Drawbridges

drawbridge

 

 

 

 

 

 

From the palaces – parliamentary and aristocratic – of Europe, the meeting rooms – governmental and academic – of the New World, and from the gardens of Asia. From the universities and stables of Africa, and the burja and commissariats of the Middle and Far East, a new sound can be heard.

It is the sound of chains and gears rattling and clanging across the night.

The sound of wood, inches thick, straining and creaking in complaint at being awakened after generations of sleep.

It is the sound, one by one, of drawbridges being dragged upward to slam closed against castle walls.

It is the sound of failure. Of the inability of the modern world to cope with the problems it has created, and an echo from the future of the collapse of civilisation that is its own most likely result.

It starts, perhaps, with a drought, in 2006, which lasts for four years.

It takes in a global economic crash and an insane policy of shrinking the economy in response to it, and it ends (in the sense that these are the latest, rather than the final, outcomes) in mass drowning in one of the world’s calmest seas, and the sentencing to death of a nation’s first and only democratically-elected leader. (see below for details)

It may well also end, (in the other sense, of the final act) I fear, in global disaster.

In December last year, the United Nations announced it did not have enough money to deliver food to people forced from their homes by the Syrian conflict.

It was an unusual winter in the Middle East. Snow was falling around the camps, leaving adults and children alike in the unusual position of praying for less, rather than more water (albeit in solid, frozen form) as they shivered under canvas in the desert.

Many who paid any attention at all worried and wondered what they could do to help, before finally giving up, frustrated, at the lack of organised governmental response. It felt to them as if perhaps their elected representatives simply didn’t care.

For those who work in international aid, the response was a little different. In recent years, a series of international crises, including in Somalia, Gaza, at Dadaab refugee camp (the world’s largest) in Kenya, in Indonesia and Sudan, had seen food and other aid cut due to either a shortfall in ‘promised’ funds from governments, or a reduction in donations from those states.

In other words, because governments refused to pay what they had promised, or cut funds when there was still a genuine need for aid, people were unable to eat.

Not once, but over and over again.

This act, and others like it, is the closing of drawbridges.

Of course, there are other reasons the UN has too little money to provide food to Syrians.

The United States, for example, has in recent years worked to donate money to organisations other than the UN. There are regular rumours that this may be in response to the UN’s refusal to sanction the War on Iraq, but of course there has never been any confirmation of them.

(It is certainly true, however, that the US has made symbolic gestures in places where at present the UN is the largest international actor.

In El Fasher, capital of North Darfur, where armed UN Security forces patrol only the streets it is safe enough to enter {for them: Fasherians, of course, use every street they must}, I visited a vast stretch of land which was to house the new US diplomatic mission to Darfur. Sadly, all the work that had so far been completed was a huge, metres-thick stone wall, topped with wire and broken glass, around what had previously been an area of common land where Darfurians had grazed livestock. The response of the locals was predictable.

But to a neutral, the first question was ‘if this is the level of security necessary, why be here at all? What possible effect can you have if no-one sees your face, or anything except a blank, stone, wall?

‘For whose benefit, in short, are you here?’ It is not an unfair question to ask the UN itself – but at least it could point to the expectations upon it, its designated role in the world. At least its answer would definitely not be ‘to make a point to the US’. One cannot be sure the US could so confidently say the same with regard to the UN.)

But regardless of other factors, the bottom line remains: governments have failed to provide enough money to save lives. They are pulling up the drawbridges, one by one. Some slower than others, but virtually without exception, everywhere you turn.

In the case of the UN, there are other indicators of the drawbridges’ rise.

In the UK, in February 2014, the BBC and Channel 4 News used the same question, in the same words, four times in three days: ‘Is the UN failing Syria?’

The fact the words were identical, and the question asked repeatedly across news agencies, suggests the question’s source was someone outside either news organisation – perhaps connected to the US government, which is no less eager than anyone else to promote its outlook off as well as on the record.

