2022: The World This Year

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2022: The World This Year
Newsmakers: From Putin to Rushdie

  Allen Joe Mathew, Sayani Rana, Joel Jacob

TWTW#196, 31 December 2022, Vol. 4, No. 45

 

Shireen Abu Akleh

A prominent Palestinian-American journalist, Shireen Abu Akleh was a television correspondent for the Al Jazeera news channel for 25 years, reporting on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. On 11 May 2022, wearing her blue flak jacket with the word “PRESS” printed on it, she went to cover an Israeli military raid in Jenin Camp, a Palestinian refugee camp north of the occupied West Bank. She was shot in the head and passed away on the same day. The Palestinian authorities stated that she was shot by the Israeli troops, while Israel announced that she got caught in the crossfire between the two sides. Later, Israel announced an investigation into whether one of their own soldiers fired the shot. Her death shocked the world for she was a household name in the Arab world, and as a woman reporter in a conflict region, an inspiration to many more. She was a tireless supporter of the Palestinian cause, and by showcasing stories from the everyday lives of ordinary Palestinians spoke out against the Israeli occupation. She spoke of why she chose the profession, “I chose journalism to be close to the people. It might not be easy to change the reality, but at least I could bring their voice to the world.” Thousands attended her funeral procession, and in death became a symbol of freedom and sacrifice. 

Jair Bolsanaro

An ultra-nationalist, conservative and pro-military leader, Bolsanaro was Brazil's 38th President. He was an ex-military officer, who after retirement decided to run for Office. His Presidency was characterized by extreme right-wing and socially conservative policies, anti-COVID stance, and apathy towards environmentalists. In the 2022 Presidential elections, Bolsonaro lost to Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva by a slim margin. He refused to acknowledge the results which fueled the protests against Lula, led by his supporters. The protests led to heightened security issues in Brazil as his supporters have turned to violence to prevent the inauguration from taking place. 

Luiz Inácio Lula Da Silva

In the October 2022 National elections in Brazil, former two-time President Lula, who came with promises of welfare policies with ecological and infrastructure spending, defeated the right-wing incumbent Jair Bolsonaro. Lula served as the President of Brazil between 2003 and 2010, before demitting the office to his successor Dilma Rousseff of the Workers’ Party (PT) that he helped found in 1980. Lula was arrested and jailed in 2018 after a corruption scandal came to light in the year 2018, but was acquitted in 2019 paving the way for his re-election campaign bid. After the elections, Lula attended the G20 and COP27 summits where he advocated for environmental protection, especially that of the Amazon Forest.

Jose Pedro Castillo Terrones

In December 2022, the former Peruvian President Pedro Castillo was impeached after just 14 months in office. The 14 months of his term were riddled with corruption, political instability, and the constant clash between the executive and congress. His cabinet saw the historic appointment and removal of 72 ministers in that span of time. Earlier, he was a rural school teacher and union activist who ran for a far-left party that claimed to represent the Peruvian poor.  On 7 December, he was arrested after an attempt to dissolve the Congress of Peru before his impeachment trial was supposed to take place. He was arrested on a “rebellion” charge for trying to violate the constitution.

Salman Rushdie 

On 13 August 2022, a young man known to be a sympathizer of the Iranian regime attacked Mr Rushdie at a literary event in New York. The author suffered multiple stab wounds and was hospitalized. He recovered from the heinous attack. In 1981, Salman Rushdie took the world by storm with the release of his magic-realism novel, Midnight’s Children. The novel reimagined India’s independence as a story of twins, through Saleem Sinai and the newborn nation. Rushdie was brought up in Bombay and made his life in London among the English. Wanting to reclaim the Indian identity he had lost, Rushdie felt he had found “an intersection between the private [his own life] and the public [India’s birth as a nation] and would build his book on that crossroads”. On 14 February 1989, Iran’s Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa for his 1988 novel The Satanic Verses for alleged blasphemy against Islam. He went into hiding for the next decade, living under the false name 'Joseph Anton'.  

