January 1 – Europe: LITHUANIA / EUROPEAN UNION
Lithuania adopts the euro as its currency, becoming the 19th member of the eurozone.
January 5 – Africa: LIBYA
A Libyan warplane from forces loyal to the internationally recognized government bomb a Greek oil tanker in the port of Derna chartered by Libya’s national oil company. The incident that killed two crewmen indicates the growing violent chaos in Libya where there are two rival governments and where different militia factions vie for control of territory. Libya’s internationally recognized government is located in Tobruk having been ousted from the capital after the 2014 election. The government appointed by the old parliament is located in the capital, Tripoli. Both governments are backed by various local militias. The city of Benghazi is taken by Islamist fighters, some linked to al-Qaeda. The militia that has taken over one of the main ports, Misrata, is loyal to the Tripoli government. The port of Derna is controlled by Islamic State (IS).
January 7 – Europe: FRANCE
Radical Islamist gunmen storm Charlie Hebdo, the satirical magazine’s office in France’s capital, Paris, and kill 12 people, including the chief editor Stephane Charbonnier. The killings are in retaliation for Charlie Hebdo publishing cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad. The gunmen escape, killing a policeman outside the building. After two days of a massive search, the French police surround the two gunmen and kill them. In the meantime, a third gunman storms a kosher supermarket in the east of Paris and takes several hostages. Police surrounds the store and kill the gunman, but not before he takes lives of four hostages. The terrorists kill a total of 17 people in this Paris attack.
January 9 – Middle East: SAUDI ARABIA
Saudi Arabian authorities publicly flog Raif Badawi, an internet blogger whose website called the Liberal Saudi Network encouraged peaceful discussion on religious and political issues. He was arrested in 2012 for insulting Islam and sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes (50 at a time weekly). The sentence was widely condemned by international human rights groups. The flogging is prohibited under the international law.
January 12 – Latin America: CUBA
Cuba releases 53 political prisoners. The move is part of the agreement between Cuba and the United States during the last month’s negotiations on reestablishing bilateral relations.
January 13 – East Asia: JAPAN
Japan increases its budget for defense spending to a record $42 billion. The move comes after the cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe approved a resolution in July 2014 to reinterpret Article Nine of Japan’s 67-year old constitution. This reinterpretation relaxes the constitutional prohibition on Japan’s use of force and allows Japan to come to the aid of an ally under armed attack, as well as to participate in United Nations collective security operations.
January 15 – Africa / International Organizations:
NIGERIA / CHAD / AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL
Amnesty International releases satellite images that show near total destruction of two towns, Baga and Doron Baga in northeastern Nigeria, after attacks by Boko Haram militants. According to Amnesty International this is the largest and most destructive attack yet by the militants who shoot hundreds of civilians, almost completely destroy the towns, and drive thousands across the border as refugees. Boko Haram fighters have repeatedly attacked communities looking for perceived collaborators with the security forces. (January 29): Chadian forces drive Boko Haram militants from the town of Malumfatori, one of Nigeria’s most remote towns in the northeast near the borders with Chad and Niger. Boko Haram fighters have been carrying out multiple cross-border attacks on Nigeria’s neighbors.
January 20 – North America: UNITED STATES
The United States President Barack Obama gives his 2015 State of the Union Address in the chamber of the U.S. House of Representatives. In his speech, President Obama declares the end to the financial crisis, the worst recession since the Great Depression. He outlines his plan to help the middle class families by providing sick and maternity leave, affordable childcare, and free access to community college. He also pledges to increase taxes on financial institutions and capital gains tax of the richest earners.
January 23 – Middle East: SAUDI ARABIA
Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah, who is seen as a reformer, dies at the age of 90. His younger half-brother, Salman, ascends throne and promises to continue his brother’s policies.
January 25 – Europe: GREECE
Syriza, a left-wing party led by Alexis Tsipras, wins parliamentary elections in Greece, with 36 percent of the vote, defeating the New Democracy party of Antonis Samaras, the outgoing prime minister, by eight percentage points. In its campaign, Syriza has promised to abandon the austerity measures and renegotiate the $270 billion bailout with the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.
January 26 – Middle East: SYRIA
After four months of intense fighting, Kurdish forces drive the Islamic State (IS) fighters from the town of Kobane in northern Syria. The town is of strategic importance. The Kurdish forces were aided by air strikes provided by the US-led coalition.