An expression of ‘frustration’ at the UN’s ‘prolonging the suffering of Syrian civilians’ (by, for example, denying a mandate for a bombing campaign), could from the right person at the right time, and within earshot of the correct people, send eager journalists scurrying to investigate a new line.

But it is less the source of the question than its wording which should interest us here.

On the face of it, it was not an unreasonable inquiry.

At this point, the three-way war in Syria had been raging for around three years. More than six (today, more than seven) million people within Syria (and close to – now more than – four million who had been forced to flee the country altogether) had been driven from their homes, and were living in tents. The UN itself estimated 15m Syrians were in urgent need of food, water and/or shelter. (there has been no improvement in this figure, either)

But the problem with the question is that the UN is absolutely nothing if not a collection of its members. (Which include, of course, a Russia whose traditional support for the Assad regime combines with its stand-off against other Security Council members over Belarus and Ukraine, China whose own long-term support for Assad is – literally – negotiable, but represents a valuable trade and influence opportunity for the East Asian state, and Iran, whose support is based on religious and political bases, and was also until recently on the receiving end of sanctions from many other UN members).

The point is that those representatives do not represent ‘the UN’. They represent every state in the world. The UN is, literally, all of us. Perhaps not all of us as we would like to envisage ourselves, and certainly seldom all of us on our best day, but still, undeniably, us.

So the question should not have been ‘is the UN failing Syria’ but ‘is the world failing Syria?’

(There are, of course, sensible and important questions to be asked about the UN’s decisions and activities in Syria. But that is not the same as shifting blame for the grim chaos in the state from ‘all of us’ to the UN, which is simply a representation of us all)

Nor is the drawbridge effect evident only at UN level.

Government-sponsored bodies such as OFDA, ECHO and others are reducing funding to the large international NGOs working on the Syria crisis, even though the risk of death to Syrians is not reducing. It is the sound of drawbridges being raised.

In the UK, former Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg appeared to be pleased about the number of Syrian refugees the UK had allowed to cross its borders. The United Nations asked each ‘developed’ state to take 30,000 refugees. We have taken 147.

Soon after, I met Gonzalo Vargas Llosa, UNHCR Representative, to discuss the issues surrounding the Syrian refugee situation.

He said: ‘In Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq, there are more than 2.5m Syrians. These states do not have the infrastructure to cope. That is one reason why we make our request. Because for states who can take some people to do so helps not only Syrian people, but people from Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan and other countries.

Iraq has welcomed more than 250,000 Syrians. Jordan, well over one million. Lebanon, also well over one million (in Lebanon, one in every five people is a Syrian refugee). We have taken 147. The drawbridge is being winched up.

In Libya, a second Civil War in four years is devastating the nation. Four illegal militias are killing one another, and civilians, while two illegitimate governments watch, helpless, as the state teeters on the brink of social, economic and in some places literal physical collapse.

Yet the UK, France and the US, enthusiastic participants in the first Civil War, and responsible for smashing large parts of Libya to rubble, refuse to help. The drawbridges are rising.

The UK, France, and Germany – the EU’s three richest states (and indeed three of the six richest states in the entire world) refused to pay for desperate people to be pulled out of the Mediterranean (the UK Conservative Party argued the service actually encouraged people to try to cross to escape war, terror and starvation in their homelands).

Six months later, 1,200 people drowned in seven days.

Not only are the world’s richest states refusing to allow people to escape death in their homelands, they are even refusing to save them from death on the high sea.

The sound you can hear is of the drawbridges rising.

In France, the far-right Front National is making gains at every election, and now commands one quarter of the national vote (fortunately, unlike in the UK, this does not grant them complete control of the state).

Of course, there are contributory factors. The Charlie Hebdo massacre in January this year is one shocking example.

But in France, too, the creaking and grinding you can hear is the drawbridge being pulled up.

In the UK, elections last month saw UKIP – a party which claimed the Charlie Hebdo massacre proved the existence of an Islamic ‘fifth column’ in Europe, which opposes immigration and blames migrants for low wages and unemployment in the UK – won four million votes, the highest number ever polled for a far-right organisation in the state.

