2022: War, a World Cup and the death of a beloved monarch - a year in review
It’s the year when the life-changing COVID-19 pandemic faded as a top story, only to be eclipsed by conflicts, political scandals, protests, record-breaking heatwaves, global inflation and a controversial World Cup – stories that dominated headlines across the world in 2022.
From the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the consequent threat of nuclear strikes, prolonged protests in Iran calling for a change in regime, the death of the UK’s longest-reigning monarch and the passing of the UAE’s President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan - 2022 was a hinge in history.
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Here are some of the biggest news stories – locally, regionally and internationally as the earth completes yet another revolution around the sun:
- Formal talks got under way between US and Russian officials in Geneva over the fate of Ukraine, but fears rose over Russian President Vladimir Putin’s intent on invading Ukraine. Panic grew as US and NATO meetings with Russian officials failed to produce a commitment from Moscow to draw down its major troop buildup along the border. Families of US diplomats and embassy staff in Ukraine were ordered to leave the country. Officials warned all Americans against travel to Ukraine as well as to Russia.
- The 2022 Kazakhstan unrest, also known as Bloody January, saw a series of mass protests after a sharp increase in liquefied gas prices following the lifting of a government-enforced price cap.
- An earthquake rocked western Afghanistan, killing dozens and destroying hundreds of homes. The 5.6 magnitude tremor shook the western province of Badghis, reducing brick homes to rubble.
- The Iran-backed Houthi attacks on UAE soil saw several missiles target the capital city of Abu Dhabi. The Houthis used cruise and ballistic missiles, as well as drones, in an attack on Abu Dhabi that killed three people and injured six others. Other attempts were intercepted. The attacks drew regional and international condemnation.
- Lebanese coffee shop owner Abdallah Assaii becomes the first in a line of desperate nationals to stop his own bank in a desperate attempt to access savings frozen after the country's economy collapsed. Banks began imposing draconian limits on withdrawals and transfers in 2019, leaving depositors able to access only a fraction of their savings in dollars and Lebanese pounds.
- Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, leading to global crises for food and energy. It also marked the start of the ongoing humanitarian crisis that displacing millions of people in Ukraine. Moscow repeatedly denied it would invade Ukraine and once it did, said it sought to “disarm” Kyiv, purge it of “nationalists” and halt the expansion of NATO, not seize territory. Within minutes of Putin’s announcement, explosions were reported in Kyiv, Kharkiv, Odessa, and Donbas. Ukrainian officials said that Russian troops had landed in Mariupol and Odessa, and launched cruise and ballistic missiles at airfields, military headquarters, and military depots. The invasion has likely resulted in tens of thousands of deaths on both sides. It has caused Europe’s largest refugee crisis since World War II.
- The head of the World Health Organization announced that 90 million cases of coronavirus had been reported since the omicron variant was first identified 10 weeks previously. That’s more cases than all of 2020, the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic. It came as many European countries begun easing lockdown measures, including Britain, France, Ireland and the Netherlands.
- Russian forces escalated their attacks on populated urban areas of Ukraine. In strategic Kharkiv, explosions tore through the region’s Soviet-era administrative building and residential areas on the sixth day of the invasion. Ukrainian authorities said five people were killed and five wounded in the attack on the Kyiv TV tower.
- The 94th Academy Awards ceremony, presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), was overshadowed by actor Will Smith who walked onstage and slapped comedian Chris Rock across the face. The violent showcase transpired after Rock made a comment about the hairstyle of Jada Pinkett Smith, Smith’s wife during a presentation for Best Documentary Feature. Following the altercation, the motion picture academy banned Smith from attending the Oscars or any other academy event for 10 years. Smith apologized to Rock in a statement after the Oscars, saying he was “out of line and I was wrong.”
- The Taliban ordered secondary girls schools in Afghanistan to shut just hours after they reopened, sparking confusion over the policy reversal by the extremist group that took administrative control of central Asian country last year.
- In March 2022, North Korea lifts a five-year suspension on intercontinental ballistic missile tests and launches a powerful rocket capable of reaching the US.
- Dubai shuttered a successful six-month EXPO 2020 with a colorful closing ceremony. Millions of people flocked to the mega event’s 192 country pavilions in its final days, pushing visit numbers over 23 million - not far off the 25 million target, despite the ongoing pandemic. The site has since been rebranded to Expo City - envisaged as a car-free “15-minute city,” with all parts accessible by foot or bicycle within a quarter of an hour.
- Protests against the worsening cost-of-living crisis, mainly from the soaring price of energy, were held across the UK. Inflation in Britain and across Europe surged, as Russia’s war in Ukraine crippled supplies of energy and food staples like wheat.
- Washington imposed sanctions on Vladimir Putin’s two adult daughters, isolating the Russian president’s close family members from the United States financial system and freezing all assets they hold in the US. In retaliation for what the Biden administration called war crimes in Ukraine, the US also targeted Russia’s prime minister, the wife and children of Russia’s foreign minister and members of Russia’s Security Council.
