2019 in review

2019: A year of rage and angst across the world

Illustration: Kannan Sundar

Illustration: Kannan Sundar  

Here is a quick recap

It was the year that saw the rage of the common man against the establishment. Many countries saw widespread street protests, led by students and youth, shaking the ruling elites. From the decimation of Islamic State, a rise in right-wing violence to the re-election victory of of Boris Johnson in the U.K. and the impeachment of Donald Trump, 2019 witnessed a host of historical events.

1) Protests across continents

From Algeria to Zimbabwe, the year saw anger and angst directed at the state machinery. Wikipedia alone documents 77 such distinct protest categories

a) City in turmoil

Protesters hold signs reading "Stop Tear Gas" during a rally against the police's use of tear gas in Hong Kong, Friday, Dec. 6, 2019. Hong Kong police have fired more than 10,000 tear gas canisters to quell violent protests that have rocked the city for six months.

Protesters hold signs reading "Stop Tear Gas" during a rally against the police's use of tear gas in Hong Kong, Friday, Dec. 6, 2019. Hong Kong police have fired more than 10,000 tear gas canisters to quell violent protests that have rocked the city for six months.   | Photo Credit: AP

 

Protests began in June in Hong Kong as a mark of opposition to the city government’s Extradition Bill that would have seen offenders sent to mainland China. However, with the passage of time, the scope and demands broadened to include wider democratic reforms, including a call for universal adult franchise for Legislative Council elections. The Bill stands scrapped but the protesters now demand a Bill of Rights

  • 194+ days
  • 2,65,000 protesters on July 1
  • 2 deaths
  • 2,600+ injuries
  • 6,000+ arrests
  • 16,000 rounds of tear gas fired
  • 10,000 rubber bullets used

Extradition Bill scrapped, big win for pro-democracy forces in local election

b) Uprising in the deserts

An Iraqi anti-government protester holds the national flag at a roadblock in the southern Iraqi city of Basra.

An Iraqi anti-government protester holds the national flag at a roadblock in the southern Iraqi city of Basra.   | Photo Credit: AFP

 

From October 1, people in Iraq began demonstrating against corruption, unemployment and poor quality of public services. Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi announced his resignation, but the protesters want the whole post-2003 system to be overhauled

Watch | Protests across the continents in 2019
 

  • 80+ days
  • 485 deaths
  • 20,000+ injuries
  • 160 detentions

Resignation of Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi

c) Ayatollahs’ revenge

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei   | Photo Credit: AP

 

Economic hardships have made Iranians take to the streets. What began as a protest against fuel price hike transformed into widespread unrest against corruption and status quo. The Iranian regime dealt brutally suppressed the protests by arresting more than 7,000 people and shutting down the Internet.

  • 87,000+ protesters
  • 300+ deaths
  • 4,800+ injuries
  • 7,000+ arrests

Shutdown of Internet, regime violence against protesters

d) It’s about capitalism

Demonstrators clashes with the riot police in Santiago, Chile.

Demonstrators clashes with the riot police in Santiago, Chile.   | Photo Credit: Getty Images

 

In Chile, the demonstrations began as a response to an increase in metro prices in mid-October but have since mutated into a broader battle against inequality, high price of health care, poor quality of education and public services and government brutality.

  • 70+ days
  • More than 37,00,000 protesters
  • 26 deaths
  • 11,000+ injuries
  • 7,000+ arrests

Referendum to be held in 2020 for a new Constitution

e) Algeria: It’s not over yet

Algerian demonstrators take to the streets in the capital Algiers during the weekly protest against the government, Friday, June 28, 2019. Hundreds of Algerian protesters gathered in the city centre for the latest weekly rally since the April 2 resignation of longtime president Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

Algerian demonstrators take to the streets in the capital Algiers during the weekly protest against the government, Friday, June 28, 2019. Hundreds of Algerian protesters gathered in the city centre for the latest weekly rally since the April 2 resignation of longtime president Abdelaziz Bouteflika.   | Photo Credit: AP

 

Having taken place for nearly a year, the Algerian protests have already seen the resignation of the erstwhile President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who was in power for more than two decades. The protesters have called for an overhaul of the entire political system.. They also refused to lend any legitimacy to the presidential election conducted earlier this year, which was won by former Bouteflika loyalist Abdelmadjid Tebboune.