The election’s winners promised to reduce the number of people it allows into the country (its main opponents promised to be ‘tougher’ than them on immigration. They printed it on a mug…), and now propose a system under which only ‘British’ people will qualify for human rights in Britain.

The drawbridge is being pulled up.

Even in states which desperately need aid, there are people performing the same role.

In Libya, IS is blowing up embassy buildings belonging to the state’s closest remaining allies, while European states demand no-one must be allowed to travel from it.

In North Africa, as you read this, the drawbridge is being hauled, inexorably, closer to closure.

But what happens when the doors slam shut?

The main idea is defence.

In mediaeval times, when moated castles could protect you from your enemies’ weapons, the drawbridge was the final, decisive, stage of a real, physical defence.

And it seems the idea has never left us. We appear somehow to believe that to lock oneself up, and hope the world will simply decide to go away, will deliver us from danger.

Though it is now loss of money that governments hope to prevent, the idea is the same; that we can somehow ‘shut out’ the world, and benefit from so doing.

The problem is, even in Mediaeval conflict, when swords and spears were the worst that could be used against us, it was a pretty poor plan.

It is conservatism at its ultimate, and at its worst.

It is the idea of staying the same, (and it should be remembered that ‘staying the same’ in this context is demanding that people continue to be tortured, to be killed, to starve to death, or die of preventable disease, just to do it somewhere else) as the ‘least scary’ option, riding roughshod over the more risky but far more rewarding possibilities of openness, inclusion, expansion and progress.

It is fear overcoming hope, and stasis being chosen ahead of progress.

Pulling up the drawbridge leaves people – save only for a few brave messengers or foolhardy traders – trapped within grey, featureless walls, unable to engage with the world around them, and instead hearing only tales of the horror which exists outside. In this way, it is the victory of fear of death over belief in life.

But it’s also worse even than that.

Because slowly, things within get worse.

Boredom inspires anger, which leads to violence, while food supplies run low, and disease starts to spread. Things begin to fall apart.

In every direction, death looms large. Arguably, this is true wherever you are, but at least outside we can exchange ideas, help one another, unite to deliver solutions, and create movement towards something better.

The very idea of ‘protection’, in the end, is flawed.

Because defences can block invasion, but improvement is a kind of ‘invasion’ when set against conservatism. Hope is a kind of attack on the horrors people face all over the world.

All over the world, the drawbridges are rising.

They do not just ‘protect’ from short-term risk, but also from long-term progress. And without progress, we cannot avoid disaster

 Burning Earth

 2006-2015 The (first) decade of chaos

2006, a drought which will last four years sends Syrian arable workers scurrying to the cities for succour.

2007, 8-11 January Russia cuts oil supplies to Europe, after the EU speaks out against Russian conflict with Belarus (December of the same year, Russian Premier Vladimir Putin is named Time magazine’s ‘Person of the Year’).

14 August in one day, 572 people are killed in multiple suicide bombings in Qahtaniya, Iraq.

3 November Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf declares a state of emergency in the state.

But earlier in 2007, a quieter event sets the scene for a global crisis which will define almost everything that follows:

9 August BNP Paribas’ London office blocks withdrawals from three hedge funds heavily committed in sub-prime mortgages.

By the middle of 2008, after many months of warnings, it becomes clear that the international economy has been sabotaged – albeit accidentally – from within; that the system of low-regulated self-operational free market economics has shattered itself in the pursuit of profit.

Economies, across the world’s richest regions, collapse, or save themselves at the last moment, depending on the depth of their engagement with the free market and the intelligence of their political leaders.

At first, few pay much attention to the economic impact on the states with less financial clout.

Though resultant rising food and fuel prices, combined with falls in wages and employment, cause riots on the streets, more attention – even then, much, much too little – is paid to ongoing warfare and repression in Somalia, Eritrea, Palestine, Iraq, and the other states whose names have become bywords for chaos, death rained from without as well as within.

