.
Wishing everyone a more happy and prosperous year ahead – The Times Kuwait team