Volodymyr Zelenskyy

In February 2022, the leadership if Zelenskyy drive the Ukrainian war efforts. On 20 May 2019, Volodymyr Zelenskyy was sworn in as the sixth President of Ukraine. Hailing from the southeastern industrial town of Kryvyi Rih, he was born to Jewish parents and started his career as a comedian and a TV actor. His show, ‘Servant of the People’, revolved around a school teacher who became President. Having no former political experience, he was a novice who became the face of the resistance against Russia’s invasion. His speeches served as the rallying cry for Ukrainians to defend and take back their homeland. Described as a Churchillian leader, he has cultivated his image not just through speeches or actions, but also through his dress choices. Having ditched the traditional statesman attire, he adopted an olive-green military attire fit for wartime. 

Emmanuel Macron

On 24 April 2022, Emmanuel Macron and his party, Ensemble won another five-year term in the French National assembly. Since then, he has been active in the international news for a variety of reasons. The European Council is also headed by the French Presidency, and he is seen trying to push Europe towards self-sufficiency. Macron has been trying to negotiate on the Ukrainian war and was among the first to offer to hold talks between Russia and the West. In Africa and the Middle East, Macron has been active in trying to help in regional conflicts and providing French aid.  At home, even though his party won, the French Right made historic gains in the parliamentary elections on 19 June. Macron oversaw the energy crisis in which inflation soared to record levels in the country and workers' strikes for better pay and benefits. On 18th December 2022, Macron was at Lusail Stadium, Qatar where he watched the France team play the FIFA final. Him consoling a dejected Kylian Mbappe went viral around the world.

Elon Musk

At the start of 2022, Musk was the world's richest man, he now has lost that coveted title. He also helped Ukraine in the war effort by providing StarLink satellite communication in the country free of cost. From a popular visionary to now a meme, the CEO of Tesla SpaceX has donned many hats in his colourful life. A great supporter of crypto-currency he drove the market through his tweets. Twitter has been his main playground where he shares his thoughts, news, plans, and memes. This led him to want to own the company, which he offered to buy for a mind-boggling amount. This led to a long-drawn-out court drama, with him pulling out of his commitments but finally being forced to buy the company. 

Recep Tayyip Erdogan

The President of Turkiye, Recep Tayyip Erdogan rose to prominence in 2022 as an international arbiter, utilizing the country's geography to achieve his own goals. Controlling the entry and exit to the Black Sea, his intervention in the Russia-Ukraine War to mediate talks, and negotiating for the opening up of pathways for export of grain have made headlines around the world. He also led the charge to change the name of the country from erstwhile Turkey, to the now, Turkiye. As a member of NATO, Turkiye voted to block the entry of Sweden and Finland into NATO. Leveraging his political heft, Erdogan forced the Turkish Central Bank to make illogical economic populist policies which have now led to a free fall in the value of Lira. The country now faces massive inflation. At home, Erdogan has actively been persecuting his political opponents by arresting them on charges which have long punishments. He has also followed a policy of persecuting minorities in the country. Abroad, in the Middle East and Africa, Erdogan has interfered with the social and political processes of many countries. During the Nagorno-Kharabakh war, Erdogan openly supported Azerbaijan against Armenia and provided its now infamous Bayraktar drones. The drones have allowed Turkey to play many sides in the conflicts around the world, as it has sold many to whoever is the highest bidder.