2009 while global economies continue to take Socialist measures to prop up those who had reviled and ridiculed Socialism only months before, the US supports another coup in Latin America – this time in Honduras (28 June) – making yet more of a mockery of its self-proclaimed status as ‘promoter of democracy’.

2010 3 January The UK and US withdraw their embassy staff from Yemen after a series of Al-Qaeda attacks in the state.

14 April an eruption of volcanic ash in Iceland is followed on 20 April by one of the largest oil spills in history which wipes out entire eco-systems in the Gulf of Mexico.

The volcano is treated by Western media as the more important of the two, despite its main effect being to delay a few flights for members of the world’s richest states.

2 May the EU takes perhaps the most remarkable step in the history of economics – and certainly a mark of the most damning failure of any economic system within that history – by bailing out the entire nation of Greece.

6 May the UK Conservative Party becomes the first of the regressive reactionary political groups to use the global economic crisis to its own ends (despite having cheerled the reduction of economic regulation in its own home state) by becoming the senior party in the UK’s first post-war coalition government. Its election campaign under the banner slogan ‘Austerity’ marks the first time since Spain’s fascist dictator General Franco that the word has not only been used as a ‘positive’ but also that its user has entered power.

19 May in Thailand, the military kills 91 people and injures more than 2100 in a crackdown against ongoing protests in Bangkok.

17 December one man sets fire to himself in Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia, setting in motion a series of protests and wars (starting on 18 December) which continue even now, 54 months later.

2011 14 January Tunisian dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali flees to escape death. The year continues with riots and street battles in Greece, the UK, Syria, Egypt and others, including Libya, where thanks in part to a concentrated aerial bombing campaign by the UK, France and the US, dictator Muammar Ghaddafi is blasted from power and in October, shot in the face.

11 February dictator Hosni Mubarak is removed from power by delighted Egyptian activists. The following year, the Muslim Brotherhood will sweep the board in that nation’s elections. Mohamed Morsi will become its first (and to date only) democratically-elected president.

In the UK, some of the most vicious cuts in two centuries begin, which will lead to more than one million people relying on charity food handouts in the world’s sixth richest state, and to the longest year-on-year reduction in wages and living standards in that country since records began.

Far right anti-immigration party UKIP begins its rise to winning by far the highest number of votes any extremist organisation has ever achieved in a General Election, blaming immigrants, rather than the government, for the failures in national services which result from those cuts.

In Greece (Golden Dawn) and France (Front National) extreme right-wing groups also begin their steps towards significant electoral gains, while Italy’s Five Star Movement led by comedian Beppo Grillo uses some of the rhetoric of the far right, while generally espousing leftist sentiment.

Germany, as the EU’s richest state and therefore the one with most to ‘lose’ from the bailout of Greece, begins to speak at domestic and EU-level of the importance of Greek ‘austerity’ so it can promptly pay back the loan it was handed after its economy had collapsed. Economists highlight the paradox of the German position (and the foolishness of the UK’s), but to virtually no effect.

May 2011, the Sudanese government begins airstrikes against its own South Kordofan and Blue Nile regions, which are due to hold a referendum on their future. South Sudan, which has already held its own vote, secedes from Sudan in July. Conflict continues in South Kordofan and Blue Nile, and has so far killed more than 7,000 people, mostly civilians.

2012 23 January the EU starts the year by taking a hard line against Iran, beginning a trade embargo to ‘discourage’ it from attempts to enrich uranium. US investigators advise that no evidence exist that such enrichment is being attempted.

19 February in response, Iran suspends oil exports to the UK, US and France.

21 February a second bail-out is issued to Greece. To cover her back, German premier Angela Merkel steps up her public statements on the need for Greece to cut expenditure.

27 February Yemen’s President is deposed, and succeeded by his former Vice President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi.

22 March, Mali. Soldiers launch a successful coup against President Amadou Tomani Toure. Within weeks, a Tuareg separatist group declares a large area of northern Mali as an independent state. At roughly the same time, Islamic extremist militias also begin attacks on the couptists, though for very different reasons (the Tuareg MNLA group desire an independent state, the Islamic militias a fully-unified Mali ruled under Sharia law).