- UK’s former Prime Minister Boris Johnson spoke of his “humility” as he addressed MPs for the first time since receiving a fixed-penalty notice for breaching lockdown rules. It came after it was revealed a “bring your own booze” gathering was held at his official residence during the first coronavirus lockdown. The prime minister repeated the apology he gave for his conduct in the wake of a fine, but urged MPs to focus instead on pressing issues including the conflict in Ukraine.
- Emmanuel Macron won France’s presidential election, fending off a historic challenge from far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, making him the first French leader to be reelected in 20 years.
- Will Smith resigned from the motion picture academy following his altercation with Chris Rock on Oscars night
- A two-month truce goes into effect in Yemen in a tentative first step in ending the county’s devastating war
- UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan died at the age of 73. The Ministry of Presidential Affairs declared an official national mourning for the death of the president for 40 days. The UAE’s Federal Supreme Council elected former Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan as the President of the UAE, making him the third ever President of the UAE.
- Citizens and trade unions rallied around the world to mark May Day, sending messages of protest to their governments and issuing calls for peace in Ukraine. It was a time of high emotion for participants, and the 2022 May Day marches were no different with police at the ready as street demonstrations commemorated the cause, also known as International Workers’ Day.
- The US Supreme Court caused global shockwaves in June when it overturned its landmark 1973 “Roe v Wade” decision enshrining access to abortions nationwide. Following the ruling, abortion bans were brought in by Republicans in 16 US states, home to 26.5 million women. UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet described the decision as “a huge blow to women’s human rights and gender equality.”
- A jury awarded actor Johnny Depp $15 million in damages in his libel lawsuit against ex-wife Amber Heard. The same jury awarded Heard $2 million in damages in her countersuit against Depp. Depp sued Heard for $50 million, accusing her of libeling him with a 2018 op-ed she wrote about being abused. She then filed a $100-million counterclaim against the “Pirates of the Caribbean” star.
- Turkey’s state-run news agency said its foreign minister sent a letter to the United Nations formally requesting that his country be referred to as “Turkiye.”
- Queen Elizabeth II appeared on the balcony at the end of four days of celebrations marking her 70 years on the throne. She was joined by her son Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, her grandson Prince William, his wife Catherine and their three children. The small family group included the Queen’s three heirs to the throne. The Platinum Jubilee celebrations ended with the singing of “God Save the Queen.”
- Amid blistering heat waves, brutal drought and widespread wildfires, Europe sweltered through the hottest summer in its recorded history, with the mercury topping 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) for the first time in Britain. Parts of the Arctic and Antarctic, China and the US also experienced record temperatures.
- The 30 NATO allies signed off on the accession protocols for Sweden and Finland. The move further increased Russia’s strategic isolation in the wake of its invasion of neighboring Ukraine in February.
- British Prime Minister Boris Johnson resigned as leader of his Conservative Party but planned to remain as prime minister after he was abandoned by ministers and his Conservative Party’s lawmakers who said he was no longer fit to govern. The ebullient Johnson came to power nearly three years ago, promising to deliver Britain’s departure from the European Union and rescue it from the bitter wrangling that followed the 2016 Brexit referendum. It was a humiliating defeat for the politician who succeeded in leading Britain out of the European Union and was credited with rolling out one of the world’s most successful mass COVID-19 vaccination campaigns. But Johnson’s government became mired in ethics scandal and about 50 senior MPs quit the government, leaving him unable to govern.
- Former prime minister Shinzo Abe, a polarizing figure who dominated Japanese politics for decades as the country’s longest-serving premier, was gunned down at a campaign rally. Police said a suspected gunman was taken into custody at the scene of the attack, which shocked people in a country known as one of the world’s safest.
- The World Health Organization declared an expanding monkeypox outbreak in 74 countries a global emergency.
- US President Joe Biden landed in Saudi Arabia to discuss a range of issues including energy security with Saudi and other Gulf leaders
- Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman unveiled details about the mega project “THE LINE” in the $500 billion NEOM area of the Kingdom which, when completed, will accommodate up to nine million residents in communities characterized by their revolutionary vertical design.
- Nancy Pelosi became the first sitting US House speaker to visit Taipei in 25 years, prompting the China’s People’s Liberation Army to hold unprecedented military drills and send ballistic missiles over the island
- Palestine-Israel tensions escalated into weeks of deadly clashes. At least 49 people including 17 children were killed in 56 hours of fighting that started with what Israel described as preemptive air strikes against the Palestinian Islamic Jihad group, which fired hundreds of missiles into Israel during the flare-up. The fighting was the worst escalation of violence since the 11-day conflict seen in May 2021 that resulted in the displacement of 72,000 Palestinians.
- American basketball star Brittney Griner was sentenced to nine years in a penal colony on drugs charges following her arrest at a Moscow airport in February with vape cartridges containing cannabis oil in her luggage. US President Joe Biden denounced the sentence as “unacceptable.”
