News Timeline: August 2015


August 4 – International Organizations / Africa:
Amnesty International accuses Sudan’s government forces of committing war crimes in its southern region of South Kordofan, where they have been fighting rebels who have been demanding more rights for their region since 2011. Amnesty finds that the Sudanese armed forces have been deliberately targeting civilian population, schools, hospitals, and relief groups in South Kordofan. It has also used cluster munition and other prohibited weapons. The conflict has claimed hundreds of lives and caused a humanitarian crisis.

August 4 – Latin America / North America: PUERTO RICO
The self-governing United States territory of Puerto Rico defaults on its debt payment as it is going through an economic crisis. Puerto Rico has a $70 billion public debt and an unemployment rate of more than 14 percent. According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s report “Puerto Rico Economic Analysis Report 2013-2014,” approximately 75,000 Puerto Ricans migrated to the United States in 2012, of whom 45,707 were under 35. The report also estimates that the population of Puerto Rico will gradually decrease over the next forty years to 2.3 million in 2050.

August 18 – South Asia: SRI LANKA
Sri Lanka’s ruling United National Party wins the most votes in the country’s parliamentary elections, doubling the number of its seats in the parliament to 106. Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s United Peoples’ Freedom Alliance party gets 95 seats and will be in the opposition. Rajapaksa was defeated in the presidential election in January.

August 19 – Middle East: SYRIA
Self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS) beheads an 81-year-old Syrian archeologist Khaled al-Assad who devoted most of his professional life to look after and protect the ancient ruins of Palmyra in Syria. The ancient city is famous for its well-preserved Greco-Roman ruins and the Baalshamin temple that date back to the first century AD. Palmyra is also a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is believed that al-Assad was killed because he refused to point the militants to the city’s hidden treasures. (August 23): IS militants, who took over Palmyra in May, blow up the Baalshamin temple. The United Nations calls its destruction a war crime. The militants supposedly believe that any shrine or statue that suggests the existence of another deity is idolatry and should be destroyed. They have already bulldozed and ransacked many great archeological treasures in Iraq.

August 21 – Europe: FRANCE
A 25-year-old Ayoub El Kahzzani, a Moroccan who lives in France, opens fire in a passenger train travelling from Amsterdam to Paris via Brussels in what it is believed is an Islamist terrorist attack. However, he only injures one person while being subdued by passengers. Several people who subdued the attacker, including three Americans, are awarded France’s highest decoration, the Legion of Honor.

August 21 – EUROPE
Macedonia declares a state of emergency as it struggles to cope with an influx of migrants who rush through its borders from Turkey and Greece. It is estimated that about 44,000 migrants went through Macedonia just in the past two months. Greece itself has seen more than 160,000 migrants landing on its shores since January. Most of the migrants are from the Middle East, Afghanistan and Africa, taking great risks and putting their lives in the hands of human traffickers to escape war and persecution. The migrants are travelling through Macedonia and Serbia, trying to reach Hungary, which is part of the European Union and an open border member. From there, most of them plan to reach northern and western Europe, and settle in countries such as Germany, Norway, Sweden, or the United Kingdom.

August 26 – Africa / International Organizations: SOUTH SUDAN / UNITED NATIONS
South Sudan’s president, Salva Kiir, reluctantly signs an internationally-mediated peace agreement to end the country’s civil war. The fighting began in December 2013, when President Kiir dismissed Vice President Riek Machar, accusing him of plotting a coup. Since then forces loyal to the president clashed with forces loyal to former vice president and rebel leader Riek Machar. The conflict displaced over 2 million people. According to the deal, fighting is supposed to stop immediately, Riek Machar will return to the post of first vice president, a transitional government of national unity will govern for 30 months with elections held 60 days before the end of its mandate, and the Commission for Truth, Reconciliation and Healing will investigate human rights violations.

August 31 – North America: UNITED STATES
Ahead of his visit to the state of Alaska, U.S. President Barack Obama announces that the tallest mountain in North America has been renamed from Mount McKinley to its original native Alaskan name, Denali. Alaska has been campaigning for decades to make this change, which was opposed by the state of Ohio, home state of President William McKinley.