The French government claims the illegitimate military couptists have more legitimacy than any other group, and send troops to support the military coup. The MNLA separatists join the French – and the Malian ‘government’ they oppose – to defeat the Islamic extremist militias. Before the end of 2013, the Malian military attacks MNLA members, causing the latter to lift its agreed ‘ceasefire’ with the Malian government.

30-31 July, the worst power-cuts ever recorded leave 620 million people without power in Northern India.

7 September, Canada cuts all diplomatic links to Iran.

11-27 September a series of attacks are launched on US, UK, German and Swiss embassies across the world. In Libya, one attack leaves US ambassador Christopher Stevens dead.

14 November, Israel’s ‘Operation Pillar of Defense’ kills Hamas member Ahmed Jabari. In the fighting that follows, 140 Palestinians and five Israelis are killed.

20 November, the M23 militia group seizes the city of Goma, in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

This group was made up of the remnants of a force sent by the Tutsi-led Rwandan government to track down and kill Hutu militia members who fled to DRC after the Hutu genocide against Tutsis in Rwanda. It had signed a peace deal with the DRC in 2009, and agreed to become part of the DRC army, but fights its way through large swathes of the state claiming the government has refused to implement the peace deal.

It is defeated on the outskirts of Goma by the DRC army, only for that official armed force to ‘celebrate’ by looting the city itself. Ashamed and enraged, the DRC government withdraws the army from Goma, leaving the M23 to march, triumphantly, into the city, past shocked Uruguayan UN peace keeping forces (who are powerless to act, having no war to prevent or cease).

Furious DRC civilians react against the UN for ‘failing to defend’ Goma (which was not its mandate) and in some places burn UN outposts in DRC to the ground.

Despite strong rumours, it is never proven that Burundi and Rwanda had funded the M23 uprising, which only officially ends in November 2013, when DRC forces rout the remaining M23 forces in eastern DRC. One day previously, the M23 had requested a ceasefire.

14 December, 27 people are shot dead at a school in Connecticut, US.

2013 11 January French troops in Mali battle Islamic militia Ansar Dine.

16-20 January 39 international workers and one local man die in a hostage incident in Algeria.

24 March, rebel forces – many, though not all, Muslims – overthrow the president of the Central African Republic Francois Bozize, claiming he had failed to abide by peace agreements signed at the end of the nation’s previous bitter civil war. Fighting – which includes Christian terrorist militia organisation the Lord’s Republican Army as well as government forces and the Seleka rebels – continues today, with all sides criticised by Amnesty International for ongoing massacres against one another.

25 March the EU agrees a 10bn Euro bailout for Cyprus, leading to a banking crisis. Germany’s political and economic leaders increase their calls for continent-wide austerity, despite the warnings of international economics experts, and the experience of the UK, which has still not achieved recovery after three years of Conservative austerity measures.

27 March Canada withdraws from the UN Convention to Combat Desertification. The thoughts of those poorer states already desertified, and those threatened by the process, are unrecorded.

24 April, 1,129 people are killed and 2,500 injured in the worst non-terrorist structural disaster in the modern era, in Savar Upazila, Bangladesh. It is revealed the international garment trade – including UK firms – had enjoyed savings by employing people in the unsafe eight-storey building, whose collapse caused the deaths and injuries.

June-July, Mohamed Morsi, the only democratically-elected leader in Egypt’s history, faces mass protests against his rule. He is deposed on 3 July by the Egyptian army, led by General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. Beginning with a massacre on 14 August, the army proceeds to kill more than 4,000 people, and arrests 16,000 ‘political opponents’ (effectively, members of political organisations) over the coming months.

