2020 has been a year like no other. The decade started with ravaging bushfires in Australia and tensions between the US and Iran, when President Trump ordered an airstrike to kill Iran’s top general, Soleimani. But feelings of chaos and uncertainty did not stop there. The Chinese city of Wuhan was already dealing with a novel coronavirus, which made its way into Europe and beyond, bringing not only death to approximately 1.7 million people, but also financial ruin. Features Editor Sabrina Penty and Deputy Editors Amy Holliday and Celia Bergin reflect on the events of this past year.
Australian bush fires
The start of 2020 is most notably marked with Australia’s bushfire season leaving extensive areas of the country ablaze. Now referred to by many Australians as Black Summer, the monumental destruction is widely attributed to global warming causing extreme temperatures and greenhouse gases having an impact on rainfall, exacerbating the impact of lightning and string winds. In seven months, with the fires reaching their worst in December and January, over 18 million hectares of Australia were destroyed with 34 human fatalities and the death of an estimated one billion animals
The assassination of Qasem Solemani
Only three days into the new year, the Pentagon announced that one of the most senior members of the Iranian government, General Qasem Solemani, had been successfully killed. After years of escalating tension between the US and Iran under Donald Trump and a back and forth of attacks on each other in Iraq, the President ordered a drone strike on Baghdad airport that killed the General along with several other Iranian officials backing Iraqi militias. With an outpouring of rage from those in Iran, many feared that the two nations were about to engage in a full-scale conflict and these worries exacerbated on social media as about to potentially cause World War Three.
After three and a half years of uncertainty since Britain voted narrowly for Brexit in 2016, the UK officially left the European Union on 31 January. Additionally, the UK became the first country to formally remove itself from the EU. Due to an 11-month transition period that followed, not much changed for the majority of the year while Boris Johnson and the EU negotiated a new relationship. Finally, on 24 December, the EU and the UK reached a post-Brexit trade deal which ended months of disagreements.
Impeachment of President Donald Trump
US President Trump faced an impeachment trial following charges that he had asked Ukraine to investigate former Vice President and presidential nominee Joe Biden and his son Hunter. The US Senate ultimately acquitted him in February.
The declaration of a pandemic
On 11 March, the World Health Organisation declared the outbreak of Covid-19 as a pandemic. Discovered in Wuhan province in China, the Sars-Cov2 virus was identified in December 2019 and then began to spread rapidly across the globe. In March, many European nations began to be crippled by the illness and the introduction of national lockdowns, closing business and preventing citizens from leaving their homes unless it was essential.
On 23 March the UK entered into a national lockdown with the strictest measures in place until 10 May, however the majority of sectors not reopening until July. As of the 51st week of the year, the UK has the second-largest death toll in Europe at 67,401 deaths and a recorded 2,040,147 cases. After 1.7 million deaths the world can be seen to be starkly divided into two groups – nations who have all but eradicated the virus within their borders such as China, Australia and New Zealand, and countries like the UK and US who remain under threat of overwhelming their healthcare infrastructure a year after the pathogen’s initial discovery.
Ongoing Refugee Crisis in the middle of the pandemic
In Syria alone, 960,000 people have been displaced as a direct result of the armed conflict. The Venezuelan refugee crisis has seen a vast number of people migrating to neighboring nations as they face a political and economic crisis, while Rohingya muslims flee persecution in Myanmar. The displacement of these up-rooted peoples has led many of them to seek refuge in migrant camps, which are often crowded and lack basic resources. With the spread of the coronavirus, its impact could have been disastrous for refugees. While reports of refugees dying have been rare and the virus hasn’t ripped its way through camps as aggressively as it was anticipated, 2020 has still not been kind to those fleeing war and persecution. According to Al Jazeera, 3200 migrants have died while making dangerous journeys. Covid-19 has highlighted many things, and inequality and injustice is one of them. The refugee crisis continues to intensify, and the pandemic has been used as a political weapon against them. When governments closed their borders to control the spread of the virus, doors were shut out on migrants by those who were meant to protect them.
