The world in 2015: The biggest stories around the globe

  • 27/12/2015
It was a tragic year in Paris (Reuters)
It was a tragic year in Paris (Reuters)

From its very first week, 2015 was set to be a period of violence and tragedy around the world, with the Charlie Hebdo massacre heralding in a year of increased activity by global terrorists.

The year also brought a shift in the geopolitical landscape, with the United States striking a monumental deal with Iran and re-establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba, while the war in Syria continued to rage on.

It was also a year in which a photo of a drowned Syrian boy symbolised an ever-growing and ever-desperate population of refugees fleeing various conflicts and hardships around the globe.

Between January 7 and January 9, 17 people were killed in terror attacks that targeted the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, a kosher grocery store and the Paris suburb of Montrouge.

The attack was sparked when the magazine, which has a history of controversy, published a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammad. The violence prompted a massive outpouring of public grief and gave birth to the slogan "Je suis Charlie".

In images that shocked the world, the Islamic State released a video in early February showing the beheading of at least 10 Egyptian Coptic Christian hostages captured in Libya.

The video came just days after the jihadists released footage showing a Jordanian pilot being burned to death.

On February 27, Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, a fierce critic of President Vladimir Putin, was shot dead in central Moscow.

Nemtsov's death came just days before a major opposition rally was planned to take place, and was condemned by the White House as a "brutal murder".

Many pointed the finger at Mr Putin for the crime, with the Kremlin denying any involvement.

On March 24, a "psychologically unstable" co-pilot with suicidal tendencies intentionally crashed the Germanwings Airbus A320-211 he was flying into the French Alps. All 144 passengers and six crew members onboard were killed.

On April 25, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck near Kathmandu in Nepal, killing more than 8000 people and injuring more than 17,000.

The earthquake, which was the worst natural disaster to hit the country since 1934, triggered an avalanche on Mt Everest in which a further 19 people lost their lives.

Thousands of stateless Rohingya people – a Muslim minority group – fled Myanmar and Bangladesh to escape persecution this year. They flocked to surrounding South East Asian countries, but places like Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand sparked international outrage for initially driving the "boat people" away and refusing them entry.

In May, Malaysia and Indonesia finally said they would begin to accept refugees, with US President Barack Obama urging Myanmar (also known as Burma) to end discrimination against the Rohingya in June.

On May 2, Prince William and his wife Catherine welcomed to the world baby Charlotte Elizabeth Diana. Born at 8lbs 2 oz (3.7kg), Princess Charlotte joined her older brother Prince George. She received a bundle of woollen baby items, including a teddy bear, from Hutt Valley company Stanborough as her official gift from New Zealand.

On May 9, more than a year after Ebola began to wreak havoc in Africa, the World Health Organisation declared Liberia Ebola-free.  Another case was found in the country six weeks later, though, before the country was cleared of the virus again in September.

Liberia was the hardest hit in the West African Ebola outbreak, which infected more than 28,000 people and claimed more than 11,000 lives.

Sepp Blatter steps down

Controversy-plagued Sepp Blatter announced he would be stepping down as president of FIFA on June 2, as the football association was engulfed by a corruption scandal.

Seven FIFA officials were arrested on May 27, after an FBI investigation alleged fraud and corruption was rife within the organisation. Blatter, who had been president of the organisation for 17 years, continued to maintain his innocence, though he was later banned as the probe continued.

In November, the 79-year-old Swiss official had a health scare and said he feared he was dying.

In what President Barack Obama called a "victory for America" the US Supreme Court ruled in June that same-sex marriages were legal across the whole country.

The decision came after 14 same-sex couples challenged de facto bans on gay marriage in the states of Michigan, Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee.

South Carolina hate crime

In one the worst 'hate crimes' of recent times, nine people were killed in Charleston, South Carolina, on June 17. An armed white assailant walked into one of the country's oldest black churches, sat for an hour and then opened fire as he made racist remarks.

Police later detained 21-year-old Dylann Roof for the shooting, condemning it as a "hate crime". Roof faces a total of 33 federal hate crime charges for the murders, with 18 of them carrying the death penalty. His trial has been delayed until early next year.

In a landmark deal that President Barack Obama said was based on "verification" not trust, the United States heralded in a new direction with Iran on July 14, agreeing to cut sanctions to the Middle Eastern country in return for it curbing its nuclear energy programme.

The deal, aimed at stopping the spread of nuclear weapons in the region, came after decades of diplomatic conflict for the two countries. It requires Iran to limit the amount of enriched uranium it produces and provide access to UN inspectors. In return, the US and EU will cut long-held sanctions against the country.

Restoring US-Cuba relations

Decades after the end of the Cold War, the United States and Cuba restored full diplomatic relations on July 20, with the flag of the Caribbean island nation joining those hanging in the lobby of the US State Department. 

Washington's decision came after it said it was better to push the island to democracy through engagement rather than isolation. Mr Obama would also later call for an end to the decades-old trade embargo on the country.

More than 100 people died and over 700 were injured when a series of explosions occurred in the industrial port of Tianjin in China on August 12.

The blasts were triggered by hazardous and flammable chemicals, with the first explosion reportedly having the force of three tonnes of TNT detonating, while the second had the equivalent of 21 tonnes.

An image of a drowned Syrian three-year-old proved to be a brutal symbol for the world's worsening refugee crisis in September.

Aylan Kurdi slipped through his father's hands in the dark as a boat carrying refugees took on water on the way to Greece. His body later washed up on a Turkish beach, where he was photographed lying face down in the sand.

Turkish authorities arrested four suspected people smugglers in relation to two incidents that killed Aylan and 11 others.


A camerawoman in Hungary caused outrage in September when she was caught on film tripping and kicking refugees as they fled police near the border with Serbia.

Petra Laszlo later apologised for her actions, saying "I panicked. I'm not a heartless, child-kicking racist cameraperson." A month later, however, Laszlo – who lost her job following the incident – said she planned to sue the very Syrian refugee she allegedly tripped. She said he had already fallen by time he reached her outstretched leg.

The annual pilgrimage to Mecca turned to tragedy for many this year, with more than 2000 people crushed or suffocated to death on September 24 in the worst Hajj disaster in history.

Previously, the worst Mecca disaster was a tunnel stampede in 1990 which killed almost 1500 people.

President Vladimir Putin vowed vengeance after a Russian passenger jet crashed over Egypt on October 31 after a bomb exploded on board. All 224 people on the plane were killed.  

Mr Putin said Russia would "find and punish the criminals" responsible for the attack, and pledged to step up air strikes in Syria, where Moscow was conducting a bombing campaign against the Islamic State (IS) and other terrorist groups.

IS claimed responsibility for the bombing, publishing what it said were pictures of the explosive device, which was apparently hidden in a can of soft drink.

After shooting to infamy earlier in the year, the Islamic State militant known as Jihadi John was reportedly killed on November 12 in an air strike in northern Syria.

British citizen Mohammed Emwazi gained the nickname 'Jihadi John' after appearing in videos showing the beheadings of American and British hostages held by IS.

US officials stated they were "99 percent sure" Emwazi had been killed in a drone strike, though official confirmation had yet to come.


In the worst attack on French soil since the Second World War, 130 people were killed in a series of coordinated terrorist attacks in Paris on November 13 and 14.

Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attacks, which French President Francois Hollande called "an act of war".

The worst of the violence was at the Bataclan theatre, where 89 people were killed when gunmen stormed the building during a performance by US band Eagles of Death Metal.

The attacks sparked an international outpouring of grief and led to France launching a sustained bombing attack against IS in Syria.

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