21 August, a chemical attack – widely believed to have been committed by Syrian dictator Bashar Al Assad or troops loyal to him – kills 1,429 people in Ghouta, Syria. The massacre (rightly) horrifies the world, which nonetheless does not directly enter the Syrian Civil War. The war has by now become a three-way battle between Assad’s forces, increasingly-weakened rebels, and an increasingly powerful ‘Islamic’ militia, IS, which is also active in Iraq.

Despite the correct denunciations of Assad’s actions (or of his troops’), no such statement has yet been made regarding Sisi’s bloodstained coup in nearby Egypt.

21 September, the Westgate shopping centre, Nairobi, Kenya, is attacked by members of the al-Shabaab militia, a Somalian group active in the latter state’s conflict, and loosely aligned with Al-Qaeda. Sixty-two people are killed, and more than 170 injured.

11 October, more than 360 people are drowned in one incident while attempting to cross the Mediterranean from north Africa to the EU. The EU starts Mare Nostrum, a sea-patrol designed to save lives.

21 November, pro-EU demonstrations begin in Ukraine, while Iran, which has stood alongside Russia against UN attempts to intervene in the Syrian conflict, begins attempts to agree sanctions relief with Western states (24 November).

15 December, fighting begins in South Sudan which will continue to the present day.

Also in December 2013, the largest outbreak of the Ebola virus – which continues even now and has so far killed more than six times as many people as every single other outbreak in history combined – begins with a small child in Guinea.

2014 February debate over Syria in the West begins to centre on ‘is the UN failing Syria?’ The question is pertinent, and only one word from being correct.

 

14 February, former Libya army General and one-time colleague of Muammar Ghaddafi, Khalifa Haftar appears live on Libyan TV to call for the overthrow of the state’s democratically-elected government.

26 February Following the removal of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich (22 February) and the deaths of 100 people in Kiev, people in the Donetsk and Luhansk begin to mobilise against the country’s new leadership. Russia invades the Crimea, ‘officially’ annexing it just under a month later (21 March) after a bitterly-contested ‘referendum’ on the issue.

24 March, the UK, US, Italy, Germany, France, Japan and Canada suspend Russia from the G8.

25 March the UN announces that because of a combination of internal conflict (in Darfur as well as the Kordofan and Blue Nile regions) and war in South Sudan, Eritrea and the Central African Republic, there are now more than six million people in urgent need of food, water and shelter in Sudan. This goes almost unnoticed.

27 March The UN rules Crimea is still a part of Ukraine, to no noticeable effect.

The crisis begins a sustained economic effort by the West – joined by many of the world’s leading oil-producing states – to flood the world with oil, thus reducing its sale price and reducing Russian annual income. One effect in the UK is to drive inflation to almost record lows, allowing the government to claim a domestic economic victory, but without at any moment increasing economic production or wages.

14 April 276 girls and women are abducted in Nigeria by Boko Haram, a group claiming to be driven by ‘Muslim’ educational practice. Months later, Nigeria launches a PR offensive which sees Western newspapers declare the inequality-ridden state ‘Africa’s Richest’. The majority of the girls have not been returned.

28 April US sanctions enacted against Russia.

5-20 May Boko Haram claims responsibility for more than 400 killings in Nigeria.

16 May Khalifa Haftar launches an attack on Benghazi, Libya, where the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Ansar Al-Sharia group holds control. His affiliates attack the parliamentary building in Tripoli, opening fire on politicians there. The result is the second Libyan Civil War, a four-way conflict still taking place today.

22 May, the Thai army overthrows the state’s caretaker government. Another military junta which goes largely unmentioned by the ‘defenders of democracy’ in the West.

28 May, having murdered or imprisoned almost all his major political rivals, General Sisi is elected President of Egypt with an extremely improbable 96.1 per cent of the vote.

5 June, the IS terror organisation – which has been active in Syria (it claims) since 2011, and for at least a year in Iraq – declares its intention to smash its way through northern Iraq, and set up a Muslim caliphate which will include (but may not be limited to) large areas of Iraq, Syria and parts of Turkey. It has not yet, almost a year later, explained how its acts of slaughter fit into Islam, a religion which states that ‘life is Allah’s to give and to receive. For man to take it is an insult to Allah’.

