Review of the year 2021: events whose impact has been felt in the Arab world
DUBAI: From the second year of the global pandemic to the overthrow of governments, from glimmers of hope for environmental justice to the world’s biggest sporting and cultural events, the past 12 months have been a roller coaster for the Middle East and the ‘North Africa Region.
The year started with great promise for the region when Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman invited the leaders of the other five member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council to a meeting in AlUla, where he presented its collective reconciliation project.
AlUla’s declaration, which ended the regional crisis that began in 2017, turned the page on all areas of disagreement in the Gulf, its positive effects spilling over to all regional issues, easing most tensions. .
The agreement “strengthens the bonds of friendship and brotherhood between our countries and our peoples in order to serve their aspirations”, declared the Crown Prince at the time.
Relations between Israel and Palestine deteriorated in the spring following an Israeli police raid on Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque, sparking a wave of violence across Israel and the West Bank.
The outrage quickly escalated into a short but savage war between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip. At least 145 Palestinians and 12 Israelis have been killed during the 11 days of conflict.
During the fighting, an Israeli airstrike destroyed a high-rise building in Gaza City that housed the offices of the Associated Press and other media outlets, drawing international condemnation.
A ceasefire agreement brokered by Egypt, Qatar and the UN entered into force on May 21.
The new Iranian president
Ebrahim Raisi, an ideological hardline supporter handpicked by Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, was elected President of the Islamic Republic in June and invested in August.
The election saw the lowest turnout in the country’s history as many Iranians called for a boycott. Even Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the former populist Iranian president, has said he will not vote.
Raisi was reportedly an influential participant in the “death commissions” in 1988, overseeing the enforced disappearance and execution of several thousand political dissidents in Evin and Gohardasht prisons.
Tunisian Prime Minister sacked
Tunisian President Kais Saied sacked the government and froze the country’s parliament on July 25, a move his opponents called a coup, but which garnered broad public support at the time.
Saied insisted his intervention was necessary to save the country from collapse amid an unprecedented economic and health emergency caused by the COVID-19 pandemic – failures many attributed to mismanagement of the Ennahda party.
On August 24, Saied extended the suspension of parliament until further notice, as well as the suspension of the statutory immunity of parliamentarians. However, public anger has since grown, with further protests erupting.
After being postponed for a year because of COVID-19, organizers had hoped that Tokyo 2020 would become a symbol of triumph over the pandemic. But with strict precautions still in place and a spectator ban, the Olympics, which ended on August 8, felt somewhat underwhelming.
Nonetheless, they turned out to be a great success for Arab athletes. Saudi karate practitioner Tarek Hamdi won silver in the men’s +75 kg category, while Egypt’s Feryal Abdel Aziz won gold in the women’s +61 kg category.
Egyptian Ahmed Elgendy won silver in the modern men’s pentathlon, Bahrain Kalkidan Gezahegne won silver in the women’s 10,000 meters and the Qatari beach volleyball duo of Cherif Younousse and Ahmed Tijan won bronze.
Resurgence of the Taliban
As US troops began their final withdrawal from Afghanistan in August, Taliban militants invaded Kabul, toppling the government of President Ashraf Ghani and re-establishing their intransigent regime over the country.
Although the group has pledged to moderate its views on women’s rights, minorities and freedom of expression, many of the repressive practices that marked its previous reign between 1996 and 2001 are back.
The United States, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank froze Kabul’s access to billions of dollars in aid and assets until the Taliban changed its ideological course. Amid severe drought and massive displacement, Afghanistan is heading for a humanitarian catastrophe.
Expo 2020 Dubai
The first Middle East World Expo kicked off in Dubai on October 1. The opening ceremony took place in the magnificent dome of Al-Wasl, with a height of 67 meters, and presented an international program of musical and cultural performances.
Expo 2020 Dubai brings together 192 nations for the first time in the 170-year history of World Expos. Each country has its own flag, as part of the stated Emirati hosts policy of “one nation, one flag”.
The six-month event served as a platform for the unveiling of the innovations. Courier service provider UPS, for example, has launched the world’s first solar-powered vehicle charging point, which it will use to power a fleet of delivery vans.
Iraqis went to the polls on October 10 to vote in the legislative elections initially scheduled for June. The vote was marred, however, by the lowest turnout since the overthrow of dictator Saddam Hussein in 2003.
Although international observers praised the free and fair elections, militias and pro-Iranian party blocs in the country contested the result, in which their share of parliamentary seats was reduced.
Analysts believe these militias were behind an attempt in November to assassinate Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi at his Baghdad residence, in retaliation for his attempts to reduce their influence.
Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 strategy aims to reduce the Kingdom’s dependence on fossil fuels. Riyadh went further in October with the launch of two major initiatives designed to show that it is playing a leadership role in the global campaign against climate change.
When Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman unveiled details of Saudi green and green initiatives in the Middle East at a special event in Riyadh, it was a historic opportunity for the region and committed Saudi Arabia to achieving net zero emissions greenhouse gases by 2060.
In addition, the Kingdom has pledged to completely phase out oil from national power generation by 2030, replacing it with cleaner gas and renewables. Multi-billion dollar investment programs to plant trees in the Kingdom have also been announced, among other eco-friendly strategies.
coup d’etat in Sudan
General Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan staged a military coup in Sudan in late October, toppling the civilian government of Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and declaring a state of emergency. Al-Burhan said infighting between the military and civilians threatened the stability of the country.
Pro-democracy groups, which toppled Omar Al-Bashir’s regime in 2019, have taken to the streets to demand a return to civilian rule. After weeks of escalating violence, Hamdok was reinstated on November 21 under a power-sharing deal with the military.
Although the international community has supported the agreement in the interest of Sudan’s stability, opposition groups continue to protest against the military’s involvement in the government.
This year has been the year the effects of climate change became real for many people, with a wave of wildfires, floods, droughts and storms wreaking havoc around the world. It was also the year when efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions began to be taken seriously.
At the UN’s COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, governments around the world agreed to a compromise deal to keep a key global warming target of no more than 1.5 ° C above levels pre-industrial, with a last-minute change that eased commitments to phase out coal.
Several countries complained that the agreement did not go far enough. However, he set rules for the international trade in carbon credits and called on the big polluters to come back next year with improved promises of emission reductions.
Experts said governments were sadly not prepared for the COVID-19 pandemic when it was declared by the World Health Organization in early 2020. Today, almost two years later, the world continues to grapple with an uneven distribution of vaccines and the emergence of new variants of the virus, the latest being omicron.
The variant was first identified in South Africa in late November and quickly became the dominant version in many countries. Studies suggest that the variant is not more aggressive in its effects than alpha, beta, gamma, and delta strains, but is more transmissible and potentially more resistant to vaccines.
Experts warn that high and persistent infection rates will continue to strain countries’ health infrastructures and risk creating more dangerous variants in the months to come, unless screening and vaccination rates in countries developing countries do not improve dramatically.
Although vaccination campaigns and precautionary measures in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other Gulf states have been particularly successful, other countries in the region have been less effective, leading to further spikes in cases. .