News Timeline: January 2011


January 1 — Africa: EGYPT

A suicide bomber kills 21 people and injures 70 others at a Coptic Orthodox Christian church in the Egyptian city of Alexandria, where people gathered to greet the New Year. The Coptic Christians make up about 10 percent of Egypt’s mostly Muslim population. Both Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak and the main opposition Muslim Brotherhood party condemn the attack. After the bombing, hundreds of angry Christian protesters clash with police and local Muslims, and call for better protection of for the Christian population.

January 1 — Europe: RUSSIA

Russian authorities arrest more than 120 protesters in Moscow and St. Petersburg, including an opposition leader, Boris Nemtsov during rallies that call for more political freedoms. They also demand the resignation of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and the release of former businessman Mikhail Khodorkovsky from prison who openly criticized the government. The rallies are held monthly to stress the freedom of assembly.

January 3 — North America: UNITED STATES

The United States national debt passes $14 trillion. What it also means is that the debt is approaching the statutory debt ceiling of $14.294 trillion set by Congress last year. Unless the Congress increases the debt ceiling, the U.S. might not be able to borrow more money and even default on its obligations.

January 4 — South Asia: PAKISTAN

A prominent governor of Pakistan’s Punjab province, Salman Taseer, is killed by his own body guard. Taseer promoted tolerance and rights for women and minorities. He was also a fervent supporter of reforming Pakistan’s blasphemy law.

January 10 — Europe: SPAIN

Spain’s Basque separatist group ETA that fights for independence from Spain announces a permanent ceasefire. The Spanish government says, however, the group comes short of complete disarming or dissolution. ETA has been recently weakened by multiple arrests of its leaders and pressured by its banned political wing, Batasuna, which would like to take part in the country’s political process.

January 12 — Middle East: LEBANON

Lebanon’s unity government collapses after 11 Hezbollah ministers and their political allies resign. A former businessman and prime minister Sunni Najib Mikati is appointed to form a new government. According to Lebanon’s constitution, the president must be a Maronite Christian, a prime minister a Sunni, and the Speaker of parliament a Shia.

January 13 — Latin America: MEXICO

The Mexican authorities report that more than 34,500 people have died in violence since the government launched its campaign against the drug cartels in December 2006. In 2010 alone, more than 15,000 people were killed. Ninety percent of these deaths were gang members. Most of the violence took place in Mexico’s three northern states of Chihuahua, Tamaulipas, and Sinaloa.

January 15 — Africa: TUNISIA

After 23 years in power, Tunisian President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali is forced to step down after weeks of continuous countrywide protests going into exile in Saudi Arabia. The protests broke out on December 17, sparked by the self-immolation of a desperate young unemployed man whose vegetable street stand was destroyed by police for not having a permit. The protesters have been angry about economic problems and suppression of political freedoms. The Speaker of the parliament, Foued Mebazaa, takes over as interim president and asks Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi to form a national unity government that would include all political parties.

January 21 — Middle East: JORDAN

Inspired by the Tunisian revolution, more than 5,000 people demonstrate in several cities in Jordan, protesting high unemployment and rising prices, and demanding the government’s resignation. The protesters also demand that the post of prime minister be elected rather than appointed by the king.

January 22 — Africa: ALGERIA

Anti-government protests break out in Algeria despite the ban on demonstrations by the state of emergency in place since 1992. Demonstrators call for greater political freedoms.

January 25 — Africa: EGYPT

Inspired by the uprising in Tunisia which forced President Ben Ali from power, violent anti-government protests erupt in several Egyptian cities. Demonstrators are angry about the country’s high unemployment, corruption, poverty, and lack of political freedoms. The protesters call for President Hosni Mubarak, who has been in power for the last 30 years, to step down. (January 31): Under pressure from the protesters, President Mubarak reshuffles his cabinet and promises reforms.

January 27 — Middle East: YEMEN

Encouraged by protests in other Middle Eastern countries, tens of thousands of Yemeni protesters spill onto the streets of the country’s capital, Sanaa, demanding that President Abdullah Saleh, now in power for 30 years, step down. They also protest economic problems, high unemployment, corruption, and lack of political freedoms. In response to the demonstrations, President Saleh makes a promise not to stand for elections again in 2013, or to hand power to his son.

January 30 — Africa: SUDAN

After a week-long referendum on independence in Southern Sudan that started on January 9, the results show that 99 percent of people have voted to secede from the north. The referendum was a part of the 2005 peace agreement that ended 20 years of civil war between the mainly Arab Muslim north and mainly black Christian south. The new country of South Sudan will formally declare its independence on July 9.

January 31 — Former Soviet Union/Europe/North America: BELARUS/EUROPEAN UNION/UNITED STATES

In response to the last month’s fraudulent presidential election and the crackdown on the opposition in Belarus, the European Union and the United States toughen and widen sanctions on the country’s president, Alexander Lukashenko, and other senior officials. The sanctions include freezing assets, stricter financial controls, and a travel ban.