- The FBI searched the primary residence of Donald Trump in a move representing an unprecedented escalation of law enforcement scrutiny of a former US president. The search warrant at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida was issued by a judge as part of an investigation into allegations Trump took classified records from the White House to his Palm Beach residence.
- Booker Prize-winning author Salman Rushdie, the Indian-born novelist who spent years in hiding under death threats from Iran because of his writing, was stabbed in the neck onstage at a lecture in New York. Rushdie’s 1988 book “The Satanic Verses’’ was banned in Iran for being blasphemous and the country’s leader issued an edict calling for the author’s death. A $3.3-million bounty remains in effect for anyone who kills Rushdie.
- The Taliban marked one year since they seized the Afghan capital of Kabul. The rapid takeover triggered a hasty escape of the nation’s western-backed leaders, sent the economy into a tailspin and fundamentally transformed the country. Taliban fighters staged small victory parades on foot, bicycles and motorcycles in the streets of the capital.
- Queen Elizabeth II, Britain’s longest-reigning monarch, died aged 96 in her holiday home at Balmoral, in the Scottish Highlands, after a 70-year reign, plunging the nation into mourning. Her son was later pronounced King Charles III.
- The death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in the custody of the Iran’s morality police sparked nationwide protests. It first focused on the state-mandated hijab, or headscarf, for women, but has since morphed into one of the most serious threats to the Islamic Republic since the chaotic years following its founding. To date, thousands of people have been arrested over the protests. Eleven have been sentenced to death, and two have already been executed.
- The invasion of Ukraine and resulting sanctions on Russia created an energy crisis of a magnitude unseen in half a century, with costs for gas and electricity soaring globally. Britain saw its energy bills double over the space of a year. Inflation soared globally, prompting central banks to aggressively hike interest rates, raising fears of another major debt crisis.
- Three years after the first discovery of COVID-19, the world appeared to have turned the corner on the first global pandemic in a century, with the head of the World Health Organization declaring that the end of the pandemic was “in sight.” That reality was evident in the fact that many countries abandoned lockdowns, travel restrictions, and related measures that had been imposed when the virus swept across the world in early 2020. The success of vaccines and therapeutic treatments helped in lowering the chances of dying from the virus.
- Saudi Arabia’s King Salman named Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as the Kingdom’s Prime Minister, according to a royal decree
- Britain got its fifth conservative prime minister in six years. Rishi Sunak took office in October after his tax-cutting predecessor Liz Truss self-combusted in just 44 days — the shortest-ever tenure for a British leader.
- Russia vetoed a United Nations resolution calling its Ukraine annexation referendums illegal. The vote in the 15-member Security Council was 10-1 with China, India, Brazil and Gabon abstaining. The resolution would also have demanded an immediate halt to Russia’s “full-scale unlawful invasion of Ukraine” and the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all its military forces from Ukraine.
- The United Nations climate summit in Egypt (COP27) approved the creation of a special fund to cover the losses suffered by vulnerable nations hit by the impact of global warming. Delegates applauded after the “loss and damage” fund was approved by consensus following two weeks of contentious negotiations over demands by developing nations for rich polluters to compensate them for the destruction from weather extremes.
- The world population surged past a historic eight billion people, with the United Nations warning that more hardship is in store for regions already facing resource scarcity due to climate change. Globally, the eight billion population milestone represents one billion people added to the planet in just the last 11 years.
- The 2022 World Cup got underway in Qatar – marking a landmark moment as football’s biggest tournament took place in the Middle East for the first time. At total of 32 teams arrived in Qatar hoping to win the coveted gold trophy and be crowned the best footballing nation in the world in 2022, with players taking fans through moments of glory, surprise, and nail-biting suspense.
- President Xi Jinping cemented his control at the helm of China after winning a historic third term in November as leader the world’s second-largest economy. Many China residents took to the streets in protest after losing patience with snap lockdowns, mass testing and curbs on movement occasioned by Xi’s signature zero-Covid strategy.
- The United Arab Emirates’ Rashid Rover – the Arab world’s first mission to the Moon – was launched. The Rashid rover - built by Emirati engineers from the UAE’s Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center (MBRSC) - is to be sent to regions of the Moon unexplored by humans. It marked the UAE’s first Moon mission, with more rovers to be developed in the future.
- US basketball star Brittney Griner was released in a prisoner swap with Russia in exchange for former arms dealer Viktor Bout, following personal mediation efforts from Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and officials from the UAE.
- The China-Gulf summit kicked off in Saudi Arabia’s Riyadh in the presence of Gulf leaders and Chinese President Xi Jinping. According to the final communique issued after the summit concluded, the leaders encouraged communication and cooperation in the fields of culture, education, tourism, media and sports, and academia.
- Time Magazine named Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy its person of the year, awarding him the accolade “for proving that courage can be as contagious as fear.” Editor-in-chief Edward Felsenthal says the choice of Zelenskyy — alongside “the spirit of Ukraine” — was “the most clear-cut in memory.”
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