  • 180+ days
  • One death
  • 180+ injuries

Resignation of Abdelaziz Bouteflika and election

f) Spring in Sudan

Former Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. File

Former Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. File   | Photo Credit: AFP

 

Protests began as a response to austerity measures, which spread across the country felling the strongman President Omar al-Bashir. This finally led to a Constitutional Declaration being drafted, which led to a 39-month transition period beginning September 2019 and formally transferred power to the Sovereignty Council of Sudan. In December, Bashir was sentenced to a two-year term for corruption.

  • 240+ days
  • 246 deaths
  • 1,200+ injuries

 

 

Resignation of Omar al-Bashir and a transitional government

Other major protests include the Yellow Vest movement in France, the student protests in Pakistan and the Extinction Rebellion climate protests across the world

2) The President is impeached

U.S. President Donald Trump | file

U.S. President Donald Trump | file   | Photo Credit: AP

 

U.S. President Donald Trump was impeached by the House of Representatives on December 18 for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.It had happened only twice before--Andrew Johnson was impeached in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1999. Both were not convicted in the Senate and hence were not removed from office. Trump is likely to follow suit as the Republican-controlled Senate is unlikely to convict him.

How the House voted on the impeachment articles

  • Total Strength of House --- 435
  • Article 1: Abuse of Power
  • 230 voted for impeachment & 197 against
  • Article II: Obstruction of Congress
  • 229 voted for impeachment & 198 against

3) Fire in the Gulf

a) Turbulent waters: The widening gulf between Iran and the U.S., which caused tensions following President Trump’s 2018 decision to withdraw from the 2015 nuclear deal, had its repercussions in the strategic chokepoint of the Strait of Hormuz. It almost reached a point of armed confrontation when Mr. Trump approved a retaliatory strike in June in response to the downing of a U.S. drone by Iran, but then backed off.

b) Targeting of oil installations

This satellite overview handout image obtained September 16, 2019 courtesy of the U.S. government shows damage to oil/gas infrastructure from drone attacks at Abqaig on September 15, 2019 in Saudi Arabia.

This satellite overview handout image obtained September 16, 2019 courtesy of the U.S. government shows damage to oil/gas infrastructure from drone attacks at Abqaig on September 15, 2019 in Saudi Arabia.   | Photo Credit: AFP

 

On September 14, two oil plants of Saudi giant Aramco in Abqaiq and the Khurais were targeted by 18 drones and three low-flying missiles, causing fires and damage and shutting down more than 5% of global oil supply

The 17-minute strike caused a spike in oil prices. Though Tehran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen claimed responsibility, the U.S. and its allies have blamed Iran.

4) Brits bet on Boris

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson.   | Photo Credit: Reuters

 

Giving the biggest victory to the Conservative Party since the era of Margaret Thatcher, Boris Johnson emerged as the Prime Minister who could finally get Brexit done next year.

5) Death of a terrorist

Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. File

Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. File   | Photo Credit: AP

 

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State, kills himself by detonating a suicide vest after a U.S. special forces operation chase him down in Barisha village, located in northwestern Syria’s Idlib. He left behind a horrific trail of beheading, mass executions, rapes, abduction and ethnic cleansing in his five years as the self-proclaimed ‘Caliph’ of the IS.

6) War and peace

U.S. President Trump launched peace talks with the Taliban despite the group continuing militant attacks in Afghanistan. They reached a draft agreement, but President Trump called off the talks after the killing of an American soldier by the Taliban in September. The future of war and peace remains uncertain.

