This year was filled with stories that gripped the world. Here are our picks for the 13 most significant.
1. The murder of Jamal Khashoggi
On October 2, Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, only to be killed inside. As the story unfolded, Saudi officials told outright lies, attempted to alter the narrative, and created more questions than they answered.
While US President Donald Trump did his best to dismiss the killing, Congress took a different stance on it after the CIA concluded that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) ordered Khashoggi’s death.
Trump reacted by pointing to Riyadh’s commitment to spend more than $100 billion on US weapons systems and its importance as an ally as justification for his business-as-usual approach. The Saudi arms purchases were later revealed to be much smaller.
2. Twelve boys stranded in a cave in Thailand, and the world came to their rescue
In summer 2018, a 12-boy soccer team and their coach made a trip into the Tham Luang cave in Thailand. Shortly after they entered, heavy rains flooded the cave and trapped them all inside.
After a week of no contact with the outside world, divers found the group in early July. An international crew of rescuers resolved to rescue the boys before the next monsoon rains, which were only days away. The world watched as all 13 were saved from the cave.
The rescue effort included more than 100 divers from around the world. One former Thai Navy SEAL, died while supplying oxygen to the boys in the cave.
3. The Facebook Cambridge Analytica scandal revealed that more than 50 million people had their personal information violated for ‘research’
Cambridge Analytica accessed personal data from 50 million Facebook users during the 2016 US presidential campaign without permission, but this only came to light two years later.
Using a personality quiz app for Facebook, the company retrieved data from users who downloaded the app, and the data of their friends. The company gathered information about Facebook users to research their voting behavior. Donald Trump's campaign later hired Cambridge Analytica in June 2016 to target advertisements based on voter data gathered from millions of adults in the US.
Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg appeared before the United States Congress in April 2018 saying: "It was my mistake, and I'm sorry."
4. Kim Jong Un announced that North Korea will denuclearise
During a June 2018 summit in Singapore, North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un announced he wanted to end nuclear tensions between his country and the United States through an agreement with President Trump, including the denuclearisation of North Korea.
The move drew worldwide critique for its lack of proof or details, described as having "zero practical value".
The Supreme Leader later told South Korean officials that he'd like to denuclearise before President Trump's first term ends in 2021.
5. The United States ended the ‘Iran deal’
When Trump campaigned for the presidency, he promised to withdraw from the nuclear deal, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
In May 2018, Trump ended the deal, claiming it was a “one-sided deal that should have never, ever been made.”
The United States was the only country to step out of the deal, even after it announced that it would sanction any firm doing trade with Iran.
Iran remains in compliance with the deal, while the remaining signatories endeavor to help Iran ease the pain of US economic pressure. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says the administration “wants to restore democracy” in Iran, suggesting leaving the deal aims at more than preventing a nuclear Iran.
6. Climate Change only got worse
The world’s climate is changing for the worse, and it is because of humanity's actions.
Scientists have been saying this for more than 30 years, and providing the evidence to back it up, but little has changed. The heat-trapping gas emissions continue to rise.
7. The US kicked off a Trade War with China
“I want tariffs,” Donald Trump declared in July 2017.
In 2018, he got what he wanted.
In January, the United States administration imposed tariffs on washing machines and solar panels. In March, tariffs were imposed on imported steel and aluminum from everywhere. Trump went on to impose tariffs on $50 billion worth of Chinese goods, raising it to $250 billion by July. Despite his tweet: “Trade wars are good, and easy to win,” Trump’s tariffs had by year’s end hurt Americans more than helped them.
The stock market tumbled, the overall US trade deficit inflated, and America’s trading partners hit back with tariffs on US exports in return, causing some US manufacturers to cut jobs due to higher expense.
8. Daesh was driven back, and Iraq held its first elections
This year, Daesh was almost entirely defeated, and elections were held for the first time in Iraq.
Iraqi voters made their way to the polls this year for the first time since driving out Daesh in 2017 following the Iraq Civil War.
It was a major milestone for Iraqis, as they used their power to decide a future, with the potential to shift the balance of power and mend divisions between ethnic groups.
After a critical recount, Iraq finally elected a new prime minister and president in October: Adil Abd al-Mahdi as prime minister and Barham Salih as president.
With both beginning their terms, the world will watch as Iraq starts to rebuild.
One year after actress Alyssa Milano posted on Twitter: “If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet,” the #MeToo movement has swept the world. It took hold on the heels of stories by The New York Times and New Yorker about allegations of sexual assault by Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.
Twenty-four hours after Milano's tweet, the actress had more than 500,000 responses. Since then, headlines about Weinstein, Bill Cosby and other prominent men have dominated news headlines across the world, triggering #MeToo movements in India as well as the Middle East.
Will it be enough to eliminate cultures of sexual harassment and abuse of power? Only time will tell.
10. The Yemeni civil war drags on, but there may be a glimmer of hope for its end
The Yemeni civil war entered its fourth year in 2018. Yemen now holds the tragic mark of being the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. As many as 14,000 Yemenis have died in the fighting, and 50,000 or more are thought to have died because of a war-induced famine. The horrible photographs of emaciated Yemeni children were not enough to end the conflict.
Recently however, Yemen's warring sides agreed on a ceasefire to halt a devastating offensive by government forces and an allied Saudi-led coalition against rebel-held Hudaida at peace talks in Sweden in December.
11. The US shifted its embassy to Jerusalem
In March, shockwaves travelled across the world with Trump's announcement that he would move the US embassy to Jerusalem, recognising it as the capital of Israel. The move went ahead as planned, triggering the move of more embassies to Jerusalem. But this did not go uncontested. In a UNGA vote, an overwhelming 129 to nine voted to adopt an anti-Israel resolution denouncing the United States’ recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.
An international backlash ensued, criticising the move as harmful to any prospects for a peaceful solution to the conflict in Palestine.
12. Gaza's great march of return
The Israeli blockade – land, air and sea – of the Gaza Strip began 11 years ago. Palestinians have been protesting for the right of the return “of millions of Palestinian refugees to their villages and towns in what is now Israel, and to call an end to Israel’s blockade,” says the human rights group Amnesty International. Starting demonstrations in the Gaza Strip on March 30, Palestinian protesters were regularly treated aggressively by Israeli forces. According to the Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, more than 150 Palestinians have been killed in the demonstrations while at least 10,000 others have been injured.
13. Yellow Vest movement in France and beyond
The Yellow Vest movement originated in France and turned into mass protests in November. The demonstrators criticised the government’s tax hikes, saying they unfairly burdened the working and middle classes. Macron’s concessions did little to quell the Yellow Vests, who are still protesting in smaller numbers.
The movement became a symbol of dissatisfaction around the world, with protesters popping up in yellow vests demonstrating against a wide variety of perceived injustices.