From elections in the world’s biggest democracy to the impeachment of the United States president, the year 2019 has been a momentous one for the entire world.
Protests engrossed cities across the globe at different times for various reasons; in India, citizens came out against the Hindu-nationalist government for passing a prejudiced bill; in Hong Kong, residents demanded democracy from China’s ruling Communist Party; and in Iran, people protested against a 200 per cent increase in fuel prices.
Populist leaders faced resistance, not only from their opponents but from the next generation of rulers: the youth. Terrorist attacks at religious sites forced the world to address the pressing issue of rising Islamophobia while a mass movement called attention to undeniable affects of climate change.
Here, NewsOne takes a look at the global events that formed the outgoing year.
Christchurch and Easter Sunday attacks
In March, the world was shaken when a right-wing terrorist entered two separate mosques in New Zealand’s quiet city of Christchurch and opened fire at worshipers, killing almost 50 people.
The attack, that took place during Friday prayers, was livestreamed by the attacker on Facebook. The incident was immediately termed as a terrorist attack by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, forcing the world to talk about Islamophobia in Western countries and discuss measures needed to be taken to ensure protection of minorities.
A month later, nearly 300 worshipers were killed in devastating bomb attacks on two churches in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday. The government said that the attacks were carried out by a local militant group National Thowheeth Jama’ath.
The mammoth Indian elections were watched closely as Narendra Modi, after a campaign fueled by nationalist sentiments, succeeded in returning to power. The Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won a landslide victory despite a declining economy and increasing unemployment in the country.
Months after assuming power again, Modi’s government, emboldened by the overwhelming majority, passed the highly controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), which makes it easier for all religious minorities from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh to gain Indian citizenship. It does not apply to Muslims.
The bill is in line with the party’s election promise to weed out “foreign infiltrators”. Modi’s right-hand man Amit Shah, while campaigning for the 2019 elections, had vowed to expel “termites” from the country. It was not the first time BJP had adopted this position.
Kashmir devoid of its autonomy
The BJP government in August unilaterally revoked Article 370 of the Indian constitution, stripping occupied Kashmir of its special status and imposing a strict curfew and communications blackout in the region, which has been in place for more than four months. Businesses were shut down while residents were scared of sending children to school. More than 4,000 arrests were made without charges and reports of horrific torture of Kashmiri residents emerged during the lockdown.
The move drew a strong reaction from Pakistan, who pushed the issue on global platforms in order to direct the world’s attention towards human rights abuse in the region. Multiple US congress members tabled resolutions against Indian actions in the occupied region, demanding an end to the human rights violations, much to the chagrin of the BJP government.
Trump’s tempestuous year in office and impeachment
After a year of will they, won’t they, the US House of Representatives on Dec 19 voted in favour of Trump’s impeachment and charged him with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, making him the third US president to be impeached.
Trump has been accused of trying to enlist a foreign government, Ukraine, to investigate a discredited theory that Democrats conspired with Ukraine to meddle in the 2016 US elections, as well as his political rival Joe Biden, abusing his power as president. Biden is a contender for the Democrat presidential nomination for the 2020 elections, for which Trump is also running.
Protests rule the globe
Widespread demonstrations in Hong Kong attracted global attention after thousands of people took to the streets to protest against an unpopular bill, which would allow extradition to mainland China and had the support of Beijing. Due to the protests, Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam withdrew the bill, but that did not put an end to the movement. Students took to the streets, demanding democracy and freedom, and received the support of the international community.
Anti-government protests were also held in Iraq, Lebanon and Iran, where people came out on streets to demonstrate against corruption, weakening economy and unemployment.
Climate activists take to streets
This year, the global community’s attention was drawn towards climate change and its devastating effects by 16-year-old activist Greta Thunberg, who delivered an emotional speech at the United Nations Climate Action Summit in September.
Two prime ministers, election and a looming Brexit
Brexit kept the United Kingdom occupied from the beginning of this year. In January, the House of Commons served then premier Theresa May a historic defeat by rejecting a deal which she had arrived at with the European Union after tough negotiations.
She persevered and tabled the deal again before the parliament in March, weeks before the country was meant to leave the EU, only to be defeated again, this time by 149 votes. The ‘leave’ deadline was extended from March 29 to April 12 and then again to October 31. She faced a third defeat in May after which she announced her resignation and was replaced by Boris Johnson.
Johnson took dramatic measures to get the parliament to agree to leave the EU by October 31, one of which included suspension of the government for over a month. He was still forced to seek a delay in the ‘leave’ deadline, which was extended until January 31, 2020. Failing to convince the parliament, he called for snap elections in December and won with an overwhelming majority.
On December 20, the parliament approved Johnson’s Brexit deal, the first step toward fulfilling his election pledge to deliver Britain’s departure from the EU by January 31.
US-Saudi-Iran: a love-hate triangle
Tensions between traditional rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran worsened in September when drone attacks on the former’s two major oil plants, cutting off half of the Kingdom’s output. The attacks were claimed by Iran-aligned Yemen rebel Houthi group but both the US and Saudi Arabia blamed Tehran for the assault.
Pak-India at edge of war
Relations between Pakistan and India turn sour in February when a Kashmiri youth blew up an Indian paramilitaries convoy in occupied Kashmir’s Pulwama district, killing more than 40 soldiers. The Indian government blamed Pakistan and vowed to “ensure [Islamabad’s] complete isolation from the international community”.
On February 26, an Indian aircraft trespassed into Pakistan’s airspace through the Muzaffarabad sector and dropped its payload in a forest near Balakot, felling a few trees, on its return after Pakistan’s armed forces responded.
The Indian army claimed to have “struck the biggest training camp of Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) in Balakot” and killed “a large number of JeM terrorists”. The unsubstantiated claims were rejected by Pakistan and remain unproven.
The next day Pakistan Air Force undertook strikes across the LoC from Pakistani airspace, following which two Indian aircrafts violated Pakistani airspace once again. Both the planes were shot down and one pilot was arrested.
Taliban talks: on-again-off-again
The US, with assistance from Pakistan, continued to hold peace talks with Taliban in order to end a long-drawn war. However, both US and Pakistan were unable to convince the Taliban to make the Afghan government a party to the talks, even after it came to power after a historic election.