7) MAX grounded

Aerial photos showing Boeing 737 Max airplanes parked at Boeing Field in Seattle, Washington, U.S. | File

Aerial photos showing Boeing 737 Max airplanes parked at Boeing Field in Seattle, Washington, U.S. | File   | Photo Credit: REUTERS

 

On March 10, Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, a Boeing 737 MAX 8 bound for Nairobi, crashed shortly after takeoff from Addis Ababa, killing all 157 people on board. All Boeing 737 MAX aircraft were subsequently grounded worldwide.

8) No collusion, but no exoneration

In April, U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who investigated the alleged Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. Presidential election, produced a 449-page report that painted a deeply unflattering picture of President Trump but stopped short of indicting him for criminal wrongdoing.

9) Return of the Rajapaksas

The wartime Defence Secretary of Sri Lanka, Gotabaya Rajapaksa won the Presidential election on promises of better security in the aftermath of the Easter Sunday bombings.

10) Only handshakes

In this June 30, 2019, file photo, U.S. President Donald Trump, right, meets with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the border village of Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone, South Korea. North Korea on Friday, Sept. 27, 2019, says it wants Trump to make a "wise option and bold decision" to produce a breakthrough in stalled nuclear diplomacy.

In this June 30, 2019, file photo, U.S. President Donald Trump, right, meets with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the border village of Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone, South Korea. North Korea on Friday, Sept. 27, 2019, says it wants Trump to make a "wise option and bold decision" to produce a breakthrough in stalled nuclear diplomacy.   | Photo Credit: AP

 

At the end of June, U.S. President Trump met North Korean leader Kim Jong-un for a third time, this time near the Korean Demilitarized Zone, becoming the first U.S. President to cross the highly militarised border. However, as in the Hanoi summit in February in the year, consensus on de-nuclearisation eludes both parties.

Major attacks: Guns, bombs and ideology

Preliminary data for 2019 by Global Terrorism Database suggested that the decrease in both incidents and deaths from terrorism has continued, and that 2019 will have the lowest level of terrorist activity since 2011. However, the report also showed that far-right terrorism was on the ascendant in the West.

1) Islamophobia in New Zealand

March 15: Christchurch mosque shootings

51 killed as an Australia-born far-right attacker opened fire on Muslim worshippers attending Friday Prayer at Al Noor Mosque and Linwood Islamic Centre in Christchurch, New Zealand.

2) Black Easter

April 21: A series of explosions at three churches, three hotels and two other places in Sri Lanka’s Colombo, Negombo and Batticaloa kill 253 people and injure 500 on the Easter Sunday. The Islamic State claimed responsibility.

3) The two Talibans

May 8: 13 people were killed and 24 wounded in a bombing at the gate for women visitors at the Sufi Data Darbar Shrine in Lahore. Hizbul Ahrar, a splinter group of the Pakistan Taliban, claimed responsibility

June 29: 53 people were killed in Afghan Taliban insurgents driving Humvees packed with explosives attacked a government compound in Maruf, in the southern Kandahar province

4) A gun to kill

The Gun Violence Archive recorded 400 mass shootings in the first 354 days of the year, the highest since 2013. It recorded 35, 942 deaths and 27,059 injuries. The deaths included those of 192 children and 704 teenagers.

August 3: 22 people were killed when a gunman targeted people in a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas. The attacker had released a racist manifesto describing the Christchurch attacks targeting Muslims as an inspiration

Global Peace Index

The Global Peace Index showed that average level of global peacefulness improved for the first time in five years. West Asia and North Africa remained the world’s least peaceful region while Europe remained the most peaceful region. South Asia was the second-least peaceful region

a)Militarisation increased in the region.

b)Nuclear and heavy weapons, armed services personnel rate, and military expenditure (% GDP) all increased

c)Contributions to UN peacekeeping funding declined

d) Bhutan, which was overall at the 15th place, was the most peaceful country, while Afghanistan was the least peaceful, taking up the 163rd position.

