News Timeline: January 2016


January 2 – Middle East: SAUDI ARABIA / IRAN
Saudi Arabia executes 47 prisoners convicted for terrorism and says that Shia Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr is among them. Sheikh Nimr was a popular cleric from Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province, who criticized the Saudi government and its repressive policies on many occasions. He was arrested several times before, but his execution sparks protests throughout the Middle East and creates diplomatic crises between Shia and Sunni governments. In Iran, a crowd of protesters raids the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Tehran and the Saudi consulate in Mashhad, destroying the offices and setting the buildings on fire. In response, Saudi Arabia severs ties with Iran.

January 6 – East Asia: NORTH KOREA
North Korea announces that it has conducted its first successful underground test of a hydrogen bomb, which are more powerful than atomic bombs. Experts in the field, however, question the claim and say that the explosion was not powerful enough for an H-bomb.

January 12 – Middle East / Europe: TURKEY
A suicide bomber walks up to a tour group standing in Sultanahmet Square near the Blue Mosque in Tukey’s city of Istanbul and blows himself up, killing 12 people and injuring 15, all foreign tourists. The deadly attack happens in the area heavily guarded by Turkish security forces. The bomber is a Syrian member of the self-proclaimed Islamic (IS). In response to the bombing, the Turkish government arrests 68 suspected terrorist in raids across the country.

January 13 – Middle East / North America:
Iran releases 10 US sailors who strayed into the Iranian territorial waters and were detained by the Iranian authorities a day earlier. The U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry thanks Iran for the prompt release of the sailors and uses the incident to indicate the critical role of diplomacy.

January 15 – Africa: BURKINA FASO
Islamist militants attack the Splendid Hotel popular with foreign tourists and a café in the heart of Burkina Faso’s capital, Ouagadougou, killing 29 people and injuring 56. The victims are from 18 different countries. The government responds with a counter attack and ends the siege of the hotel the next morning, killing the attackers. Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and Al-Mourabitoun takes responsibility for the attack. AQIM is an Islamic terrorist organization, which aims to overthrow the Algerian government and replace it with an Islamic state. By attacking inside Burkina Faso, the group tries to establish itself as an important jihadist group in the region.

January 15 – Latin America: VENEZUELA
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro declares a two-month economic state of emergency. This will allow him to rule by decree to deal with a deepening economic crisis. In 2015, the Venezuelan economy contracted by 10 percent, inflation skyrocketed to 159 percent, and unemployment jumped to over 14 percent. The country’s economy relies on exports of its oil, but dropping prices in the last year and a half decreased the country’s revenues by more than 60 percent.

January 16 –International Organizations / Middle East / East Asia / Europe / North America:
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) announces that Iran has taken adequate steps toward implementing the nuclear deal, allowing for the United Nations to lift sanctions against it. The agreement was reached in July. Lifting sanction will release billions of dollars of Iran’s frozen assets abroad, allow Iran to sell its oil and gas to other countries, open Iran to foreign companies for investment, and will allow Iran to trade with other countries and use the global banking system. (January 16): Iran releases four Iranian-Americans from prison in exchange for seven Iranian citizens imprisoned in the United States for violation of sanction against Iran. Among the freed Americans are Jason Rezaian, a journalist for the Washington Post, who was accused of espionage, and Saeed Abedini, a Christian pastor, imprisoned for proselytizing Christianity in Iran. (January 23): Iran and China sign 17 agreements aimed at boosting trade and economic relations between the two countries. (January 25): Accompanied by a 120-strong delegation of the country’s government ministers and businessmen, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani arrives in Europe on a state visit, the first one in 16 years. The purpose of the visit is to discuss trade relations with Italy and France, such as a $24 billion deal to purchase 118 Airbus planes.

January 16 – East Asia: TAIWAN
Tsai Ing-wen from the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) wins a presidential election in Taiwan with 56 percent of the vote. The DPP also wins a majority in the parliament and for the first time it will be able to govern alone. The elections end 70 years of rule by the Kuomintang (KMT). Tsai says that as president she will work to preserve Taiwan’s status quo.

January 18 – East Asia: CHINA
In 2015, China’s economy grew only by 6.8 percent, which is the slowest economic growth since 1991. In the last 15 years, its growth was rapid, reaching even 14 percent in 2007. Slowing down of the second largest world economy worries investors around the world.

January 19 – International Organizations / Middle East:
The United Nations releases a report that shows the continued severe impact of the conflict in Iraq on civilians. Between January 2014 and October 2015 more than 18,800 civilians were killed in systematic and widespread violence. Another 36,245 were wounded, 3.2 million displaced, and scores enslaved. The report continues that the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS) commits systematic and widespread violence and abuses that amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity, and possibly genocide.

January 20 – Middle East: IRAQ
Satellite imagery confirms that Saint Elijah’s Christian Monastery, one of Iraq’s oldest churches located south of Mosul, has been destroyed by the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS) sometime in 2014 when the group took over the city. The monastery was founded by Mar Elia, an Assyrian monk, around 595 AD. It is feared that many other cultural sites might have also been destroyed.

January 20 – South Asia: PAKISTAN
Islamic extremists attack Bacha Khan University in Charsadda near Peshawar in north-western Pakistan, killing 19 people and injuring 17. The four attackers are killed by the local security forces. The Taliban takes responsibility for the attacks in retaliation of attacks against the group. There are various different militant groups in Pakistan and violent attacks have been on the rise since 2015.

January 21 – Africa: TUNISIA
Hundreds of people march through Tunisia’s capital, Tunis, and other cities protesting the lack of jobs. People complain that since the 2011 revolution, many social issues have not been resolved, but especially unemployment that has hovered above 15 percent. It is much higher among the youth.