From terror and disasters to triumph of democracy, 2015 had it all

  • HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Dec 31, 2015 07:35 IST
Nine months after the Charlie Hebdo attacks, Paris faced a deadly attack by armed militants killing nearly 129 people. Prayers poured in from all over the world as the attack left a stain of terrorism on 2015. (AFP)

The year 2015 kept the world on its toes as we saw the Paris massacre and a surge in the migrant crisis, attacks on journalists and witnessed a volatile Middle East and Europe throughout the year.

There were, however, some remarkable events that did show a glimmer of hope for countries marred by years of conflict. Iran reached a nuclear deal with the West while Myanmar’s National League for Democracy led by Aung San Suu Kyi secured a two-third majority in the general elections.

Here are top 10 events that will shape the world in years to come:

1. Charlie Hebdo attack

People stand with placards reading "Je Suis Charlie” (I am Charlie) during a minute of silence in Strasbourg for victims of the shooting at the Paris offices of weekly satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo. (Reuters File Photo)

Ever since it started publishing cartoons on Prophet Muhammad, Charlie Hebdo had become the focal point of Muslims’ ire all over the world. In January, Islamic State-inspired gunmen, screaming “Allahu akbar”, stormed the office of the magazine in Paris killing 12 people. The attack on the magazine, that has long been in confrontation with Islamists, sparked global outrage and impromptu demonstrations of solidarity in cities across the world.

2. Paris massacres

Candles bearing the colours of the French flag burn at a makeshift memorial for the victims of the attacks in front of the Bataclan theatre in Paris, on November 18, 2015. (AFP File Photo)

Just nine months after the attack on Charlie Hebdo, terror struck again in the French capital when a series of coordinated attacks left 129 people dead and scores seriously injured on November 13. Three suicide bombers struck near the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, followed by suicide bombings and mass shootings at cafés, restaurants, and a concert hall in Paris. The Islamic State issued statements in French and Arabic claiming the attacks hours after President Francois Hollande vowed to launch a “merciless” attack on the dreaded jihadist group. Experts said the brazen strikes were a copy of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks with militants choosing crowded locations in Paris.

3. Nepal quakes

A woman offers daily prayers at the statue of Lord Buddha that was damaged during the earthquake in Bhaktapur of Nepal. (Reuters File Photo)

Two massive earthquakes in Nepal in April and May left over 8,500 people dead and millions injured sparking a humanitarian crisis in India’s immediate neighbour. According to the National Emergency Operation Centre, the earthquakes destroyed 602,257 houses. The earthquake was also responsible for displacing approximately 2.8 million people, as reported by the United Nations. Even livestock damage across Nepal amounted to over 53,000.

4. Paris agreement

(From right to left) French President Francois Hollande, French foreign minister and president of the COP21 Laurent Fabius, United Nations Secretary General Ban ki-Moon and UN climate chief Christiana Figueres applaud after the final conference at the COP21, United Nations conference on climate change in Le Bourget near Paris on December 12, 2015. (AP)

After four years of talks, a landmark climate agreement was agreed to by 195 countries in Paris to slow down global warming and save the planet from a catastrophe after key players like India, US and China approved the final draft of a “historic” measure. The agreement will legally bind the world in keeping the planet’s temperature “well below” the two degree Celsius with an endeavour to limit it to 1.5 degrees - the level scientists say is needed to avert the worst effects of global warming. The pact also commits $100 billion a year from 2020 to help developing countries cope with the problem. Besides, it will make it binding for nations to open their books every five years for scrutiny on their contribution to the global effort to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

5. Mullah Omar’s death confirmed

This undated photo of Mullah Omar from the US security department. (AFP File Photo)

After covering up facts for almost two years, the Afghan Taliban admitted in August that their supreme leader Mullah Mohammad Omar was dead. A Taliban statement admitted for the first time that the reclusive one-eyed leader had died on April 23, 2013. The detail was buried in a biography of new leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour, Omar’s longtime deputy. Confirmation of Omar’s death and Mansour’s contentious ascension triggered a power struggle within the Taliban at a time when the rival Islamic State group is making gradual inroads into Afghanistan. Some top leaders, including Omar’s son and brother, even refused to pledge allegiance to new leader Mansour, saying the process to select him was rushed and biased.

6. Europe’s migrant crisis

A Syrian family covered with thermal blankets walk as they arrive from Turkey on the Greek island of Lesbos in October. (AP File Photo)

Europe’s refugee and migrant crisis escalated during the summer, leaving the continent divided over how to deal with a flood of people led by Syrians fleeing war in their homeland. More than a million people crossed into Europe in 2015 as nations struggled to cope with the influx and the European Union (EU) fumbled over ways to resettle those fleeing conflict zones in the Middle East and Africa.

7. Greece debt crisis

This photo of an elderly man crying outside a national bank branch in Thessaloniki went viral as Greece battled an huge debt. When the crisis peaked, withdrawal of pensions in the counrty was limited by the government at 120 euros. (AFP File Photo)

World markets tumbled after Greece shut its banks and imposed capital controls to halt a panic-driven run on ATMs, and confirmed it would not repay its loan tranche of 1.6 billion euros ($1.77 billion) to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) before the June 30 deadline. On June 30, 2015, Greece became the first developed country to fail to make an IMF loan repayment. At that time, Greece’s government had debts of €323 billion.

8. Iran nuclear deal sealed

(From left to right) Leaders from China, France, Germany, Iran, Russia, Britain and US along with European union high representatives pose for a photo at the UN building in Vienna, Austria after the landmark Iran nuclear deal was signed. (AP File Photo)

In July, world powers and Iran struck a landmark deal to curb Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for billions of dollars in relief from international sanctions. The deal came after 18 days of intense and often fractious negotiations shepherded by the EU. The accord will keep Iran from producing enough material for a nuclear weapon for at least 10 years and impose new provisions for inspections of Iranian facilities, including military sites.

9. Suu Kyi’s party wins Myanmar polls

Affectionately known as "Bogyoke" or General, Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party rose to power in Myanmar as the country witnessed historic elections in decades slowly shaking off years of brutal and isolating junta rule. (AFP File Photo)

Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party secured a parliamentary majority in Myanmar polls held in November. Confirmation of the landslide win came five years since Suu Kyi, the magnetic force behind the country’s democracy movement, was released from house arrest by the military. The election, the first Suu Kyi’s party contested since 1990, saw a huge turnout that yielded more than 80% of seats for the NLD.

10. Haj stampede

Bodies of Hajj pilgrims at the site where at least 717 were killed and hundreds wounded in a stampede in Mina near the holy city of Mecca at the annual haj in Saudi Arabia on September 24, 2015. (AFP File Photo)

Any disaster at the five-day haj, a pillar of Islamic faith, could be seen as a blow to the kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s cherished stewardship of Islam’s holiest sites. In 2015, the season saw two tragedies — the stampede in which around 1,400 pilgrims died and the September 11 collapse of a crane at Mecca’s Grand Mosque that killed 111 people. According to the Associated Press, the death toll in the stampede stood at 1,470 in October making the September 24 disaster the deadliest accident ever at the annual pilgrimage.

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