Uprisings abetted by social networks that toppled and overturned the governments of the Middle East and Africa, mimicking a row of tumbling inanimate dominoes, while a nation still awaits its own tsunami of change. A terrorist was drowned, a dictator was killed and an innovator was laid to rest. As a bride glided over the aisle in a white gown and an aura of magnificence, a commoner wed a royal prince. The year of revolution, loss and liberation was the year 2011.
Ignited from the spark that burnt the body of a young street vendor in Tunisia, the fire of revolution brought to its crumbling knees the ingrained Arab dictatorship. Hosni Mubarak was ousted in a bloodless coup ending 30 years of absolute rule within 18 days of protests. In Libya, a bloody civil war became their cause of liberation as a leader was forced to cower in a sewage pipe and brought to a brutal death. Rebuilding has followed the revolution and as Syria and Bahrain are balanced precariously on a seesaw of deliverance versus instability, the history of the Arab democracy is yet to reach its conclusion.
Amidst the chaos have emerged tales of heroism and a struggle for peace as the Arab women took to the streets, protesting the killing and imprisonment of their fathers, sons and husbands. The 2011 Nobel Peace Prize was given to two women of Liberia, Johnson Sirleaf and Leymah Gbowee and and Tawakkol Karman of Yemen as they struggled to protect the women of their region from acts of violence and injustice.
Motivated by the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt and appalled at the greatest economic disparity to date the Occupy Wall Street protests were instigated. The realisation that the top 20% of the U.S. population held half of all its income and the bottom 20% amounted to 3.4 % of the U.S. income bought thousands out onto the streets. The movement went viral as it occupied a hefty space in the digital media and steadily gained momentum. What projected the Occupy movement to another level is the iconic ‘Pepper Spray Cop’ photograph that was another thing that went viral this year. It shows a cop, pepper spraying a line of Occupy UC Davis protestors at the University of California, Davis – the photograph screams a strong message of the powerful against the powerless and defines the purpose of the entire movement.
The year of disaster witnessed the tumultuous trembling of Japan as a record magnitude earthquake, 900 times greater than the one that struck Haiti last year, threatened to challenge its sophisticated earthquake protection mechanism. Towns were inundated under massive Tsunamis and a revisit of the Chernobyl disaster was expected as nuclear plants were shaken from their foundations. In the thick of disaster heroic engineers, volunteers and workers, who came to be known as the Fukushima 50 risked their lives to prevent the meltdown of the Fukushima 1 Nuclear Power Plant. Tales of heroism were not restricted to Japan only.
The Texas wild fires brought out a large assortment of volunteers who paid for gear out of their own pocket to tackle the fire threatening to take over Texas. Fighting the most destructive fire in the history of Texas in nothing more than everyday jeans and ill-fitting firefighting jackets and helmets, the volunteer firefighters have been integrated into a strong bond of brotherhood.
2011 saw the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. It was a date that changed the course of history and whose aftermath sang tales of heroism alongside the woeful ballad of devastating destruction. Among those was the NATO airstrike, killing 24 Pakistani soldiers and further straining the already fragile diplomatic ties between the perpetrators and the unfortunate executioners of the decade long ‘War on Terror’. The year was stained red by the atrocious murder of a politician ironically by his body guard deployed for his protection, the killing of two Pakistani’s by a foreigner under alleged self defense and a suicide attack at a religious procession in the heart of Lahore.
Marveling at the technological innovations, grappling with unemployment, mourning the legends lost and alive to witness the killing of the most wanted man across the globe, the world in 2011 remained stunned and astounded and waits with baited breadth what 2012 might bring forth.