News Timeline: December 2021

December 6 – East Asia: Myanmar

Jailing of Aung San Suu Kyi  

The military government that seized power in February 2021 in a coup finds ousted Aung San Suu Kyi guilty of inciting dissent and breaking Covid rules and sentences her to two years in jail.  Aung San Suu Kyi was the head of the civilian government between April 2016 and February 2021.  This verdict is the first out of 11 charges in what was described by UN Human Rights chief Michelle Bachelet as a “sham trial.”  She has been in detention since the military takeover.[1] 

Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar democracy icon who fell from grace

How a peace icon ended up at a genocide trial (video, 4:07 min)

December 9 – World

Global Health: coronavirus, or Covid-19

Low-income countries still struggle to have a larger portion of their population vaccinated.  Some countries were not able to secure enough vaccine doses at the beginning of the vaccination rollout and they still face shortages.  Other reasons are people’s mistrust in their own governments, or the governments where their vaccines were produced.[2]

Data and charts about vaccine supply and demand in the most vulnerable places

(Dec 28)The United States breaks a record for daily Covid-19 cases with 267,000 cases recorded in one day.  The two main variants, Delta and Omicron, overwhelm hospitals and their staffs.[3]  Covid deaths in the U.S. have surpassed 800,000 with more than 1,200 people dying every day.[4]  People 65 and older make up about three-quarters of the nation’s coronavirus death toll.[5]

December 13 – Middle East: Israel / United Arab Emirates / Iran

Diplomatic relations and Iran’s nuclear program

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett meets with Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, the leader of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), making him the first Israeli leader to visit the UAE.  Last year, the UAE was only the third Arab country to fully recognize Israel, and since then the two states have exchanged ambassadors, and signed trade deals and agreements on defense and arms development.  But PM Bennett’s main reason to visit the UAE is to encourage it to take a tougher stance on Iran and its expanding nuclear program. The UAE tries to balance these concerns while maintaining good relations with Iran.  Iran says its nuclear program is entirely peaceful, but it is known that it now enriches uranium to a purity just below the level needed for a bomb.[6]

December 12 – Africa: Somalia

Continued crisis in Somalia

Al-Shabaab takes responsibility for an attack that killed four Burundian soldiers serving under the African Union peacekeeping mission (AMISOM) in southern Somalia.  Al-Shabaab is a Somalia-based Islamist terrorist group, which has been fighting the Somali government and international forces for years.  The group is also responsible for deliberately flooding villages in the region to keep the peacekeepers and the Somali soldiers away from their hideouts.  The water reserves in this area were built in the 1970s to help the region during the dry season.[7]

Continued crisis in Somalia

December 14 – Europe: Belarus

Jailing of opposition leaders

A court in Belarus sentences the activist and opposition leader Sergei Tikhanovsky to 18 years in prison.  He challenged the country’ authoritarian leader Aleksander Lukashenko in the last year’s presidential elections, but was arrested before the election took place.  He is convicted on charges of organizing mass unrest and inciting social hatred.  The five other defendants, including Igor Losik, a journalist for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in Belarus, are also sentenced to prison terms ranging from 14 to 16 years.  Thousands of others, including opposition leaders, protesters and those who subscribed to independent media outlets have been detained.  This is Lukashenko’s sixth term as president.[8]

Belarusian opposition leader speaks on Lukashenko’s dictatorship (video: 08:42 min)

December 28 – Europe: Russia

Closing human rights groups

The Supreme Court in Russia rules that Memorial International, one of the country’s most renowned historical and human rights organization, must close.  Memorial International compiled an archive of political repression in Russia and victims of Soviet persecution, mostly in the era of the gulags and the forced labor camps during the Stalin times.  Its database contains more than three million names, about a quarter of all victims.  It was founded by the Nobel Peace Prize laureate Andrei Sakharov and other dissidents 30 years ago.[9]

More on the reasons behind Russia’s stifling human rights groups and dissent


[1] “Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar court sentences ousted leader in widely criticised trial.” BBC News. December 6, 2021. Accessed March 8, 22.

[2] By Keith Collins and Josh Holder. “What Data Shows About Vaccine Supply and Demand in the Most Vulnerable Places.” The New York Times. The Coronavirus Pandemic.  December 9, 2021. Accessed April 13, 2022.

[3] “The U.S. record for daily cases is broken as an Omicron ‘tidal wave’ grows.” The New York Times. The Coronavirus Pandemic. December 28, 2021. Updated January 4, 2022. Accessed March 14, 2022.

[4] Julie Bosman, Amy Harmon, Albert Sun, Chloe Reynolds and Sarah Cahalan. “Covid deaths in the United States surpassed 800,000, the highest known number of any country in the world.” December 15, 2021. Accessed March 14, 22.

[5] Julie Bosman, Amy Harmon and Albert Sun. “As U.S. Nears 800,000 Virus Deaths, 1 of Every 100 Older Americans Has Perished.” The New York Times.

December 13, 2021. Accessed April 13, 2022.

[6] “Israeli Prime Minister Bennett in first trip to UAE as Iran threat looms.” BBC News.

December 13, 2021. Accessed April 4, 2022.

[7] Mohammed Dhaysane. “Al-Shabaab kills 4 African Union peacekeepers in Somalia.” All Africa. December 12, 2021. Accessed April 20, 22. 

[8] Ivan Nechepurenko. “Belarus Opposition Leader Is Sentenced to 18 Years in Prison.” The New York Times. December 14, 2021. Accessed March 15, 2022.

[9] Ivan Nechepurenko Andrew E. Kramer. “Russian Court Orders Prominent Human Rights Group to Shut.” The New York Times. December 28, 2021. Accessed March 23, 2022.