Power of the ballot

1) Mandela’s party suffers a blow

In May, South Africa's ruling African National Congress (ANC) won the national elections with 58% of the vote, least number of votes since the fall of the Apartheid

2) Bolivia: Coup or not?

Bolivia's ousted President Evo Morales is welcomed by Mexico's Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard during his arrival to take asylum in Mexico, in Mexico City, Mexico.

Bolivia's ousted President Evo Morales is welcomed by Mexico's Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard during his arrival to take asylum in Mexico, in Mexico City, Mexico.   | Photo Credit: Reuters

 

After winning a fourth straight term in office in October, which was enabled by a constitutional referendum that allowed him to run for a fourth time, Bolivian President Evo Morales had to resign and take refuge in Argentina after protests erupted. He was also accused of election fraud. But the supporters of the socialist President call his ouster a coup and want him back in the country

3) Return of the Peronists

Centre-left candidate Alberto Fernández defeated Argentine President Mauricio Macri with an 8%-point margin in an election dominated by economic concerns. Former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner was Fernández’s running mate. The two, followers of the country’s former president Juan Perón, now have the challenge of rebuilding an economy

4) Hat-trick of polls

Benjamin Netanyahu. File

Benjamin Netanyahu. File   | Photo Credit: AP

After failing to bring to power any government due to the split verdicts in April and September, Israel’s Parliament had to dissolve itself twice and will go to polls for a record third time next year in March. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu became the longest-serving PM in July and also the first sitting leader to be indicted on corruption charges in November

5) Nearly a country

On December 11, 98% of voters in the South Pacific region of Bougainville, which has a population of more than 2,30,000, voted to secede from Papua New Guinea in a non-binding referendum. The process of making the island region a nation is subject to the approval of PNG government, a process that could take years to materialise

Newsmakers

Nursultan Nazarbayev

In this May 9, 2018 file photo, Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev listens to the national anthem on the Victory Day commemorations in Almaty, Kazakhstan.

In this May 9, 2018 file photo, Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev listens to the national anthem on the Victory Day commemorations in Almaty, Kazakhstan.   | Photo Credit: Reuters

 

March 19: He resigns as President of Kazakhstan after 29 years and appoints Kassym-Jomart Tokayev in a carefully orchestrated transition. The next day, capital Astana is renamed Nur-Sultan in his honour

Julian Assange

Julian Assange. File

Julian Assange. File   | Photo Credit: Reuters

 

April 1: Assange is arrested after spending seven years in Ecuador’s Embassy in London. In May, he is sentenced to 50 weeks in prison for breaching his bail conditions. In May, he is also charged by the U.S. for violating Espionage Act in making public classified documents

Greta Thunberg

Watch | Greta Thunberg opens the United Nations Climate Action Summit
 

The teen climate activist led a worldwide climate march in September, which saw participation by 5,00,000 people, and was later named by Time as Person of the Year

Sanna Martin

December 10: She becomes, at 34, the youngest serving Prime Minister after being selected to lead Finland’s Social Democratic Party

Pervez Musharraf

Former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf. File

Former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf. File   | Photo Credit: AP

 

December 17: The former Pakistani President is sentenced to death on charges linked to his imposition of emergency in 2008. The former Army Chief, currently in Dubai, is allowed to appeal the verdict

Other major developments

January 10: Venezuela enters a constitutional crisis as Juan Guaidó and the National Assembly declared incumbent President Nicolás Maduro “illegitimate”

April 10: Scientists from the Event Horizon Telescope project announce the first ever image of a black hole, located in the centre of the M87 galaxy (photo)

April 15: During Holy Week, a major fire engulf Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris, resulting in the roof and main spire collapsing

August 21: Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research reports record number of fires in the Amazon rainforest this year, at least 36,000 in number

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Printable version | Feb 25, 2020 12:19:00 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/2019-a-year-of-rage-and-angst/article30439661.ece

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