Keir Starmer announced as new Labour Party leader
Following Jeremy Corbyn’s resignation as leader of the Labour Party late last year after his defeat in the elections, Keir Starmer was crowned as his successor in April. The former lawyer who became an MP in 2015 defeated Lisa Nandy and Rebecca Long-Bailey in a ballot of party members, and won more than 50% of votes. Following this announcement, the Labour Party released a video in which Sir Keir vowed to lead Labour “into a new era of confidence and hope”. He also apologized for the recent cases of antisemitism within the party which has tainted their reputation, and promised to “tear out this poison by its roots”.
Murder of George Floyd and BLM protests (25th of May)
May and June saw many defy Covid-19 related restrictions on gatherings to protest the death of George Floyd after a video taken by witnesses went viral on social media. A police officer, Derick Chauvin, knelt on Floyd’s neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds with three other officers onlooking. George Floyd’s death became the catalyst for increased notoriety of the Black Lives Matter movement. His murder become a symbol of racial inequality in 21st-century America, highlighting police persecution and brutality towards Black citizens alongside the failures of the legal system to provide justice for the death of Black Americans. All 50 US states saw protests with many protestors facing force from the police, in turn adding the calls to defund the police and the rise of the ACAB (All Cops are Bastards) slogan. Protests spread across the world in support of those in America, as well as to protest anti-Blackness pervasive within their own nations’ institutions and society.
The death of Ruth-Bader Ginsburg (18 September)
To add to an already tumultuous year, the world was shocked to learn that Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the first Jewish individual and second woman to serve in the US Supreme Court had passed away. Ginsburg was famed for her liberal yet meticulous approach when it came to presiding over cases, and helped make great progress towards gender equality in her work. The aftermath of Ginsburg’s death also sparked much controversy after Donald Trump nominated the conservative judge Amy Coney Barrett to replace her after Ginsburg had explicitly stated that she did not want to be replaced until there was a new president.
Femicide in Turkey and #challenge accepted
The brutal killing of Pınar Gültekin, a 27-year-old student, who was allegedly murdered by an ex-boyfriend in July sparked widespread national protests that shone a light on Turkey’s poor track record in protecting women’s safety. Turkey has the highest femicide rate among the top 34 OECD countries yet many government officials still campaign for Turkey to be removed from the ‘Istanbul convention’ which protects victims of domestic abuse, because of a belief that the convention’s principles encourage “immoral lifestyles”. The killing of Gültekin led to a global Instagram trend where women posted monochrome selfies to display their solidarity with victims of femicide and to highlight how these high rates of femicide affect all women. Many have since questioned whether the trend’s adoption in the Western world was in fact too shallow to be equated with the efforts of the Turkish women who started the trend.
Explosion in Beirut
The detonation of over 2,700 tonnes of ammonium nitrate housed in a port in the Lebanese capital resulted in the deaths of 200 people, and the injury of 6000. The blast has been recorded as being one of the largest non-nuclear explosions ever recorded. There has since been an inquest into the cause of the blast and a discussion of where the responsibility lies. Many believe that this explosion was a blatant example of government negligence. However, the government has been reluctant to admit full responsibility.
US election result and Kamala Harris breaks new ground
After a long awaited count of US election results, it was announced that Democrat Joe Biden would be the 46th President of the United States, with Kamala Harris as his Vice-President. Kamala Harris will be the first female and black and Asian-Amercian to serve as US Vice-President, making strides towards more fully representing the US population. It has been noted that the Biden-Harris presidency will have a lot of work to do in the wake of Trump’s four years in power. Inauguration will take place on the 20 January 2021.
Covid vaccine rollout
The world received some positive news when it was announced that, after rigorous testing, there were multiple vaccine contenders that had been identified as being effective at battling Covid-19. After the UK acquired stocks of the Turkish-German Pfitzer vaccine, Margaret Keenan, age 90, became the first person in the world to receive a Covid-19 vaccination after receiving her first dose in Coventry’s University Hospital on 9 December. Since then many more have also been vaccinated including famous names such as Sir Ian Mckellan and Vice-President of the US Mike Pence. In the UK’s case, it has been noted that the oldest and most vulnerable will receive the vaccine first as well as those who are on the front line.