The Rajapaksas: Mahinda and Gotabaya 

Mahinda Rajapaksa was serving his third term as the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, while his brother Gotabaya Rajapaksa was the President of Sri Lanka.The Rajapaksa brothers made news in 2022, due to the protests and the economic slowdown of Sri Lanka that resulted from their ineffective management of the Sri Lankan economy. The tax cuts introduced in 2019 affected the country’s revenue which worsened during COVID-19, which worsened the tourism industry. The government’s decision to go 100% organic in 2021 by banning chemical fertilizers reduced the country’s agricultural productivity, making it more dependent on imports. The Rajapaksas’ prioritised the repayment of massive external loans over saving Sri Lankan people from the worsening economic situation. Mahinda Rajapaksa stalled the talks with the IMF leading to a fall in Sri Lanka’s forex reserve. This was followed by frequent power cuts and rising prices of essential commodities. In March 2022, protests erupted in the country demanding the resignation of the Rajapaksa brothers. Mahinda Rajapaksa resigned in May, followed by Gotabaya Rajapaksa in June. 

Pushpa Kamal Dahal 

Pushpa Kamal Dahal, also known as ‘Prachanda’ took office as  Prime Minister of Nepal in December 2022, for a third time. He previously served as Prime Minister from 2008-2009 and 2016-2017. The former maoist leader who led to the downfall of Nepal’s monarchy, is considered to be pro-China. As none of the coalitions- one led by the Nepali Congress (NC) and the other by United-Marxist-Leninist (UML), succeed in gaining clear majority in the Nepali Parliament, Prachanda decided to break-off from the 5-Party NC-led coalition and decided to join the latter. Prachanda came into power through the support of a 7-party coalition which consists of Rashtriya Prajatantra Party (RPP), a pro-monarchy party, and Prachanda’s former political nemesis KP Oli. 

S Jaishankar

S Jaishankar is the Minister of External Affairs of India, who became popular for taking a strong stance, representing India’s diplomatic position in global platforms. Before beginning his political career, he served as ambassador of India to many countries including the Czech Republic, China, and the US. He has also been the foreign secretary of India from 2015-2018 and has played a significant role in India- United States Civil Nuclear Agreement. In the backdrop of the Ukraine War, India imported large amounts of Russian fuel which drew criticism from the Western sanction regime. Jaishankar was instrumental in defending India’s position on the war and India’s approach to Russia. In June, during a conference in Slovakia, Jaishankar called out Europe’s hypocrisy, stating “Europe has to grow out of the mindset that its problems are the world’s problems, but the world’s problems are not Europe’s problems.” In his recent visit to the UN headquarters, Jaishankar did not shy away from calling Pakistan the “epicenter of terrorism”, while addressing the reporters. Jaishankar’s bold statements have compelled the Western countries to change their view of India, from being a mere supporter to an independent player in international platforms.

Vladimir Putin

Vladimir Putin is the President of the Russian Federation and he made news this year for Russia’s military aggression in Ukraine. On 24 February, Putin announced a “special military operation” to be conducted in Ukraine. He was also instrumental in the referendum that led Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson to be integrated with the Russian territory. The Western sanctions on Russia, aimed at devaluing the Ruble, led Putin to call for trading Russia’s energy resources in Ruble. This decision improved the value of the Ruble as well as Russia’s market economy. During the war deliberations, Putin stated the possibility of using nuclear weapons at multiple occassions. In September, he called for partial mobilization of military reservists, which led to domestic unrest. Putin’s bold decisions during 2022 were widely criticised. 

Muqtada al-Sadr

Muqtada al-Sadr is a former Iraqi politician, militia leader and the founder of the Sadrist movement in Iraq. He was the person behind the appointment of former Prime Ministers Abdul Mahdi and Mustafa Al-Kadhimi. In October 2021, during Iraq elections, al-Sadr’s coalition, despite winning the elections with 73 seats failed to gain a majority. Iraq went to a political deadlock that lasted for ten months with no further coalition being created. In June 2022, Sadr asked his lawmakers to resign, following which his opposition party, the Coordination Framework, was able to create a coalition gaining two-thirds majority, recommending  al-Sudani as Iraq’s next Prime Minister. Al-Sadr’s supporters stormed into the Iraqi Parliament in June 2022. The protests ended after a tweet from al-Sadr. On 29 August al-Sadr announced his resignation from politics. This led his supporters to rush into the Green Zone leading to clashes between the Iraqi Security Forces and the protestors, killing at least 30 and injuring over 700 protesters.  