8 July, after the killing of three Israeli teenagers, and the revenge killing of one Palestinian, Israel launches Operation Protective Edge against Gaza. In the next seven weeks, Israel uses heavy weapons in the tightly-packed Gaza region, destroying buildings and killing more than 2,300 Palestinians. Seventy one Israeli soldiers also lose their lives.

17 July, 289 people are killed when a Malaysian airlines flight is shot down by a missile while flying over Ukraine.

8 August, the US begins bombing IS positions in Northern Iraq. One month later, (22 September) it adds the militia’s Syrian strongholds to its campaign.

31 October, the EU decides it will not spend money any longer on the Mare Nostrum sea-patrol. UK Foreign Minister Lady Anerly (Conservative) claims the programme was a ‘pull factor’ ‘encouraging people to try to cross to Europe’.

24 November, a second wave of rioting and civil unrest inspired by the killing of unarmed black man Michael Brown by US police begins in Ferguson, Missouri.

2 December the United Nations’ World Food Programme is forced to cease refugee food aid in and around Syria because of unfulfilled aid pledges. Snow falls, across the Western Middle East.

16 December the Pakistan Taliban kills 145 people in an attack on a school in Peshawar. The attack is criticised even by the Afghan Taliban.

2015 3-7 January the Boko Haram group kills more than 2,000 people in Nigeria. Just over two months later, (12 March) the group affiliates itself with IS.

7 January, 12 people are killed and 11 injured in a mass shooting at the offices of French magazine Charlie Hebdo. Two Tunisian brothers carried out the attack. Five more people are killed and another 11 injured in related attacks, also in Paris.

In France, the extremist Front National goes on to win 25 per cent in the following (22&29 March) Departmental Elections, while in the UK, the far-right UKIP group leader Nigel Farage exploits the incident to claim there is a ‘fifth column’ of Muslims in Europe. His party will win four million votes in the following UK General Election, (8 May) the highest ever total for any extremist organisation in the UK.

15 January, Swiss National Bank abandons its cap on the value of the Swiss Franc against the Euro, sparking chaos across global financial markets.

22 January, after months of fighting, Houthi rebels in Yemen seize the presidential palace. President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, himself the beneficiary of the previous president’s ousting, in November 2011, resigns.

12 February, an official ceasefire is reached in Ukraine. It is reported to be broken 139 times within days.

15 February, IS operatives in Sirte, Libya, issue a film showing them beheading 21 people. It is the first confirmation of the group’s strength in Libya.

16 February, Egypt and Qatar unite to bomb Tripoli, Libya, in support of Haftar’s ongoing battles against those he opposes in the state. The ‘tactic’ will be repeated three times by June 2015.

25 March, Saudi Arabia leads strikes on Yemen, in what it calls an attempt to ‘uphold the Yemeni government’. Others denounce the strikes as an attempt to gain influence over the state.

2 April, Al-Shabaab kills 148 people in a mass shooting at Garissa University College, Kenya.

13-20 April more than 1,200 people are drowned while attempting to cross the Mediterranean from North Africa. EU responses include proposals to blow fishing vessels from the water. The UK offers to lead drone strikes to this end.

18 April – 3 May, protests against the shooting of Freddie Gray by police in Baltimore, Maryland, US, result in riots and violence.

8 May, despite winning just one vote in every four, the Conservative Party of the UK, which launched the world headlong into its ‘take the money and run’ capitalist endgame, and developed and championed austerity despite the warnings of international experts and its ongoing failures, takes outright control of the state’s government.

Within days, it announces plans to scrap the Human Rights Act, and its Foreign Secretary states that ‘saving lives is not a long-term solution’.

16 May, Egypt’s only democratically-elected president, Mohamed Morsi, is sentenced to death for his part in an escape from prison by several political and religious prisoners held by dictator Hosni Mubarak in 2011. The break had been seen as a central point in the success of the Arab Spring in Egypt.

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