Mahsa Amini

Mahsa Amini died in 2022, following detainment by the morality police in Iran. She was an ordinary Iranian woman and ethnically of Kurdish origin, who are a minority presence in Iran. Iran has had a mandatory Islamic dress-code since 1983 which compels women to wear hijab. On 13 September, Amini was detained by Iran’s ‘morality’ police for her hijab being ‘loose’ thus ‘improper’. On 16 September Amini passed away under mysterious circumstances in a hospital. Authorities stated the reason behind her death to be a heart attack, however, death through police brutality is suspected. Amini’s family stated that Amini had no prior heart-related medical conditions, and claimed to have seen bruises on her leg. With the brutal death of the 22-year-old, people started questioning the necessity of Iran’s mandatory hijab law. Immediately, peaceful protests against the guidance patrol, Gasht-e-Ershad, began. People from various backgrounds came together demanding justice for Amini and were seen burning hijabs and chopping their hair as a political statement against moral policing. The protests have continued for over three months. 

Imran Khan

Imran Khan served as the 22nd Prime Minister of Pakistan from August 2018 to April 2022. He is the founder and chairman of Pakistan’s Tehreek-e- Insaf (PTI). In April 2022, he was ousted from the National Assembly of Pakistan through a no-confidence motion. He blames the US for his removal, saying he was ousted because of his friendly relations with China and Russia. During his term, he addressed the balance of payment crisis and took steps to curtail the fiscal deficit which had led to some economic growth. Imran’s management of Pakistan during the Covid 19 crisis led to economic turmoil and threatened his position in politics. His ousting from Pakistan’s politics in 2022 created a prolonged political instability. Throughout the year, Imran was seen carrying out mass rallies demanding early elections. The country witnessed both political and constitutional crises. It is the first time that Pakistan's PM was ousted through a no-confidence vote.  The infamous clash between Imran Khan and the major political parties, made the impeachment motion much more aggressive. There were public demonstrations against removing him from the Prime Minister post. In August 2022, the ruling party placed the Toshakhana case against Imran Khan as he failed to disclose the specifics of presents received in his yearly asset report to the Election Commission of Pakistan. An investigation was started by the ECP which  disqualified  Imran from holding public office for a brief period, for engaging in dishonest behaviour, fabricating information, and making an inaccurate declaration, in October 2022. In November 2022, there was an assassination attempt during the freedom march in Punjab and Imran sustained injuries. 

Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson served as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and as the leader of the Conservative Party from 2019-2022. Johnson became the first UK Prime Minister to be sanctioned for breaking the law while in office. He was issued a fixed penalty notice in April 2022 for breaching COVID-19 regulations during lockdowns. Widespread dissatisfaction among the party members led to a confidence motion in 2022, which he won. Johnson resigned when the appointment of Deputy Chief Whip who has been alleged in sexual harassment case took place leading to the mass resignation of ministers from his government in 2022. Johnson’s appointment as the Prime Minister began with the re-opening of Brexit negotiations. During Covid 19, Johnson’s government introduced emergency powers and measures across society to mitigate the crisis. His political career includes being the Foreign Secretary, Mayor of London, and MP on various occasions. Johnson succeeded Theresa May after she resigned over the Brexit withdrawal agreement. Boris Johnson was instrumental in introducing the sanctions on Russia in the Russia-Ukraine War. Massive amounts of military and financil aid was offered to Ukraine during his leadership.

Taliban

The year 2022 was a series of failures for the Taliban regime. In December 2022, Taliban made the news for banning women from studying in universities. While the international sanctions continued on the Afghanistan government, the government struggled to retain legitimacy and provide security. During the year, the regime went back on its 2020 promise that it would not meddle with the rights for women, and continued to suppress the freedom of access to its citizens. Additionally, the Taliban government ended up becoming a primary source of security problems for Pakistan. Based on its discussions at Doha 2020, Taliban had promised to not allow/ harbour any militant group on its soil. However, the Taliban was seen hosting the TTP in Afghanistan. 

Giorgia Meloni

In October 2022, Giorgia Meloni was elected the first woman Prime Minister of Italy. She has served as the President of the European Conservatives and Reformists Party since 2020. She came to power after the snap elections in Italy. During the exit polls, it was popularly predicted that Meloni would win the election with the Centre right coalition. Many describe her power as the most right-wing government since 1945 World War II. As a right-wing populist and nationalist, her political positions have been described as far right. She is known to have opposed abortion, same-sex marriage, and LGBT parenting. She has been accused of Xenophobia and Islamophobia.  According to Forbes, Meloni was ranked seventh as the most powerful woman in the world and  according to Politico Europe, she was ranked first place in the "Disrupters" category. She holds a strong stance against left-wing ideology and terms them as enemies. She also demands identifying sexual identity and not gender identity. Meloni implemented stricter policies than previous governments regarding illegal immigration. The government decided to increase energy prices as a part of the economic revival, after she took office. 

Moroccan Football Team

The National football team of Morocco, also called the  Atlas Lions, represented Morocco at the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Morocco became the first Arab- African nation to reach the semi-finals. Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari congratulated and said “Morocco has made the entire continent proud with their grit and dexterity, giving hope that an African team can indeed win.” Morocco returned to the World Cup in 2018, after 20-years. After qualifying for the 2022 FIFA World Cup by winning the third round, the team was drawn into Group F along with Croatia, Belgium, and Canada. Morocco was not expected to qualify, but they finished top of the group and advanced to the round of 16 for the first time since 1986. Scenes of players giving kisses on their mothers’ foreheads, or kneeling in prostration after goals were peculiar picturising in FIFA 2022. They advanced further to the semi-finals, winning against Portugal. This made the team the first African and Arab team to qualify for the semi-finals. The team lost to France 2-0 in the semi-finals. 

Benjamin Netanyahu

Benjamin Netanyahu took office as Israel’s Prime Minister in December 2022. His swearing in marks a personal return to power and the arrival of a government that has sparked fears among Palestinians as well as left-wing Israelis. He has previously been the Prime Minister of Israel from 1996-1999 and from 2009-2021. Netanyahu’s win in parliamentary elections of 2022 was expected to end years of political unrest in Israel, with governments repeatedly falling, and elections held five times in less than four years. Netanyahu, along with his coalition partners, has a majority in the Knesset. He said an end to the “Arab-Israeli conflict” would be his top priority, as well as stopping Iran’s nuclear programme and building up Israel’s military capacity. 

Anwar Ibrahim

Anwar Ibrahim took office as the Prime Minister of Malaysia in November 2022. He is the leader of the Pakatan Harapan Party who won the majority in the 2022 General Election. Anwar's Pakatan Harapan coalition won a plurality of 82 seats out of 222, below the 112 seats needed for a majority. Perikatan National leader Muhyiddin Yassin claimed to have a sufficient majority to be appointed as Prime Minister, citing support from Perikatan National, Barisan Nasional. Both the leaders of Pakatan Harappan and Perikatan National were called by the King to decide who would form the government, which failed to bring a result. Anwar Ibrahim was then sworn in as the Prime Minister of Malaysia after the King consulted with the Conference of Rulers. Anwar was previously jailed on corruption and sexual misconduct. He had an extraordinary determination to contest and fight against Mahathir. Anwar’s final ascent to the top of Malaysian politics coincided with the end of Mahathir Mohamad’s political career. The 2022 election saw Mahathir’s first election defeat in fifty-three years in politics, Mahathir also lost his candidate’s deposit after failing to secure a minimum of 12.5 per cent of the vote.

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